CHAPTER 4 - Part 2

Captain head_plus_number_trot_up_ring FUN, HARDWORK AND DIFFICULT DECISIONS.....
Tamsin decides to have a well earned evening re-charging and having fun in the bar. A slightly tied Tamsin wakes early Thursday morning knowing she has a busy day ahead with two planned course walks and at least two to four ride outs on  Captain, dependant on how excited he is.
Tamsin continues –
Day 1 THURSDAY - Course walks and schooling sessions
I was out schooling Captain by 9am and thankfully he was much quieter than the previous day and we managed to do some nice work, he was going so well I decided not to ride him for too long and instead took him to watch a few tests and get him used to the main practice ring. 

With Captain back in his stable, I could focus on the two back to back course walks I had planned, the first being with Nat Dixon who had kindly given me a XC session the week before and who was also riding in the 2* at Osberton. Nat introduced me to the 'wheel' which enabled me for the first time to work out my minute markers. A great little tool that I had often seen the top riders use, but thought it would be far too technical for me. It wasn't and I will certainly be using one again.

First and second course walk
Course walk 
The first course walk went well and although there were some difficult fences early on, I didn't think it was too bad. Or was I misleading myself? Due to walking the wrong course (2* track) the night before! 
The first combination was at fence 5, a wide roll top to rail on an acute angle, it walked long and I knew if I had a problem at this then I wasn't going to get very far.

The water next, a very large step up and after a turn in the water there was 1 stride to brush, I would need plenty of engine up the step but the brush was quiet forgiving. The next was an old fashioned coffin with rail down-hill slope to a large ditch, then 5 strides to brush on turn; this would be the first challenge of the course.

The next difficult fence was the skinny corner in woods; the fences came up quickly and were on the larger side of novice.
At the end of the walk Nat gave me a couple of really good tips that helped build my confidence, although I was still  a little concerned about a couple of the fences.  

I did my second course walk immediately after completing the first. British Eventing had arranged and official course walk for 1* riders with Christie Wright. Jordana and I attended and found Christie interesting and informative especially the detail on how to best approach the fences. 
Jordana had also walked the course earlier with another rider and we quickly realized that her minute markers were similar to mine apart from the corner. This certainly helped when we compared notes on the best lines to take.
Two course walks later and my legs were definitely telling me it was time to sit! I hadn't done that much walking for a long time.
A well deserved late lunch and time to rest my weary muscles, before setting off with Captain to familiarize ourselves with the arena and flags. Captain was on a loose rein and seemed very settled and after a good twenty minutes we even managed to stop at 'Happy Hour on the horse' for at very well earned Pimms.

Day 2 Friday - Dressage day tamsin IN_DRESSAGE_GEAR_on_captain_nera_horse_box
Tuesday seemed like a distant memory and having not completed any part of the main event yet, I was really looking forward to Friday morning and our dressage.
Jordana's mum kindly agreed to plait Captain so I could focus on polishing him some more and getting myself ready.
Kathryn Brace kindly agreed to come down and provide some invaluable support and advice prior to my test. In addition Ollie Townsend's groom who had 6 horses stabled next to me kindly agreed to put quarter marks on Captain. With us both looking super smart and a test time of 12.04pm, I got on Captain at 11.20 and walked over to the practice ring, thankfully they were less  cut up from all the rain than I had initially thought.
I was so pleased that Captain was still calm and settled and our warm up with Kathryn went really well, however I was amazed how quickly the next forty minutes went by and before I knew I had five minutes before my test. I walked into the main arena collecting ring and I am not sure if it was my nerves or Captain could feel the atmosphere but he got slightly tense.
I tried to keep him calm by trotting him around and before I knew it we were trotting into the main arena and around the boards.  
tamsin dressage_3
Captain settled well and didn't spook at the flags or flowers. We had only managed to trot up the long end before the bell went and we were off. We trotted up the centre line (in the mud) very straight; I knew we had got off to a good start. Next  came the 10 meter circle after the corner, this didn't go so well as I was trying hard to avoid getting stuck in the mud, unfortunately that circle ended up being around 13 meters.

The mud was becoming our enemy and unfortunately we couldn't really show any mediums and we had a few trips as Captain tried to balance himself.
After what felt like only 30 seconds I was back up the centre line doing my final halt!

tamsin dressage
I was thrilled, Captain had stayed calm and we had achieved a very stable test.
My first international dressage hadn't gone that bad and although we still had lots to improve on, Captain had managed to stay focused and the rearing and bucking of the previous day had all been forgotten!  

After lots of carrots and pats Captain was put away while I had a nice glass of wine to celebrate with Suzanne from whilst we waited for the results to come in.
The marks were soon up and I had been given a 59, not a brilliant score but quite a positive result as all the marks were so close. There were 113 riders in the section with around 75 riders all achieving marks in the 50s.
Tamsin dressage_2 
Friday afternoon soon came and I had yet another course walk to do, this time I wanted to memorize my course route and jump lines. I spent some time going through it in my head before I put Captain out to grass and then ended a very long day with a quiet dinner with Jordana and lots of our friends who had come up to stay the evening in readiness to watch us the following day doing our XC.

Day 3 Saturday XC day
TAMSIN preparing_for_xc 
I was on the course by 7.30am doing my final walk and even managed to watch the first riders out and see how the early stages of the course seemed to be giving them some problems.
Again time flew by and it wasn't long before I had to get back to get Captain and me ready. As soon as I got on Captain I immediately felt that he knew what day it was, or was it a simple ca
se of him listening far too much to the loud speaker and the XC commentary!
xc 2
We bounced all the way to the warm up arena and I knew it was going to be difficult to try and keep him controlled and calm before the XC start.

Our warm up consisted of lots of bucks and when I started to go through the jumps with him, he just got stronger, faster and bolder.

I was trying to keep him calm and knew we still had to practice the angled fence if we were to get it right. Practice over and we are in the start box (me feeling slightly sick) and we were off! 
TAMSIN XC_back_view_xc

Captain never settled in the practice ring and going into the first fence he was pulling me along, we didn't get a good jump into it and ended up jumping the middle of the fence which was a wave and its highest point! 

xc jumping_good_pic
 The second fence wasn't much better and he took off really early, by the third fence  which was a good size Captain had settled a bit but again he jumped very big and it took all my energy to get him back for the first combination.

At fence five he jumped perfectly and I felt we were slowly getting a good rhythm, we cantered through the water and took our right turn to the big step up which we met well and one stride later we were over the brush.

I was thrilled how well fence five had gone and only a few strides later we were coming into the old fashion coffin, we had a good stride into the first element of the coffin but he looked at the ditch, took a stride and half, was a bit spooked (which isn't like him) I kicked him on the last part of the coffin, a skinny wide brush on turn, he didn't see it and ran past. I couldn't hold him and after the second attempt I decided to retire.

I was upset to retire so early but knew that we really didn't have the breaks or control I needed. We just hadn't got into a good rhythm and Captain just wasn't settled and backing off the fences as he usually does…. It just wasn't meant to be.
Looking back I now know that I need to give Captain far more warming up and a stronger bit (or noseband) to keep him controlled. 
We both learnt so much and will bounce back next year with lots of 'skinny' and control practice over the coming winter months. 
It had been a long week and I ended it by enjoying Saturday evening chatting and dancing with friends at the disco.

Captain and I had enjoyed our first three day event together and traveled home on Sunday lunchtime - Captain was still very excited but soon calmed down once he got back into his own stable and playing in his own field with all his friends.
Captain has now returned from his holidays and we are both looking forward to dressage and show jumping over the winter. 
I am aiming for BD Medium test and hopefully BSJ Foxhunter before the season starts next year.
We will of course also be doing plenty of training both on flat and over jumps, including some indoor XC practice and will now aim for our next 1* at Houghton in May.  Roll on 2013 Season, I just can't wait!