Day one of Zone Finals was lovely. Boring, and quiet - because not very many people came to play, but it was lovely none the less.
Winds is working AWESOME. A little bit of time off and some ass kickings on the flat were just what the doctor ordered.
I watched him flat earlier in the day and the continued work in a higher frame at the canter is dropping his booty and lifting his balance like whoa. Its awesome. He's light and adjustable and stepping through... all good things.
The great news is that it's translating to more self carriage when we lower his frame back down and let out the hunter-rein so he can derp around like a lazy lazerson.
Also new info is that all season we've been getting a better jump out of Winds if we maintain contact right to the base and sorta hold his hand over the jump. Previously, if you really threw your reins away he'd suck back (maybe looking for contact?) and jump a bit flat.
Not a problem per se, but he definitely has us trained to help him out a bit more.
Anyway, that's old news now I guess.... Turns out he wants you to drop the reins about two strides out, let him rock his royal self back, and then he'll explode over the fence all on his own. Jumping higher, straighter, and landing with a bit mower fluidity.
This resulted in about 10 minutes of warm up with us all scratching our heads but gladly rolling with it.
So round one was awesome. Jumped some great jumps, landed his leads, all around a good Windsor and snagged an 85 to win the class.
Then we started talking. The last couple of shows when Winds has sat for a few rounds before going back in, he's been a bit casual about his job and pulled rails or at the very least been so bored it feels like his eyes are closed. Neither of which is great for nailing a high score.
So we decided to head back to warm up, jump a big vertical and wake him up.
We only jumped one, though I did add a landing rail to get him to pick up his toes a bit, and we headed right back for round two...
And Winds was LIT.
(Or, he was lit for Winds.)
He still looks chill on the video, but if you know him well, you can see the tension. Tight mouth, flatter jump, less magic all around. We got dinged hard for it with a 76 and a 7th.. (out of 8).
So, uh, next time Winds nails an 85 and jumps like a freak, we're just going to leave well enough alone.
The undersaddle went at the end of the day and we got a 5th.
I wasn't expecting much on the flat since it was a nice group of horses, and the same judge essentially didn't use us on the flat at all back when he saw us go in June. So that was fine.
We came back Thursday for two more Pre Green rounds and a Pre Green Challenge thing (not the incentive program) that was essentially a two round classic (last round of the division being your first score).
Anyway first round of the day was fine - but he was pretty unimpressed. A tad casual with his hind end and not really rolling through a ton on landing.
But, decent, and enough for a 77....
Again, we talked about taking him back to warmup to wake him up. Clearly the landing rail got him a bit too edgy the day before, but maybe just a tall vertical would do the trick.
Warmup was empty, which made it easy to make use of more than one jump. He was casual about the vertical, and casual about the oxer, which we widened significantly between the first and second time he jumped it.
The width caught him a bit by surprise the second time, and after that he was tidier with his toes - without the tension that the landing rail induced the day before...
So we went back in. And Winds started his round really, really well.
Loftier jump, less tension, really well..... Then:
So, you can't totally tell (because I panicked and dropped the camera) - but there was a crash-like experience. I'd say it was an actual crash, but somehow (SOMEHOW) Winds didn't even knock the top rail down.
I debated even posting this video mostly because it's not me riding - but I've since decided that while I don't entirely know what happened here - I'm pretty sure Winds just misread the question. The distance wasn't crazy long, the pace wasn't off... he just put a leg down... then used it to push back off again.
Other trainers in the vicinity confirmed that they have NO idea why that jumped went sideways. Horses, can't quite account for everything...
But, true to Winds' nature - he wasn't even rude on the other side.
In fact, I bet he could have cantered out of the line just fine if we all hadn't suffered simultaneous heart attacks.
The real bummer is that being the last round - our score of 40 was carried into the Pre Green challenge.
The second round of the challenge was lovely (dammit). Winds recovered immediately, and aside from a mediocre first fence, he jumped beautifully and really pushed over his oxers. Loved it.
Apparently so did the Judge's and he got an 86. If we were pinning that class separately, he would have been second behind an 86.5, but that first round 40 killed us and kept us in last place.
Anyway, that's the story of Zone Finals.
On one hand it really wasn't our show.. on the other, it was the first time we showed Windsy indoors - and we learned that he doesn't really care about that. We also learned how to get him a bit more careful, without stressing him out (read: NO LANDING RAILS). and that's actually extremely useful information.
Still tough to miss out on those year end awards, but we live to ride another day... (And Winds is still absolutely my favorite.)