USEF High Performance event rider Kristin Schmolze is competing at the Badminton CCI4* for the first time this year with her longtime partner Cavaldi. In this blog Kristin shares her exciting journey as she prepares for one of the toughest three-day events in the world! (Entry 1)
I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason, but too many times in the horse business, the reason is not clear. This past weekend was one of those times, a very tough one for our sport. My deepest condolences go out to Arden and Michael, their families and all involved in the lives of Mandar and Dekorum.
(Left: Kristin and Cavaldi competing at last weekend’s Southern Pines II. Mikaela Kathryn Kantorowski photo.)
For me personally Southern Pines was the first Advanced run of the season. It was a weekend for getting all the kinks out and getting a good feel for Joey this spring as we leg up for our big trip to England!
One of my biggest challenges with Joey has always been his flatwork; it is an ongoing process to keep him rideable and relaxed. Phillip and Mark have been very helpful with continuing to work on this with me as Joey gets fitter and fitter this spring. In my last lesson with Mark, he told me to go to Southern Pines and use the weekend as a good 'training' weekend in preparation for Badminton.
My goal for the dressage was to keep Joey as up and light as possible, even 'above the bit' for this test, to really confirm that he cannot get heavy on me in the arena. Amazingly enough, it worked wonders! Our test was one of the most rideable tests I have had on Joey. It was a very good step for us; though he still had moments of getting nervous, I was able to ride him through this and by the end had a much happier and relaxed horse! Now the next phase will be to accomplish this while having him pushed more through and forward to really complete the picture.
(Left & Right: Joey gave me an exceptional ride in the dressage at Southern Pines.)
The cross-country course at Southern Pines certainly had a lot to look at. It was a good, challenging track that I would say was a great warm-up for the spring three-days. I was lucky enough to have a cross-country school with Mark a few weeks ago and the topic of the day was working on our gallop. Again, keeping Joey rideable and working with me, (seems to be a pattern!), is always a goal while jumping. Every year this improves, but it can be a bit of work to achieve early in the spring. Our cross-country round at Southern Pines went very smoothly and I was pleased with Joey's jumping and fitness. It was just what I needed to get my “eye” back and get a good feeling at the bigger jumps again...because it is just going to get bigger from here!
(Left: George also had a great start to his season as well.)
I also had my horse Castle Jordan back at Advanced level this weekend. He was a star on cross-country!  “George” had a bit later start to his season this year then the rest of my horses, so my plan was to take it easy on the cross-country, thinking that he would need a nice confident round to get started. Well that was the plan, but apparently he did not receive that memo and thought he had something to prove with Joey headed to Badminton! George rocked around the cross-country and didn't miss a beat; he was super. He felt a little greener then Joey at some combinations, which would be expected, but he handled the course beautifully and came through the finish still pulling for more--though I will admit that George WALKED back to stabling after his ride, where I was still holding Joey back from galloping home!
Show jumping day was a cold one. Thankfully the rain held off for us on Sunday (I guess we got soaked enough on cross-country day) but the temperatures were just frigid! The show jumping course proved to be a very tough one, with only a few clear rounds all day. Joey jumped well, only having one down, but I felt that I could have ridden him a bit smoother. He has been show jumping very well and I felt that I was a bit rusty in the ring. But that is what practicing is for; we still have a bit more time for schooling before our next event at The Fork in North Carolina.
(Left: The boys relaxing on their trip home.)
I'm pleased to say that Joey checked out well yesterday after the event, and is now ready to go on to The Fork! My plan is to do a combined test there with Joey and ride Castle Jordan in the Advanced. This past weekend was Joey's big run before Badminton. Seeing that things went well, I guess it is safe to say that we are still on track for the big trip to England. It is coming up so quickly! It is getting pretty exciting here at our barn as the planning continues--I will keep everyone posted as we get closer to takeoff!