Santos and Me

Riding Journal Part 6: August to September 1999

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August 21-22: Foxcroft
Middleburg, VA

Cortney's first Fourth level!! This is a level where I can really shine, but she better pay attention, I'll rewrite the tests. But thank goodness we don't have to that Third Level test with all the stopping and starting. Cortney also tried a little assertiveness with me this weekend. HAH, I love it. Nobody bosses me around. I am given ample opportunities to kick at her leg, I get crooked, which gets Cortney crooked and it becomes chaos, I show off one-tempis, the list is endless! But she learned her lesson and rides the rest of the weekend by asking me nice. And I give her some nice tests for it. She sure feels heavier than she used to.

Foxcroft Scores
Fourth 1    K. Barbosa  59.743%
Fourth 1    B. Woods    50.250%
Fourth 2    B. Woods    58.206%
Fourth 2    S. Woods    47.000%

Me laughing with the judge
Frances laughing at Me!

I was getting cold feet about our Fourth Level debut because we hadn't exactly had an abundance of time to prepare. I sucked it up and gave it a whirl. In my first test, I cantered in, down center line toward x, but Santos just had half-pass on the brain and I could NOT get him straightened out. I gave him one boot with my left leg and he kicked/bucked into a very crooked halt. Nice way to start a test, huh? I learned my lesson.

The half-passes were really coming better, in fact lots of things were coming along. However, it became clear that Fourth 2 is NOT our test! We made several failed attempts at a qtr piroutte to counter canter -- each was marred by multiple changes and general misbehavior earning me three-2's in a row. Oh well, with my main goal of the bronze medal behind me, it was easier to be relaxed and have good humor about the whole situation.

My last test of the weekend was in the indoor. I didn't warm up too much, and as I entered the ring, I could just tell we were in sync. Movement after movement seemed to go so well until I came to Medium Canter M to V. I knew my coat had become a little snug suddenly, but my bottom button popped off like a projectile under enormous pressure! I watched it fly, noted where it landed, and had to work very hard to keep riding my test without falling off from laughter! I retrieved it and was glad to think I only had to squeeze into my clothes for one last show!

The button mid-pop!

Early September: the final push

I took a week and a half off from training for a side trip to Pennsylvania to see my folks. My first lesson back was horrible, I could NOT get Santos to move. I mean,, I really really couldn't get him to move. Frances got on, helped to give Santos a bit of an attitude adjustment, and things went more smoothly. I had signed up for Fourth 1 and 3 at the last show hoping test 3 would go better than 2. And since it was my last show, it would be nice to have ridden all the way up through the levels. I'll have ridden EVERY test from Training 4 through Fourth 3 in the last two summers!!

This last push was tough. I was getting tired, things were getting harder, and I was having to dig very deep to keep the motivation. We were still trying to get a better handle on tempi changes. It was the same thing, over and over -- "Sit up! Don't lean! Don't help!" But try as I might improvement seemed impossible. One day, on the verge of tears, I just got quiet, gathered my wits, and picked up a canter. I rode aggressively and focused on keeping him absolutely straight, and round and through, assuming the changes would happen with a very slight change of flexion. I think I got about six absolutely beautiful changes, controlled, up, active, incredible. I still think it was my best set ever and I'll never forget how awesome it felt. Things went much better after that!

September 25-26: VADA/NOVA
Lexington, VA

VADA/NOVA at Lexington. Last show of the season. Cortney is brave and does Fourth 3!! That's a hard test, she'll have to count lead changes across the diagonal and do canter half pirouettes . But we get through the test quite nicely! I even do the canter pirouettes beautifully for Cortney. The last day of the show I just felt cranky, never did lay down all night, and I hate to gossip, but she just keeps getting heavier to carry around! And suddenly she's sobbing like she's never going to see me again, what's that about? HUH? She IS deserting me to have a baby of her own. Traitor! She won't be able to stay away, she'll come visit me. Maybe I'll just nip the baby a little....

Fourth 1    J. Gwinn    59.230%
Fourth 1    J. Gwinn    56.153%
Fourth 3    J. Gwinn    56.428%
Fourth 3    J. Gwinn    50.952%


Our last show! I couldn't believe it. I tried not to think about it too much. My biggest concern was would my clothes fit? I was four months pregnant and already feeling huge. The boots, breeches, it all went on. Except for a band of elastic around my bottom jacket button, I looked pretty normal!

Day one started out with a hideous warmup but the tests went really pretty fabulously with a 59.2 on test 1 and a 56.4 on test 3. No horrible disobediences and I actually got a 6 and 7 on the tempi-changes and a 6 on one of my pirouettes! I was totally thrilled and felt like we had accomplished what I set out to do...respectable performances up through Fourth level.

Day two we had a nice warmup, and Frances even said that worried her. The tests were not the same quality of the day before and I had to really push myself to ride that final test 3. Then it hit me...this was it. I got so choked up coming out of the ring. I tried reminding myself that it wasn't forever and that I really did need the break. I needed time to slow down and just enjoy the anticipated arrival of the baby.

Frances says

Wow. How lucky I have been to have found Cortney for Santos. What a team they have made, and what incredible progress Cortney made in 2 too short seasons. I threw everything at Cortney, didn't let her think, didn't even let her get comfortable at any level, just kept pushing her up through the levels so she could get as much experience as possible in the time we had. We sure didn't spend time discussing theory, I went with the philosophy of "shut up and ride." Cortney can now go back and sort through the stuff of theories with a little experience and better understanding. I am astounded that we got all the way to Fourth 3. Who would have thought that the passive training level rider I started with last year could go so far? Particularly on a smart old devil like Santos. I know no one else who would have had the dedication and the persistence that Cortney had to have to stick through the tears and frustration of learning dressage, and on Santos to boot. I am unbearably proud of what they have accomplished. It has truly been a joy and an honor. I will miss Cortney's regular lessons terribly, but what a friendship we have forged, for a lifetime.

Thanks for another season, Santos!!

Cortney says

I just look at it like I'm in "temporary retirement" but I know that this was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. I'm sure I'll keep riding and will compete again in the future, and I'm hopeful the new addition to the family will take up my passion as well! I'm still riding my old horse and my stable mates laugh that no bouncy chair will ever soothe this child that has become accustomed to the motions of a horse!

Frances and I have formed a friendship that goes beyond the barn. She's just an outstanding person in every way and I've learned so much from her. She's down to earth, doesn't take herself too seriously, she's kind and generous to a fault, and I still don't know how she ever put up with me! She helped me with half-passes and shoulder-ins, but also work trouble, relationship issues, and preparations for motherhood.

And Santos, dear Santos! You have taught me such valuable lessons about discipline, patience, and trust...lessons that I'm told will have direct application to the new baby! I have no doubts there will be moments this child will drive me every bit as crazy as you did...or maybe not!!

Back to Part 1...

Copyright 1998 Cortney Martin and Frances Yeardley
Graphics by Frances Yeardley

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