I’m somewhat annoyed right now at how dressage went for our show yesterday, so I’m going to skip right ahead to the cross country element of the July Horse Trials we did yesterday.
The XC was soft, like, uncharacteristically soft for a War Horse show- normally it feels like they are out for blood with the course design, and while Training was super technical (2 full coffins for example), Novice was easy as pie. In fact, it was shorter than the Beginner Novice course.
The course itself was simple too- we had two separate 2 stride combinations, and a sunken road.
My only concern was really regarding the heat, and how Jack would recover. So I used his inhaler before heading out to jump (since it’s a schooling show), and added the Flair Nose Strip (thank you all for your suggestions- I read through the instructions several times and was able to figure it out!). Long story short, he came in feeling great. Puffing, but not heaving, despite the temps being in the 90s.
I finally brought out the GoPro again, so here’s your bird’s eye view of our short, easy, Novice outing.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll have the energy to bitch about the dressage. Stay tuned.
The XC at Virginia has always intimidated me, thanks to countless stories from friends about it being max, on the side of a mountain, omg the ditch, etc etc.
They definitely weren’t lying about the side of a mountain thing (holy cow I burned so many calories hustling up and down those hills walking my course) but max, it was not. Fences 1-3 set a really positive tone, and 4-5 were numbered separately but rode like a combination on a right hand turn. There were plenty of ‘funny looking’ fences- more traditional open airy jumps that we don’t see at the Carolina Horse Park.
We also had our first corner, which was part of a combination midway through the course.I took this photo slightly from above so you can see the shape, but don’t be fooled- this was max height, though it rode really well and Jack took it like a champ.
From there, we had a run up a hill then down, where it leveled out to a big ol’ hammock that I somehow didn’t take a picture of. Then up another hill to a faux ditch and wall and up to a half coffin set on a bending downhill line. This combination was by far the most influential on course, as well as the time, which a lot of folks didn’t make.
The half coffin as seen from the backside
Jack has finally started taking ditches like the event horse he is, like several days before this show, and the ditch we had schooled was the same size as the one on course, so I actually felt pretty confident going into the start box but wasn’t going to take the ditch for granted nonetheless.
As you can see, Jack was a fucking star. We came in 20 seconds under time, and you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face from how confident he felt. We moved up to 1st following the run. More about the conclusion to my fabulous yellow pony’s adventure tomorrow!
After my showjumping round from hell, I dejectedly made my way over to the cross country field. I won’t lie, I was seriously pondering if I should just focus on dressage after embarrassing myself so badly. But putting my pity party aside, I was still going to go run that course- because shamefaced or not, I was not going to give up when I was literally there.
The trainer had told me I needed to put my hands down and get him in front of my leg, even if it meant taking a couple galloping fences in the warm up to get it. So I did- attacking the tiny log in warm up like a dog attacks a bee (that is to say, erratically and awkward to watch) until we were jumping out of stride, he wasn’t getting hollow and he wasn’t tearing away from the fence like an idiot.
A few more efforts in the warmup to confirm that it wasn’t a fluke and we headed out on course. Below is a video of the first 4 fences, and the last 3.
Fence 1 was a max ramp that several folks fell at the show before, which lets you know that the course designer was taking no prisoners today. A little tap from my bat and over he went, before a dog leg turn away from home to 2, wonky bend to 3 and rolling over to 4 which had a downhill descent away from the fence.
Fence 5 was at the base of the hill, then it was a long hill up to 6AB, a pair of stacked log fences on a right angle to each other. Jack was booking it up the hill, and so we didn’t have quite the smaller canter I needed to make the turn well, but thankfully he was honest and though we sliced the hell out of the B element, we made it over.
I had hoped in general that the course would be a more confidence boosting type, but I found myself using my stick more than I’d hoped. In a couple cases he was spooking at insignificant things not related to a fence- a puddle next to fence 10, and ant hill after the last fence, that sort of thing.
Spooking at things mid-gallop is his forte
I ended up through the finish flags having gone clear, but probably not as fast as we normally do thanks to the extra time eyeballing all the things.
Despite all the ugliness and my efforts to sabotage us with shit riding, we finished 2nd out of 13. Since then I’ve had a couple CTJ lessons that have been really helpful- but that’s for another post!
Sunday the sun finally came out, and it warmed up enough to make everything feel a bit cheerier. While the footing out on the course was definitely torn up in some places, for the most part it actually helped to churn up the grass in the slickest places.
The warm up ring was a huge improvement over the day before (thank goodness, because I’m not sure I could have survived another), and we had a quick canter and gallop about before tossing in a couple fences and heading to the start box. Holly had me thinking about galloping away from the jump, which admittedly I can forget to do in the excitement of having reached the other side of the fence. Oops.
Overall though, the course was a nice first go back, and featured a couple long gallops between spurts of fences (fences 1-4 were together, then 6-11, then 12-16). Because of the wetness I just let him cruise without pushing down the long stretch after fence 4 (some of which you can see in the video), and brought him to a trot where there were tighter turns to fences since we don’t have studs.
While a couple fences felt a little rusty (he jumped me out of the tack over 1 that we got in deep to, and then hit a big table at the end fairly hard that was at the top of a hill), overall it was a pretty confidence building run. We came in more than 30 seconds under the optimum time and though tired, Jack was convinced he could keep on running. He pranced back to the barn hollering his head off, and looked no worse for wear under strong scrutiny.
Could care less about the ribbon- more interested in wondering where all his friends are going
Thanks to our clear jumping rounds, we finished in second place. The most exciting thing about this is of course that it qualifies us for the AEC’s later this year, which has been a dream of mine since FOREVER.
Now to keep the golden boy in one piece, and get another couple recognized shows in to seal the deal!
As far as a move up course, this one couldn’t have been better. In many ways it was simply a larger version of the BN course, but with a couple interesting lines/combos thrown in for good measure. It included a drop at 7, then an interesting terrain combination at 9AB, and a 2 stride combination at 15AB.
Despite my cross country nerves (which I think will never go away), I felt fairly confident that as long as I rode every fence that this would be a good course for Jack. We did get deep spots in a couple places, and he definitely bobbled going into the 9AB combo (lots to look at, including the training ditch right next to our question). BUT overall this was the most locked-on and confident he has felt on XC. How do I know?? The Golden Boy actually started hunting down a skinny Prelim brush coming out of the first water. As you’ll hear me say on camera, “Are you crazy?”
I also got good practice looking at my watch (something I definitely didn’t do last time), since I was tied going into XC and wanted to be close-ish to the optimum time. I still came in 20 seconds under, but was able to make decisions about trotting in a couple places and collecting him to the last fences to try and let the clock run up a bit. Who knew it was possible to think and ride at the same time?!
Maybe you wouldn’t have to jump like that Jack if you opened your eyes?
Seriously though, it was awesome to come off the course feeling like Jack had grown in confidence and experience over the last 5 minutes. And that’s how he officially became a Novice horse!
Sunday morning I did my final walk through of the cross country with the trainer, and got a bit of a knowledge drop on how best to navigate what was a very friendly looking course. We discussed the need to really ride to fence 4, which was giving some people trouble with its spooky grain bags. Likewise to swing wide to fence 7 so the right run-out towards the barns wasn’t so tempting.
Bank to rolltop combination I was worried about
Though we went screaming and prancing all the way out to the course, we actually had a brilliant warmup and I went out to the start box feeling confident that we could execute our plan. Here’s how it went (and please forgive the language about halfway through):
All in all, it was a great run. While he needed a little convincing in the beginning, we eventually found a rhythm. It was a blast letting him go a bit up the big hill after fence 10, and I can feel that Novice speed is going to be nothing for Jack. In fact, we did our course at 375 meters/min which was the marked Novice speed for the event. Hence my wondering about speed faults at the end of our round.
PC: Brant Gamma
Each outing, Jack gets more and more confident, and throwing down a double clear round and became more and more rideable as we went along was an amazing feeling. He still needs support and confidence from me, but we’re feeling more like a team. Because I blazed around the XC, we lost the tie breaker for 2nd, and the yellow pony earned a matching yellow ribbon for his efforts. But to be competitive at his first recognized show is an awesome feeling, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the weekend.
Don’t mind me, I’m just over here losing all the things… my ice boots, the $60 I had in my pocket, my mind….
XC schooling over the weekend was pretty mentally exhausting for the golden boy and I. Our focus was on creating a positive experience and getting over some baby ditches/banks- issues that bubbled up at the Boyd Clinic. And it wasn’t resolved without some initial drama.
moment of drama
little more drama with a hint of tail
too. much. drama.
Luckily my trainer has literal balls of steel and she helped Jack make better life choices. And he did. Including going over a baby ditch on the very first try.
We were able to even revisit the first ditch at the end of our schooling, and Jack remembered to move horizontally instead of vertically- wise decision indeed, and a lesson that hopefully he will remember when we get out there again in January.
Not one to let things lie, we then had a jump lesson yesterday. Golden boy’s brain was fully intact, and all the “scary” things were jumped the first time around. My challenge is to ride effectively and not let my defensive habits take over when I get worried. Unfortunately I have no media, but know that despite the scary screenshots from above, the Barbie Dream Horse continues to be in my good books.
Last week’s revisit to the cross country course was perhaps not as amazing as I had hoped for. I think in general ending on a not-as-great note with our ditch and water-drop issues at the Boyd clinic hurt Jack’s (and probably my) confidence a bit, and a couple exercises that had been easy for him before, like the baby up bank, were a little tougher this time around.
And we definitely ended on a good note this time- stringing together the new-to-us cabin, water, and coop and maintaining a steady rhythm throughout.
Jack continues to make his opinions well known, and I can’t help but giggle every time I see that tail flying high in the videos. So much so that I made a highlight reel of Jack’s latest opinions:
We need a solid outing and some real confidence boosting at our next cross country schooling, which is this weekend. No time like the present to nip some of these issues in the bud!
When we left off yesterday, we had just gone up and down banks, and Jack was having plenty of green moments throughout the day. Well sadly, those green moments only increased from there.
Our next exercise was over ditches. Oh lordy. Jack and I had yet to do a ditch together, and I suspect that the last time he did a ditch was last winter. We warmed up over a tiny (like, green-as-grass) “ditch” and then moved on to the only other ditch on the property- a max-Novice (maybe even Training) ditch.
Boyd schooled us through the introduction first- coming at it with more steam than necessary to just get them over it, and then slow things down on each subsequent approach. We were to have long reins, with our hands essentially in our lap in order to have our crop at a place that we could tap the horse on the ribs if need be. Again, not only am I bad at the whole long reins thing, but I also could not reach Jack’s ribs with my pony bat. After explaining to Boyd that A) I had fat thighs (yes I said this) and B) I had a short bat so C) that wasn’t working for us and D) oh yeah, and I have no idea what this horse is like with ditches, he then made me trade with another for a crop that could actually reach and sent us on our way. Below is the result of that.
And yup, I nearly ran Boyd over. Multiple times. But we finally got over it, and Jack Jack got lots of pats for being a brave ponykins. You can see that we got over it a couple more times, and then we had to move on to the next thing. We have a schooling planned for a different venue in a couple weeks that has different levels of ditches, and this is definitely one of the goals for that session. Get ready for moar ditches, Jack!
At that point, I won’t lie, I was a little brain dead. But we kept rolling, and next on the agenda was the bowl. We were told to keep an up hill, showjumping canter through the base of the bowl, and once we got to the sharp hill (with a small fence at the top), we were to accelerate and not pick to any kind of spot. Then the task was to roll back to a small log going back down the hill, and then reverse the order. Welp, you can see how that went for us.
I should have fought for it more, in truth. He tried spooking at the hanging log on the way back down as well, but I got him over it the first time. Pony- stop being such a spaz!
We wrapped up the day at the water complex. Going through at trot to get their toes wet, and then trotting up and out up a bank to a small log, which happily rode really well for the golden boy. Doing that in reverse… well, not so good. Again we got in a pickle of there not being a baby-version of the drop into water to work with, and despite trying a leader and lots of encouragement, Boyd suggested I come back and school that another time. We finished by cantering through in order to end on a good note.
Overall I found Boyd to be a very positive instructor, whose knowledge and experience really shine in showing how to approach different fences based on the type of horse you are riding. He definitely showed us where there are holes in our training, particularly on cross country, and I now have a plan on how to fill those holes and prepare for competition settings. Thanks to all the folks who came out to audit and take the video/media you see on the blog this week, and thanks to Boyd for kicking our butts and still giving us hope!