Dressage warmup at Middleburg HT. © Jamey Price
There’s something about that week in mid-September that signifies the end of summer for me. It’s always felt as if I leave summer behind when I head to the American Eventing Championships, that during that week the seasons change and I come home to autumn. Yes, there’s the obvious – temperatures begin to fall, days begin to shorten, light begins to lose its hazy summer filter – but it’s more of a, “Yeah guys, this fall season is ON!!!” attitude for me. I had big plans for this fall in particular, plans that included letters like “FEI” and “CCI”. But oh, horses…how they remind you it is so rarely up to us! The word “plan” shouldn’t be used with horses, because plans – like rules – are made to be broken.
We’ll get back to “broken” in a moment, though. First I’d like to chat a bit about AECs. From the second we set foot at Chatt Hills and went on an evening walk, P’s eye was off in the distance, looking at cross-country. He wasn’t interested in the grass, or the other horses, or even his momma (sorry I’m so boring, P!)…he knew he was there for a purpose, and it was as if he was drawn to the course. He studied it from afar, and after a moment he took in a deep breath like, “Mom, I’ve got it. Now let’s hurry up and get there because I am READY!” The following morning’s dressage wasn’t up to our usual standard, but I’ll chalk that up to my boy not feeling much like playing in the sandbox. He was much more interested in the playground, thank you very much. Cross-country morning dawned sunny and cool-ish, and even on the hack over Pirate felt fantastic. He’s never felt better than he did in warm-up, and by the time we made it to the start box, I had lost most of my jitters because I KNEW the horse underneath me could handle everything out there. As usual, he bounced up and down on the “3, 2, 1″ and was out of the box like a rocket on “Go!”