Both horses passed the jog and went on to dressage. I was pretty pleased with Syd’s test, though we lost some points from the rein back through the first two or three canter moves. He was a bit nervous and I didn’t keep him together enough, which is too bad as I’ve been getting some really good work from him this spring. I was also really happy with JR; Silva Martin, as well as Allison Springer, were right on cue to help me and he was probably the most rideable he’s been in the ring this year. You can only get better with better connection, and that’s what I’d been working so hard on with him.
From dressage on, some things went better, some not so well. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw JR because of a respiratory condition that had developed the Sunday before. We thought he’d be okay, but I felt he still wasn’t quite right and when we scoped him after dressage, I made the hard decision that it was in his best interest to withdraw. He just wasn’t getting enough air to gallop around Rolex.
As for Syd, I was quite happy with his cross-country. I think Derek always does good job designing in that the horses can see what’s being asked of them; his courses are horse friendly that way. The striding doesn’t always work out the way you think it’s going to, but the horses don’t get punished regardless. Syd started out almost too careful, which is often his nature, so when he got to first water he was a bit sticky and really banged his right hind on first element, which I almost thought he wasn’t going to jump. From there, though, the rest of the course got better and better. I felt really confident and Syd got more and more confident. When I got to the nine and 10 minutes marks, I thought I was going to be right on time, but I just slightly misjudged the time at the end and was a few seconds slow, even though Syd was plenty fit. This was my first time to do a four-star since 2009. With my eliminations at the Fork and trying to come back over the last three-and-a-half years to level four-star level, I was thrilled it all came together. I was particularly pleased that all the work I’d put into my cross-country this winter paid off.
The jog on Sunday was a bit nerve-wracking because Syd had really banged his hind leg and I wasn’t completely sure he would pass. He did, and I was elated to go on to show jumping. He warmed up really well, but I could tell he was sore. In the ring, we jumped the first two fine, but came to the third cross-cantering. I moved up to a long distance and he didn’t leave the ground to jump and went through the rails. Going to four, I didn’t shorten my reins, plus I thought I needed more canter, and we took rails there and at five, six and seven. I finally realized I was too quick, and needed to shorten my reins and get Syd together. Fence eight, the triple at nine, and fences 10, 11, 12 and 13 went really well. I wish I had reacted much quicker! I had made a mistake at three and tried to fix it it in the wrong way. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to support Syd in front. He was tired, and it had been a long time since I’d jumped around a four-star stadium. I didn’t have same horse have at horse trials.
The good news is that Syd’s come out of Rolex really well, and up to Rolex we’d never had any trouble with show jumping a clean round, so I will take away what I need to from the experience and move forward. It’s all part of process of me coming back. Some might say I was nervous, some that I didn’t react; it was probably a little of both. Every rider’s biggest challenge is to react to what’s happening as you’re riding. I could have done a better job helping Syd in the show jumping when he was tired. It’s about supporting your horse, staying in one canter and keep the balance the same. I know that but didn’t make it happen when I needed to.
Getting to Rolex is a very long process. I want to thank all the people who help me, physically and mentally: Caitlin, Kendyl and Adolfo, who run the barn; my parents, Jo and Dick; my amazing other half, Tom; and all the great friends and supporters that are here for me. Kendyl and Victoria groomed for me at Rolex, and my horses and I couldn’t have done what we did without them. I also want to thank my wonderful sponsors, whose support is invaluable and who helped make it possible to get two horses to Kentucky. Here’s to my next 4-star, or to whatever my plans are going to be this fall!