Visualization is a big part of my pre-show preparation, and it's very detailed . I don't just imagine "A Enter collected canter, X halt salute." I dream up every half-halt, every flick of the wrist. For Saturday's ride, I added one little word to every corner, every movement, every brief pause in the test: fight.
Not fight with Midge, of course, but fight for every point. And fight we did, climbing our way back up to place third on Saturday and fourth overall by just tenths of a point.
Saturday's test was far from both perfect or our best. I still had a stupid mistake in the twos, as well as a weird rhythm break in both my collected walk and my first extended trot. I had a 7 stride in the middle of what should have been 4-8-8-4 zig zag. Midge felt much fresher after his day off on Friday but still was very, very tired, and while he gave me a wonderful transition from big passage to little passage, by the last piaffe he said that he just didn't have more to offer me.
But a few things were really good. My ones, my first centerline, my pirouettes (!). While I still need to be able to lower Midge's neck more, the connection was better, as was the engagement.
And now we have our homework. Fitness, fitness, fitness. A few other things that I've been working on all summer - a lower neck, the left trot half-pass, things that aren't a matter of technical problems but ongoing development. And more adjustment time on long trips. I think that if I'd left on Saturday and not on Monday, I'd have had a fresher horse.
And that's what competitions like this are for, or at least what I think they're for. When international competition is the goal, championships like these are not the end but the beginning, a stepping stone, a learning opportunity, a dry run for bigger things. I now know what works and what doesn't, and I now have a chance to fix it.
Midge and I had a beautiful and mercifully uneventful ride home, and we'll both take today to recover. Then the trot sets begin on Tuesday!