Bobby Costello XC Lesson Recap

Sunday morning was cool and lovely, which was a relief after having survived the massive storm the night before, complete with intense lighting that almost made me spill my red wine into my lap and even a tornado watch.

The facilities at Winterbook Farm are immaculate, but obviously cater to a crowd much more experienced than Foster and I. Anything that was below Novice (as in 3 Novice fences) was placed in extremely technical positions (like after a one stride up a hill from the biggest freaking ditch you’ve ever seen in your life), so warming up was somewhat interesting.

The stunning Winterbook Cross Country field

The stunning Winterbook Cross Country field

Just like the day before, Bobby wanted to assess my position before actually jumping anything. Apparently I fooled him once again into thinking my leg was solid, but he encouraged me to press my knuckles into Foster’s neck and stay there between fences.  As obvious as this is, it’s hard for me still, as with dressage and showjumping I am ever seeking that straight hand-to-bit line and in XC this makes my hands float around in the atmosphere.

Case in point

Case in point

From there we warmed up over the one baby fence a couple times (NBD) and then aimed at a solid Novice coop, to which I asked for a flyer distance and instead got a shitty chip. Hello, confidence problems. I revisited the coop and told myself not to be a pansy, and it went much better.

The one thing I told him I wanted to look at was Foster’s launching off of banks and issues with drops into water. So we started with the bank complex, and discussed really sitting up straight and slipping the reins at the top- to which I nodded, yes, I’d heard that plenty of times. However, it turns out in execution I have come to expect a big move, which causes me to clutch at the top of the bank, which in turn makes Foster feel like he can’t use his neck and therefore he launches himself. How bout that perpetual cycle? Immediately when I actually slipped the reins and sat back he dropped very casually. We ended that segment by going up a steep hill, one stride to a down bank, then 2 or 3 strides to another down bank. Beautiful, done.

A better view of the course, with the Novice coop circled

A better view of the course, with the Novice coop circled

We popped over a couple ditches and Foster confirmed that ignoring all else, this horse is not ditchy. So we moved on to the water complex. Foster had trotted through it for warmup, so we started by jumping a small fence coming out of the water up a small hill. He did this fine, so we reversed and jumped the fence back into the water. Enter my commitment issues, stage right. While he scooted over it, I got some very stern words about being confident about it and so we went back through a few times, getting better and better.

When on our third attempt he jumped it boldly, we moved on to dropping off banks into water.

Ugh, water drops.

I’ll be completely honest, the trouble lies with me. I feel Foster debate the obstacle, and I hesitate. My hesitation turns into him stopping, and us dancing at the precipice of the bank with no clear way of getting down but to re-approach. With lots of coercion, we finally got in, and then repeated the process until it was coming easily. But when we moved on to a higher bank and included a super long approach, I had the exact same issues. Again on re-presenting we made it happen, but I need to be in the habit of thinking “do or die” rather than waffling. You don’t waffle over cross country obstacles.

More of this please, and less of that

More of this please, and less of that

We ended on a good note, but I’m eager to repeat the process until that cross-country grit comes back. I’ll be coming back to Southern Pines in a couple of weeks to try again, and I’m hopeful that in turn I will become bolder for the experience.

Cross Country Schooling: Video

Finally got the video together!

I see a lot of things wrong with my position (pumping my arms when I get nervous, lower leg swings, and what the hell am I doing when he goes off of that big drop?!) but the video still overall makes me smile. Foster is clearly having a blast and I love watching his expression, and seeing him finally start to learn how to cover ground! Not that we’re going to ever win a race with a Thoroughbred, but he’s learning how to lengthen his stride a little more, and that’s awesome.

Thanks again to Ali for all the video!

Show Recap: Carolina Horse Park Horse Trials – Dressage + Course Walk

It would be sufficient to say that this week did not go as planned. Not that I’m terribly upset; all is well and the world isn’t going to end, but if I’m honest it is not the way I wanted to end the season. But before we get to all that, let’s start at the beginning!

Thanks to J for taking the beautiful photos!

Thanks to J for taking the beautiful photos!

Saturday Dressage Schooling
Our schooling Saturday was utter crap. Foster started out nicely but progressively got heavier and heavier in my hands. He bounced between my aids like no one’s business- if he leaned on his right shoulder, I would block it, and he would lean on my left hand, and so on and so forth. Not wanting to get myself or him into a tizzy, I said a few bad words, found a decent note to end on, and called it a day.


The Course walk
We got out on course with just a little daylight to spare. Just like at the last course, which made it clear that it was a recognized course from a maximum height first fence, this course was evident that we were once again at a schooling show. Fence 1 was shared with beginner novice, and the following 3 fences were quite straightforward. Fence 5 was on a downhill slope, then 6A-B was the sunken road where the B element was on the tougher uphill side. Then breeze over 7, attack the scary brush fence (not so scary since we jumped it last time!), and the rest of the course was somewhat nondescript fences from there, with the addition of a bank and a water element. We definitely ran out of daylight about halfway around, and as you can see, it was really tough to spot the last several fences!

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Warming up Sunday for the real deal, he felt not quite as heavy, but I bit stiff in my hands. His jaw was not nearly as supple as it has been, and there was not a hint of foam from my normally-rabid-appearing horse. Sitting him back on his butt and lightening up front was just not happening, so I made the decision to post the test, even though my normal preference is to sit.

Pissy pony with a pretty purple tail

Pissy pony with a pretty purple tail

The test itself felt mediocre at best. I felt like I had him forward, but not at all supple. Because of his wandering haunches, I sat both centerlines, as well as before both canter transitions to try and keep him round through the transition itself. Here is the video of the test itself:

The test definitely looks better than it felt, which was really surprising to me. The judge’s comments are kind of a mixed bag. We got our first 6 on our free walk, two 5’s (wtf?), but a 7 on a canter transition (yay) and an 8 on a canter circle (double yay). Here’s the test in its entirety:

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Our score of 35.7 tied us for 2nd out of 18, which made pretty much every competitor I talked to think that scores were a bit harsher than normal. I definitely wonder how this test may have scored under another judge, but of course, we’ll never know.


Following dressage was a short reprieve, and then it was onto jumping, where the going gets a little more interesting!


OMG the show is tomorrow!

I knew this would happen, (with me being in Pittsburgh and not being able to help but think about the competition tomorrow) but I had nightmares last night about the show last night. As in, oh no, I overslept and now I’m two hours behind for my dressage test! Do you think I can go from dressage directly to cross country? Yeah, stupid, I know.

Other than being in a different state the day before, I feel pretty good about it now that I’ve seen the course map-


XC course map

It’s technical, as expected (6-14 will require all of my brain cells to be operating!), but with the exception of maybe 2 fences, we schooled the entire course on Monday. We even did the exact same pattern for jumps 7 – 12. I’ll be interested to see how he handles the half coffin, but he schooled the ditch by itself without question, so I’ll just have to ride with a balanced approach and half halt to let him know something is coming up, and trust him to do his job. The only fence on there that I am a little worried about is #9- which is a decent sized brush jump with trees for standards- Foster hesitated at this during schooling and I need to remember to come into it with my stick in hand for some extra “we’re doing this” sort of confidence.

Otherwise, I have ridden through my test once, maybe twice in the past two weeks, so I won’t be too sad if our score isn’t as lovely as usual. It will be what it will be. And that’s all there is to it! Que sera, sera!

XC Schooling

And so passed another weekend of going 200 mph. Story of my life. Friday night I hosted a get together for a group of lady friends, Saturday snuck out to the barn briefly to see Foster before going bridesmaid dress shopping and then finished off the night at a gala!

My BFF and I dressed up for the gala!

All dressed up for the gala!

You guys are probably most interested in my cross country schooling yesterday at the Fork though!


We arrived shortly after 1 PM, and it was clear that most of the people there were wrapping up and heading home. We got out to the beautiful cross country course to discover we had it all to ourselves- score! It was decidedly warm yesterday, around 60 degrees, and I was thanking my lucky stars that Foster was trace clipped but still worried he would run out of steam quickly, so we kept warm up pretty minimal.

We popped over one Beginner Novice fence and then proceeded to tackle the Novice course one fence at a time. It was apparent that Foster is slightly less confident (as in, not blasé anymore!) to these fences, but grew bolder as we went on, and felt pretty adjustable throughout. We even tackled a few training fences, including a bending line from a max table to a roll top- he was great!

Breezing over a Novice fence

Breezing over a Novice fence

The courses at the Fork are always relatively tough, and tend to be maxed out in height and width, and it seemed that this one was no different. The only exceptions were when technical questions were asked- such as a couple combinations and in jumping into water, etc.

Overall it was a great learning day with many successes! Julieann conquered her first Prelim fences (badass!) and schooled the training course, and overall Foster showed great competence at the Novice level. We will definitely benefit from more schooling this winter, but this was a great place to start!

Approaching a Training Table

Approaching a Training Table

I should be getting a video sometime tonight, and will be sure to post it so you can see our XC awesomeness! Stay tuned!

Jumping new fences

Some of the ladies out at the farm got together over my beach weekend and repainted fences, and boy do they look classy! Since this has been kind of a down horsey week, Ali and I tried our boys over them for some fun.

I’m noticing that if I’ve got him together I’m starting to get better with my shoulders, but man I have GOT to fix my lower leg! Nonetheless a tired Foster was a good boy over everything.

Check out my buddy Ali and her handsome OTTB Baron here!