Sug was feeling good; really up in the bridle, adjustable and jumping well. I was feeling good; judging her stride accurately, seeing distances well. There are times when it feels as though I see things in what was called "wide angle vision" at the wilderness survival school I used to work at. I think it's similar to what Sally Swift means when she says "soft eyes", but basically, it's when I'm relaxed and I can see everything around me in the periphery and react to it without focusing intently on one thing, getting tense, over thinking, and then over-riding.
So anyway, all was going swimmingly. Then came the course. Went from 1-3 warm-up fences to a full course. Which shouldn't be a problem, but since I've had most of a year off and only been jumping my recently un-broken horse for the better part of a month, this almost put me in the fetal position. However, I have a healthy helping of pride, so I was going to be damned if I was going to whine in front of my trainer.
Here's how it was SUPPOSED to go: Vertical out of the turn, turning right to a steady long approach (9 strides) to an oxer to the turn and the liverpool on the diagonal. Stay out in the turn going left in the top of the ring and come around, catch the vertical of the combination and then bend to the left to go 6 forward strides to the triple. Hang a sharp right to catch the combo going the other way, come around to the right and catch the slant across the middle and then turn hard left to the rock wall, 5 stride bending line.
The vertical was good, but I started over thinking things a bit on the way to the oxer and got a tad deep. No big deal - YET. Things began unravelling when Sug, feeling quite good about life and happy to be back at her job, decided to buck and ripsnort her way around the turn, which made us a bit wide to the liverpool and fouled up the approach so we wound up leaving from Newark and landing somewhere near Chicago.
Sugar commenced frolicking immediately upon landing and we discussed the situation around the turn and on the entire approach to the next vertical, which came up rather quickly and awkwardly. We landed straighter than we'd anticipated, so had a bit of a steering issue and darn near jumped the "out" of the combo (Sug's vote) until I managed to haul her left and get her pointed at the triple bar. Annabel had wanted us to get fairly deep to that one, and I can say we made her happy on that front. Bars stayed up though.
(Sidebar: In her post-mortem Annabel told me to ask the horse to land more to the left. Hello!!!!!!!! Rank amateur here -- how does one do that??? She gave me a look that suggested I'd just fallen off the short bus and said, "Duh, with your reins. How else do you get a horse to change direction?" Well, I'm thinking leg, seat, weight....and, oh by the way, I can barely get the mare to TAKE OFF from where I want her to, I've never given much thought to where we land! NOT that I say ANY of this out loud. For once.)
We romped around the next turn (really, I'm thrilled she's sound and over the moon that she feels so good, but really, this is getting ridiculous) and came to the combo with our hair on fire. Actually caught the in at a good distance but I folded too quickly on her neck and she caught it, but landed well and we cleared the out with no problem. I was able to anticipate her antics and bent her around my inside leg in a shoulder in around the turn, which kept her busy enough that we had a good approach to the slant.
That is, until I realized how easy it would be to land wrong and hit the out of the combo, at which point I rethought everything, half-halted the heck out of her, and choked up on her till she had no choice but to falter at the base of the slant. Bless her honest heart, she took it from a standstill and darn near jumped me out of the tack, and somehow I hung on well enough to turn her to the the rock wall, which we actually jumped beautifully.
I was happy to survive. That's the difference between 40 and getting back into riding and being young. Maybe even being 40 and having ridden your whole life. Annabel was not happy with just survival, so she made me do it again. In stages, and then once we got those right, as a whole.
That worked out much better. Annabel happy, horse happy, everybody happy. However, being the over-analyzing retentive control freak that I am, I'm a bit concerned that it seems I ride better when in "wide angle" mode and not thinking about the plan/striding but just doing it. I think I'm supposed to be 'riding my plan.' Though I'm not about to bring this up to Annabel. There's only so much she can deal with in one day.