Ok, it has taken me a few days post-show to process the photos and videos from 2 different cameras. I’ve been a little busy the last couple days, so I was a bit slower in doing this than I wanted, but here it is!
The results of the first HDT for Chewbacca and I.
If you’re not up to speed on driving terms, and HDT is the same thing as a CDE, with the only difference being length of the marathon, and usually number of competitors.
This event, like 3 day eventing in the riding world, has 3 phases – dressage, cones (which is a timed event like jumpers), and a cross country phase, which includes obstacles to be navigated through. In a full on CDE, (which are always rated with the American Driving Society), the marathon course can include 3-5 different sections, requiring specific speeds and time windows to complete each distance in, and also will include anywhere from 5-10 obstacles to be navigated (with up to 5 required “gates” in each obstacle – that’s a whole lot of marathoning…). In an HDT, the only section done is the section that includes the obstacles, so while a full CDE may be 6 – 12 km long, an HDT is usually 3-4km, and that’s all.
We’ve been studying hard! Doing our homework, and then, after a much anticipated wait of over 6 weeks since I sent in the entry, the show date finally rolled around.
If you were around for our last adventure into showing, you will know it didn’t go well. It didn’t go horrible, but Chewbacca proved that he was neither happy nor comfortable in a show ring.
Knowing that a full -on HDT was going to be out in the open, with the dressage phase being performed in a grass field, and no arenas to be seen, I was hopeful that Chewbacca would be more relaxed, happier, and just go like he does at home.
That was my biggest “concern”… I just wanted him to do the job I know he can do – the way he does at home.
There were 10 competitors in my level – training level, single horse (also known as “TSH”).
Of those, 3 got eliminated for errors on the marathon course. For the final placings, that left 7. Well, we got 7th. No ribbon, and overall, very poor scores and slow times.
However, it’s not all as bad as that sounds- Chewbacca did exceptionally well for his first true event, and every other horse/driver combination in our division had all done at least 1 other event before. So we were the greenies. And that includes the people who got eliminated.
We started out the morning with our dressage test. We were first of the day to go, right at 9am sharp (ish).
The morning weather was absolutely stunning, the scenery was perfect, the farm was beautiful, and Chewbacca went to his job knowing exactly what I needed of him, and gave it to me, and that is truly all I can ask for, and I was thrilled to get it.
In our dressage test in June, we missed marks, and the judge even commented that the horse was “unhappy”.
This time around, we received our best scores for accuracy, with the judge commenting that we did a good job hitting (mostly) all our marks. We missed a couple here and there, including being off the center line at X (oops).
I found being out in an open arena like that, with a view from the carriage, 4 feet behind the horse, that it was very hard to judge where I needed to be, even though I walked the arena, and mapped out my own “landmarks” of where to steer to.
I was concerned I might forget a movement, and blow the test, and I didn’t. I was concerned Chewbacca would be high-headed, uneasy, and tense and he wasn’t. In fact, the judge even commented that the horse was “pleasant” in regards to his score on his working demeanor.
So it really was a well done performance, and I was very happy. Our worst marks clean across the board were for impulsion. The judge commented that the horse needs to move out more, and “no impulsion” was written frequently, lol.
I know this about Chewie, so it’s not like a surprise. He works very very well, he just doesn’t work fast. He *can* move out, but it’s a fine line being getting him to be relaxed and quiet, and working forward. So, safe to say, it’s all a work in progress, although he’s not going to move with the grace a dressage judge expects to see. I don’t expect it, and I’m not going to drive him hard to get it, but still, I do remain optimistic that in our next HDT, our score will improve.
Next up was cones…
Which was quite fun. Again, a little slow. I mostly did a pretty good job, and only knocked down 2 balls (accruing 6 points in time penalties)…… until I darned near forgot where I was going, turned at the last second, and ran a cone down. Bummer! So a little slow time, and 3 knocked balls. All in all, really not a bad run. Several people knocked cones down, so I didn’t feel so alone in the sport of “cone bowling”. lol. Of the 3 phases, I placed the least emphasis on this one, because it’s the hardest one for me to practice at home, with the cones I have, which are too small. So while of course the score in cones counts to my overall placing, I wasn’t uber worried about the cones course itself, and thought it was pretty funny when we hit that cone in style. lol.
Chewbacca did great. He probably could have done it better without me. 😉
Then, a 3 1/2 hour wait before the marathon. I’m not sure if the dog enjoyed being tied between trailers all day, but such is the life of a dog.
In the afternoon came the fun colors, and Chewbacca, who was mostly bored all day, really didn’t seem to care one way or another what color he was wearing.
My friend & navigator and myself are back in the dressage ring area, warming up and waiting for our go on the 1st ever marathon!!!
This obstacle went really well for us, I thought. I did get a little lost, and turned the wrong way, but total time in the obstacle was a little over 1 minute, so all in all, not bad.
Despite having walked the obstacles alone twice and twice again with my navigator, it still drove differently – when you’re moving forward with a horse (even one as slow as Chewie), those turns come up darned fast.
A short while later, we worked our way into the “carousel”, the 2nd obstacle.
This one went well, too. For having never done this before, Chewbacca didn’t hesitate, and he was really right on top of responding to my cues, handling tight turns, and even readily compensating when I made a last minute decision not to make a super tight turn.
When we had walked this course, we thought of areas in the obstacles where we could get a little crazy and try to cut corners to make a faster time, and I tried to go for one, but as I got up on it, I realized at the last second there was no way we would make the turn, and pulled him out instead to make a bigger loop. Total time in obstacle 2 was 59 seconds, so it wasn’t like we were super slow anyway.
Despite having the overall slowest time on the marathon course, we had comparable times in the obstacles to the other competitors. No one was exceptionally faster than were were… they were just all faster out on the rest of the course, lol 😉
Heading to the final obstacle, entering the woods. Chewbacca worked well through this course, for having no experience doing it. I am glad to see that the training time and effort we’ve done together as a team did pay off.
I knew from timing him, that on average, he takes about a minute longer per kilometer than ideal. So, since this course was a 4km course, I knew I could expect our overall time to be about 4 minutes slow. I know from months and months of timing him with the GPS, and pushing him as fast as I can push him without canter, that this is simply his fastest speed, over such a distance. He can get up faster in a short stretch, but not over a whole course.
This is fact, and this is never going to change with Chewie, nor do I particularly want it to. So it will mean that we will always run slow marathons. I can live with it.
Obstacle 3 was weaving through trees. It was a big area, and easy and fun. Our time in obstacle 3 was a little short of 2 minutes.
Chewbacca handled the whole thing like a pro. From dressage in the morning to finally crossing the finish line in a sweaty steamy heap in the afternoon, he never missed a beat, and I was proud most of all that he went out did his job, and wasn’t confused or unsure of what I wanted, or where to go.
The temperature went up to almost 70 by the time we were on the marathon, so it was quite hot for all that work!! We had a maximum time of 18:56 to finish the course in. We finished in 22:24. About 3 1/2 minutes slow, which is exactly right for his pace.
It wasn’t a prize winning first experience in the world of CDE, but it was a confidence building one, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result, truly. Considering that I trained him myself with no experience and no help, and I’ve never taken a driving lesson before (except for 1 clinic after I got him driving), it’s a miracle unto itself that we went out there and did everything the way we were supposed to do it, didn’t get eliminated, and didn’t have any problems – even if we were a little slow.
And of course, you all know how much I love my helmet cam..!! Yes, I did wear it. Here is video of some of the highlights of our dressage, cones (including our skill at bowling!), and the marathon with 2 different perspectives.
Enjoy and have a great day!