Since Area III Champs I have gone XC schooling at Chatt Hills twice and blogged about neither. Both times we’ve gone LT has stated that the goal for me is to “continue being confident” but truthfully, the real goal was to jump bigger and better. She’s sneaky like that.
But, I was successful at both goals during both sessions. Not only did I jump confidently and strongly, I also tackled some bigger questions. The big success for me was jumping my first corner. It wasn’t the fact that it was a corner that was bothering me, it was the fact that it had been the C element in the championship training course just a week before.
Gus of course thought it was no big deal. I’ve got to remember that I have a different horse under me than I did at the beginning of the season. He’s not confirmed by any means but he’s confident now and he loves his job. Still cautious but more than willing to work with me now.
After jumping all the novice fences and even a few small training questions successfully, I was feeling a lot better about this whole XC thing. My goal is to move up to novice soon and this first XC session went a long way to making me feel like that wasn’t a stupid idea. The only thing I was still worried about were down banks.
Every time we have gone out XC schooling, we have gone down banks. Every time we have gone XC schooling, Gus has balked at going down the banks. This first time schooling after Area III champs though was the worst I’ve ever ridden. He hit the breaks hard and it was a battle to keep the leg on an wait on the edge for an explosion. It came, eventually, and we went back around to keep schooling it until we weren’t stopping at least. It was never pretty though.
So I was a little worried when LT has us go up and down a bank complex without doing the down first. But I put my leg on and Gus quietly slid down the bank. And then we did it at the trot and he quietly slid down the bank. Then we cantered it and he quietly slid down the bank. Miracle!
It feels a lot better to slide down then it does to jump off the bank…
Well, you already know how this one ends: no ribbons and a big pretty RF on my record. Falling in stadium was definitely a disappointing way to finish the weekend but it didn’t take away from all the fun (and it was an incredibly fun weekend).
Nor does it take away just how awesome Gus was jumping. By far and away, it was our best stadium round to date (minus the fall of course) and I really do think we’re ready to up the height and the technicality. Our pace stayed steady, Gus was taking me to the fences instead of always waiting for me to tell him to go, and we were both making decisions instead of hoping for the best. It’s just unfortunate that I had some bad luck.
So what happened is this: we came off a long sweeping corner to big vertical and I knew right away that we weren’t going to have a good distance. Maybe the right decision would have been to push more forward but I was worried about getting flat and bringing the rail down. Instead, I asked Gus to give me a long spot. And he did. Gus has never jumped like he did over that fence, cracking his back and sending me flying out of the saddle. I might have been able to hold on except Gus also twisted in mid air and there was no horse to come down on to. I slid right off his side like I was doing an emergency dismount. My feet landed then I fell backward onto my butt before I just flopped down in the sand.
It felt like forever that I lay on that ground but it wasn’t even a few seconds. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I had come off. But I jumped up and went to Gus, who was standing just a few feet away. This was not his fault, just bad luck.
But we both came out of it mostly unscathed. I did get a pretty nasty bruise on my leg, yanked my right shoulder muscles something awful, and probably had a minor concussion from something hitting me on the forehead (?!?) but nothing major. Gus didn’t even get a scratch. He got to enjoy a few well deserved days off while I downed Advil and tried to get through my work. I’ll trade with him any day!
I only have one regret about XC last weekend…. I didn’t turn on my Cambox. *cue tears* I was just so focused and gunned that I completely forgot. Which is a bummer because it was a super cool and fun course and I wanted to share it all with you.
I will say though, that after running XC at Stable View which is maxed out and very well decorated, Chatt looked… small. Not easy. But small. And a bit plain. There were still some technical questions that I thought were appropriate for the level and all with the goal of moving you up and getting you ready for the next level.
My goal for this run was to really ride for time. I didn’t need to of course, but so far I have been coming in way too fast and I want to start working on where I am and how fast I need to be going. I knew all the minute markers and the halfway by heart so I felt pretty good about this. Gus was pretty amped up in warm up and going into the box. So when the volunteer told me “Have a great ride!” I started my watch and walked out. He was not pleased.
This was by far and away our best run ever. Gus was game for everything, rated when asked, and took everything out of stride. He was a little unimpressed but I’ll take it! We hit the first three minute markers right on point and then we got to the water.
Now, Gus was perfect to the water. He jumped “Noah’s Ark” like he’s done it a million times (he has) and powered into the water like a good XC horse. Love him.
We swung out wide to go over the table and then got to the jump before “The Hump.” This was supposed to be my 4 minute marker but we hit it at 3:30. Grrr. The water rode faster than I was expecting. But this was not an area where I wanted to power down so we kept going. The Hump was fun because it was a big mound and a much steeper downside to another fence than I’ve ever asked Gus to tackle. He got to the top of the hill, saw the downside and balked.
I could almost hear him say “are you kidding mom?!” But he trotted down gamely and then cantered out over the little fence. Good boy!
We were able to slow down at that point, and did trot some, to get back almost on our minute markers. Gus did not even bat an eye and rode so well.
I am so so proud of how well Gus did. I think part of it is that he really does like his new bit (I’ll do a post on that later) but most of it is that he actually understands his job and loves it. That’s all I can ask for! I am also really proud of myself because it wasn’t so long ago that I was looking at these BN fences and thinking “holy heck, there is no way” and now I am wanting to jump novice. It is so incredible what a good trainer will do for the confidence.
I didn’t have high hopes for coming out of Area Champs with a ribbon. Not when there are 17 riders in your class and they’re all good. Not when you know dressage is a hit or miss. But I did kind of hope. Our ride at Stable View (which I will some day get around to recaping) had been absolutely beautiful. I knew that if we had another test like that, we had a chance.
But I also knew I was going to be battling the heat and humidity with a ride time of 3:22. Lovely.
Still, I was excited and I headed off to warm-up hopeful. And warm-up was perfect. Hot. Dusty. Blessedly short. But perfect. My hope started to rise. We could so do this.
Then we got into the arena and Gus fell apart including mini bucks as I asked him to enter the area where all the dressage tests were. I honestly don’t know what his deal is. He could care less about the horses in warm up. He could care less about the judge’s booth (he has never once even looked sideways at it) but we get in the dressage ring and suddenly he can’t bend right to save his life. Or move off my leg.
The three things I was happy with were: our right lead canter out of the diagonal which was ironically the only time he was willing to bend, the fact that he kept his head down in the free walk instead of giraffing, and our halt was as good as it has ever been. Otherwise, it was bad. Gus just could not even deal with dressage apparently.
I admit that it looks better than it felt as I received all 6’s and 7’s except for a 4.5 on the free walk/medium walk for jigging and a 5.5. on the medium walk prior to that for being behind the vertical.
Annoyingly enough, this only seems to happen at Chatt Hills. Not that we’ve had great luck elsewhere but the complete 180 is a Chatt thing. I am thinking about having my trainer take him to a schooling show here and just ride every test she can (and blow them if she has to). And then I’ll do the same.
Partly because I had to get ready for XC and partially because I really didn’t want to know… I wasn’t too concerned about checking scores. I knew that wasn’t good enough for a top 10 placing. Sure enough, it was a 39 and change. And we were sitting in 15th.
There wasn’t an offical photographer at the Chatt Hills schooling show a few weeks ago but the photographer that was going to be there for the Connemara show the next day actually got some XC pictures! I am so happy that I have a few since my normal photographer wasn’t there to help me out (how dare he ditch me for a bachelor party!).
These were the last few fences on course so by this time we’re both a little tired. Still, I’m happy with the effort even if it seems we got a little too close to the base of the fence. One step at a time right?
Plus I really think my black/white/orange set up for XC is kind of rocking it right now. Classy yet still bold.