Stephen Bradley Clinic – Day 2: XC

The temperatures came down for day two of the clinic but the humidity seemed to go up so it didn’t feel much different than the first day. We were at Chatt Hills for XC, which I have never been to, so that was exciting. Also exciting was that it was only an hour from the barn.

I’ll take what I can get!

By the time we got to Chatt Hills, storm clouds were coming in which thankfully brought a little bit of relief. They were running early so I hurried to tack up and get out to the field. Good thing I did because we didn’t have long for the clouds let loose!

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Out in the XC field, Gus was super excited but pretty well behaved. We trotted out to the field and he was basically floating. Several of the riders in my group, along with Stephen, commented on just how nice he moved out when he was using his hind end. Yup. That’s why I bought him!

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We warmed up at the trot and the canter a bit. I was honestly a little afraid I wouldn’t have enough breaking power with the loose ring snaffle but once we got going, Gus was very polite. The first exercise Stephen had us doing to warm up was trot over a little log, trot through the water and just keep repeating until he said to stop. This was no big deal for any of the horses and Gus happily plowed through the water.

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Then we got to move on to the actual jumping. There were four houses set up in a row from amoeba to novice. We were told to jump any size we chose three times. We could stay at one size or we could move up but we could not move down. I started with tadpole and felt pretty good about our first two jumps so I was going to move up to the beginner novice cabin but Stephen wanted me to bring Gus back to a trot to get him back on his hind end and then canter it one more time so I didn’t move up.

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What Stephen noticed with Gus, besides his green moments, was that he really wants to lean at jumps and I have to be careful to keep him up and balanced (since he can’t do it himself yet). I also have to be careful that I don’t get a head of him. Slower, but still forward, is better at this point.

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Then we started stringing jumps together. We did the small amoeba coop to the tadpole cabin we had just done and then had to come back around and jump a beginner novice round top and then our choice of the tadpole or beginner novice coop. Both of the beginner novice fences looked so dang big. I didn’t know how I was going to handle it! I got even more nervous when the first person out in the group (with probably the most experienced horse) had a refusal at the round top.

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I’m sorry to say that my nerves got the better of me and I pretty much failed at the very first little coop. I threw myself at the fence and Gus ALMOST refused. Somehow though we did get over it, I recomposed myself and carried on. I rode hard to the round top, kept my leg on and got over it. And then I chose the beginner novice coop as well even though it was scary. But I have to keep pushing myself if I want to move up the levels. I knew we had jumped higher the day before so I kept my leg on and rode it.

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It was AWESOME.

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I don’t really even remember what the next combination of jumps were except that it involved another big beginner novice roll top. I think we jumped the big round top in reverse, rode through the water over a little cross rail and then came over the roll top. The roll top looked even bigger. Gus had a really green moment to the round top but I rode it and we popped over it. It wasn’t pretty though so Stephen had us do it again just to help build Gus’ confidence.

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Little did he know he was building mine as well.

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By this time, it was lightening and thundering pretty hard but still not near us. We knew it was coming close but we wanted to keep riding. So ride on we did. We eventers are pretty hard core.

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The last exercise in this field was going in and out of water over a little jump. Gus was very confused by this and gave everything a really hard look. I did not let him say no though.

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At this point, we rode down to a different part of the filed, hoping to beat the rain and do a few more exercises. Stephen wanted us to jump over a little fence, ride through an empty water jump and then jump these little arks. At that point, it started POURING. We didn’t care, we rode it anyway.

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At this point, I did have a refusal. I wanted to build on my confidence in jumping the higher jumps so I chose the beginner novice ark instead of the tadpole ark. It was raining and it was a weird looking jump and Gus just said no. In most cases, we would have represented and schooled but since it was raining, Stephen had me just go over the little ark. I’ll have to make sure I come back and school the bigger one sometime later.

Since we were all soaked, we took off back through the fields and this is where Gus earns a gold star and best baby OTTB of the year award. One of the green horses in this group basically bolted. Gus wanted to go with him so badly. I let him open up a little bit until I heard one of the other riders in our group screaming that she had no breaks. I turned Gus hard and asked him to slow. He did! We cantered with the other rider as I talked her through stopping her horse (one rein, pull him up a steep hill). We came to a stop at the top of a hill and we dismounted to walk back. Gus could see his other buddies galloping off without him and I could tell how badly he wanted to go with but he stayed with me.

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We didn’t get our full session in XC but it had been such a good session that none of us were that bothered by it. We all certainly would have kept riding had it not been raining but by that point, we were soaked through, our tack was soaked through, and the horses were soaked through. Stephen gave me a grid exercise to work on and I feel a lot better about where Gus and I are at going into this weekend.

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Stephen will be down in Aiken at Full Gallop this November and I am going to do my best to be there too!

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9 thoughts on “Stephen Bradley Clinic – Day 2: XC

  1. Way to ride and push yourself! Sounds like you got a lot out of the whole clinic and Gus was a rockstar. So happy to see how well you guys are doing!

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