Rio Lobo at Sydney ODE

The challenge to training eventing horses extends beyond simply mastering the three phases, it includes finding enough time to do it! There is so much to work on, dressage, x-country schooling and show-jumping.  It does make it fun, (and it’s certainly never boring) but I feel like I never have enough time for everything.  We need to have more days in the week.  Individual horses often require more attention on certain phases, and you only need one of the disciplines to lag behind to make progression up the grades slow, or non-existent.  So, planning the calendar to get to enough dressage or show-jumping days is essential but can become a juggling act.

Let’s see if I can strike the right balance with our current interest, Rio!

We are about to embark on his Eventing career and what better place to start it than at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre.  SIEC is a wonderful venue, and the event’s here are so well run.  It’s an absolute treat to do the dressage warm-up and tests on those lovely arenas.  The x-country, and show-jumping courses are perfect going with beautiful fences.

DRESSAGE-I decided not to warm him up for too long as it was incredibly hot and I didn’t fancy carrying him around the test if he ran out of fuel. I did however underestimate the time it would take me to get to the arenas!  Rio took a dislike to the rock piles, (and a few other horse devouring objects) and it was a slow and snorting progress.  We got to the arena’s eventually and he warmed up really well, he was so much happier in his “safe” environment.  Now remember that Rio is a thoroughbred and that little performance got me thinking.  Ex-racehorses are used to being exposed to a myriad of “scary stuff” and his impersonation of a giant chicken, although convincing was totally suspect. Hmmm

I brush the wool out of my eyes and we begin the test.  We started well, he was a little higher in the frame than at the dressage day at Dungog, so he felt good.  Slow, and incredibly lazy, but still good.  Unfortunately he was like a giant wilting flower and as the test progressed, he started to feel the heat, he went lower and lower and slower and slower, until I was just about having to kick him up the final centre line.  It certainly didn’t feel like an elegant, snazzy little number but Rio is such a nice big horse and he travels along in such a relaxed, and rhythmic way that it still felt great.  The ridiculous trip to the arenas was fading by the second, I was delighted.  The judge thought so too (nice when that happens) and had him in the lead with 39 penalties (74%).  I felt like doing a little Peter Allen number!

Onto the show-jumping and the lovely roomy arena’s make it a lot easier for a young horse.  He was good at the practice fence and didn’t get worried by the other horses warming up.  He really is bold in the show-jumping and he was just great to ride around.  It was one of the easiest rounds on a young horse I have ever ridden.  Clear with no time and I was ready to get the maracas out!  Luckily for my fellow competitors, the words “When my baby, when my baby smiles at me” stayed rightly in my smiling head and any exhibitions of unprofessional behaviour were kept entirely to myself!

Now as we have already established by his long and drawn out trip to the dressage arenas, Rio is definitely more comfortable in a space he knows well.  We have done the required schooling x-country and he has jumped all the fences well so I was looking forward to seeing what he was like out on course.  It can be understandably daunting for a young horse to head out into the strange unknown by themselves, and you often hear the babies whinnying out as they head off at the beginning of the course.

He was good in the start box, (no racing hang-ups), and cantered off wobbling left and right but generally in the right direction.  The first few fences were green but pretty good, and the jump itself felt awesome.  We headed down into the trees and he got a little uncomfortable but kept going and was brave enough to do the right thing at the fences.  I wasn’t pushing him fast but he has a great big stride and he was travelling well as we went down the slide to the gallop track.  He got a little anxious and then spotted the horse ahead of us and off he went to catch up.  He didn’t seem to notice my Herculean effort to wrestle control back.   I have to admit it was only like an out of control canter, but still!  We went around the turn off the track to head up to the palisade before heading down to the water jump.  I thought it would be better to overtake the rider ahead of me to help Rio to focus on the jumps ahead.  He thought pairs x-country seemed like a good idea, and wasn’t keen to leave his new friend behind but we managed to get a bit of distance between us.  Rio, (the big girl), kept on looking back trying to see his x-country buddy but I was having success until we came over the lip of the hill and started heading down to the water.  He took one look, and the next second we were heading back up the hill to greet the rather shocked looking rider that we had passed more conventionally only seconds before.  How embarrassing!  I nearly fell off (like a girl), only the thought of having to put it on paper kept me in the saddle… How would that read, I wonder!  Rio won the dressage, but I fell off.  V embarrassed and will use more saddle tite next time!

Slightly red in the face, I re-passed the lovely lady that I had taught at Scone clinic who was probably thinking I was due for a steering lesson myself. .  I think the three things that make a rider more aggressive are determination, fear and embarrassment.  My ratio there was probably 30:10: 60 respectively.  As a result we finished the course without further incident but with a few too many time penalties.

This dropped us down to second place, so happily ever after doesn’t apply here (damn) but maybe next time!!!!!

All in all, I was delighted.  Rio certainly felt like he will have an exciting future…now we just have to make sure it’s exciting in all the right ways!  So my plan is to give this big lion courage. He needs to cope with new environments, so he is going to spend more time out and about.  As our new property fortunately backs onto the Werekata State forest, he will be exploring the fire tracks and trails, kangaroos and all!

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