No Guts, No Glory

My main takeaway from last weekend? You have to try the impossible to reach the possible. When we look back on the first three shows of the season, we were not really that successful, actually, we sucked. Our results were below the ones we could show later last year and I really tried hard to get us back on track. Especially our half passes and shoulder ins dropped from 6.5 or even 7 to 4s. Bummer.

As I have written earlier, we worked hard on suppleness by riding in circles for over a month, I did what ever came to my mind to improve bend and, thus, our lateral movements. When I decided to enter the show on last weekend, I only realized after sending my entry that the test on Sunday would be the most difficult third level you can ride (here). 

This is where I slept during this show...nice, isn't it?

Actually, it contains trot and canter zig-zags (yes, you read that right - our best movements combined in a seemingly endless death spiral) and first tempis (three flying changes across the diagonal with at least six strides in between).

My room..

To be clear: we had never ridden zig-zags or tempis like that before so just a month before the test, we started to train these movements. They were not bad but still far from solid or good. Within the last few weeks, Hafl all of a sudden even decided NOT to do flying changes anymore. He simply ignored my aids, kept cantering in counter cross or whatever canter. I became desperate. That happened just two weeks before the show. Never had I tried to ride the whole test and the flying changes seemed to becoming a major problem.

Riding on Friday

The days before the show he got back to normal when we consider the flying changes and I managed to ride those tempis on the diagonal fairly well. On Friday they were really good, on Saturday, we rode an easier test (FEI Junior Preliminary) and scored our all time high! 61.814% and even got a 7 on one of the canter half passes. On Sunday, I decided to ride decently in the morning to have him smooth and supple for our afternoon test. All the movements went very well, also the tempis. How proud I was to see that he was able to do them so easily all of a sudden. And then, it was time to enter the warm up but as I had ridden him in the morning, I kept it short and simple as it was super hot.

Dinner on Friday

I did the tempis and nothing worked. I started over again and voilà, there we go. We got them. With a huge smile on my face and my heart in my mouth, I entered the test. I was so so afraid of this test and I was really worried that we would ourselves look ridiculous. Actually, I almost missed the turn at A for the trot zig-zags and managed it only in the very last moment and with that, I thought: this was it. I continued despite that mistake from my side and Hafl kept getting better and I felt life coming back to my limbs and muscles and saw myself maneuvering Hafl more and more confidently as the test continued.

One might say that my show equipment is all stored in HV Polo

And then we cantered on. First flying change on the diagonal went well, then we rode the canter zig-zag with yet another flying change all still good, then we turned on the diagonal for extended canter and yet another flying change, a bit croup high but still okay, cantering around the corner on the left hand, and then there was F: turn on the diagonal and three flying changes with at least six strides in between. Good, Tanja, you got this. Go get this abs working, look straight at H and CHANGE. What happened? I don't know. I just know that I tried to ride towards X for the second change but felt Hafl coming back more and more in canter until we reached the bunny hopping status, go go Hafl and CHANGE...and nothing happened or did he change? I looked down and saw him coming back even more and more and felt my face blushing as we seemingly missed the one or other change already and oh no, that was it, we crossed X and obviously, no change happened. I saw H arriving fast (it was super slow actually as we were still bunny hopping) and I could feel Hafl's look saying: what the hell are we doing here? I just remember that we apparently did another flying change and then we were on right canter lead and continued the test...some more movements and then we were done. I was so ashamed: that would have been his best movement, I knew he could do that and I did not communicate clearly enough. Even though he already knew this diagonal by heart, I was pretty sure.

Grazing after work...and looking for a 4-leaf clover

So I left the arena telling him how sorry I was that I hindered him from having a shiny moment in the ring and then turned to my friends and was so angry at myself but at the same time super happy that he was such a good boy in the test.

Washed and rolled....

I was convinced that the scores would be below everything we got at third level so far. But it did not matter. Two weeks ago we could not ride a single flying change anymore, today, he did all he can and it was just a misunderstanding in the tempis. I was proud of this short legged big belly Haflinger, who anyway tried his heart out. Not to mention that he did not SWEAT! With 30degC no sweat? Obviously, it was not too hard for him.

Breakfast on the terrace on Sunday

And then there were the results: a solid 61.557% despite this huge mistake (which left us with 2/3/4 respectively). I was almost crying as I could hardly believe how good the rest must have been then. And of course, there is tons of stuff to improve and with a little higher mark here and there, we would be easily placed. But what really mattered this time was that I tried something that seemed impossible only a few weeks ago and nobody died. Hafl did a great job and I can definitely see an improvement, leaving me indescribably happy.

And off we go...on our way home

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