A XC Perspective

It was so awesome to go XC schooling at Poplar. It’s the very first place that Gus and I ran XC at a schooling show. We’ve come a very long way since then. If you’ll remember, I was terrified of a itty bitty little tadpole table. And, okay, they use that table for the BN course all the time but still. It is tiny. Now I see that table out on course and think, what was I scared of?

It’s all perspective, right?

And now that I’ll be running Novice my trainer has to find a way to push my limits and still maintain my confidence. It’s not an easy task but she’s pretty amazing. She has complete faith that Gus and I can do this and that helps give me faith that we can do it too.

For example, once through our warm up there is no easing into higher fences, we start riding the Novice fences right off the bat. It’s almost like she’s not even giving me a chance to over think. Don’t worry. Just do it. And so that’s what I did.

The questions started easy. Single fences, long distances. Slowly we added related distances, tighter turns, more terrain and little courses. I was thrilled that Gus didn’t even peak at the ditch or the drop, even though I was slightly terrified of the later. Each fence and combo under us made me a bit more confident.

A lot of it really is time and the right frame of mind. And, of course, the right horse. Gus is becoming confident too and is much braver than he used to be. He might look at a new or scary jump but he’s also willing now.

So one new fence after another. We’re on our way!

XC Schooling x2

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…

 

Ashland XC Schooling 4.15.17

Oh man, this was not the XC schooling I had imagined. Especially not the weekend before our first recognized outing. But, ironically enough, it was the XC school I needed.

Because here’s the thing: not a single jump or line or question that LT put us over scared me. There were even higher options that LT gave us and, while I didn’t chose to do them for other reasons, I wasn’t nervous that we couldn’t get over it. I knew we could. Gus can jump any dang fence out there. But, even with knowing that and feeling confident about the fences, I became so frustrated that I couldn’t do anything but cry when things started feeling crapy.

I have been doing a lot of crying lately. That needs to stop.

Truthfully, there’s a reason behind all the crying. Life has been hard lately. Mostly due to work, I haven’t been sleeping well or a lot, I’ve been stressed, and I’m having a hard time caring about anything else. So really it wasn’t a surprise that my frustration cup hath runneth over.

The whole point of this XC lesson was to work on pace and rhythm to the fence. If you ride the pace, you’re going to have a nice jump, right? Maybe, I don’t know because I couldn’t seem to get it. No matter what I did it seemed to be a coin flip on whether or not we’d chip in or jump out of stride. All I wanted from Gus was a little help. For him to be the confident one and take me to the fence.

It didn’t happen. Not once.

Cue melt down.

That’s when LT stepped in and gave me a little bit of tough love: Gus is not that horse. He will most likely never be that horse. Like Lainey said, he’s careful and he has a sense of self preservation that you need in an event horse. But, and this is important, he is so so willing. If I put the leg on and say yes Gus goes every time.

I’ve got to learn to ride the horse I have. It means that I have to be the leader. In the long run it will make me a better rider but in the short run, things may be hard. If I want this, I have to work for it.

I won’t bore you with a breakdown of every exercise we did. LT ran us through our paces and left us on a super positive end note where we did jump out of stride and over a skinny. Skinnies are one thing that Gus does fantastically. Lots of horses at his level don’t. As brave as Dandy was, getting him to a skinny was a fight with the devil.

Sporting Days will be a real test for us but one that I think we are ready for. This kick in the pants was hard to hear but exactly what I needed. And even if I am crying in almost every single photo, I learned what I needed. Ride forward. Lead.

Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 3

The great thing about this being a schooling show was that we were able to school XC the day before. And not just school XC, but actually school and put together the jumps that were on our course. And it was a weird, windy, and open course. Instead of the 20 minutes it should have taken me to walk the course, it took me an HOUR. Yes, an hour. And, okay, I did walk it without a map since they weren’t out yet but this was BN, it shouldn’t have been that difficult. But it was and I was not a happy camper when I finally realized there were only 12 fences.

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I digress.

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I successfully schooled every single fence I was going to be expected to go over for the show (including the scary Mushroom fence that Gus had spooked at riding past in our very first show at Poplar) and even got to go over a couple of N questions, the best being a bench into the water and then out over another log thing. I was feeling very successful and Gus was locking onto fences like an old pro.

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Unfortunately I was also feeling very very sick. Hacking up a lung, fuzzy brain, weak all over, the works. Apparently this all led to me riding better than my trainer had ever seen before. I think I was just too sick to micromanage my ride. All I could manage was sit back, leg on and once fence at a time.

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There really might be some truth to that, however. I didn’t have a single refusal or even real thought of refusal from Gus the entire weekend. There were definitely some bad spots (see the mushroom fence below) but we managed to get though them. I just have to keep riding to the base: keep the leg on and sit back.

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The only thing we had a slight issue with was the first water. Knowing that Gus was probably going to be a little bit of an idiot about it and not wanting a refusal over a water crossing, I slowed to a trot before the water so that it wouldn’t sneak up on him. He still hesitated! So for the second water crossing, I gave him a little love tap. That did the trick and we had no issue. To be fair, the entrance was a lot nicer into the second water but this is something he’s going to have to get over.

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But remember how in Part 1 I mentioned that “not feeling it” was going to be a recurring theme for this show? Well, I almost decided that I was just not going to XC. I had already schooled everything and I was sick and, dammit, I just didn’t want to do it. No joke, I literally sulked in Gus’ stall for ten minutes before pulling my shit together and getting out to warm up.

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In the end, I’m glad I didn’t skip out. XC really is the best part of eventing after all and we had a really great ride. I think Gus and learned a bunch from this weekend and I’m excited to get to our first recognized event. Hopefully we’ll finish on our dressage score again!

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XC Schooling at Ashland Farms 10.8.16

I almost started this post by saying that this was the first time I had been able to take Gus for a real XC schooling with coaching. But then I remembered we have done that before with Stephen Bradley. Oops! This is the first time with New Trainer though, so that counts. Right?

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The story of how we actually ended up at Ashland is kind of funny. We were supposed to go to Poplar to school which would have been perfect since I have a schooling voucher from when our XC was rained out. Then New Trainer found out that Poplar had already put away a bunch of their jumps and since the whole point of this was for her to school her 1* horse, she came up with a new plan: Aiken. I was not really looking forward to the drive up to Aiken so I wasn’t too upset when Hurricane Matthew came and ruined those plans too. Finally, we decided to go to Ashland, which is local and has smaller versions of a lot of questions. It may not have been what she needed originally but it would be great for the green beans.

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We ended up being out schooling for almost three hours, way longer than we realized. While Gus and I both started with a ton of extra energy, by the end, it was a push for both of us to get over the fences and we called it a day before I started getting refusals from anything other than my bad riding.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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The water was no issue. Gus used to be terrible about going through water but I have always made it a non issue but also have not allowed a no. Going forward and through the water means the pressure comes off but going backwards means I put the pressure on. This was a pain at first, but now I have a good boy with the water.

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Most of what we did with the water was going through and then riding to a fence a few strides out.

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We even did a bank into the water!

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The down banks were where we really struggled. Gus did not like them and it took us several times over the baby bank for him to get the idea of sliding down. Eventually we moved to the bigger BN/N bank and thankfully Gus was very willing though still not happy. I’m going to have to go back and do a lot of practice on my down banks.

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Thankfully the up banks were no problem for Gus. Me on the other hand… yeah, we need to work on that.

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The question I was most worried about were the ditches. I have never ever done a ditch. Never. I mean, I walked over the faux ditch at Foxberry but that is not the same as doing a real ditch. New Trainer walked us through how it should be and got us walking over the baby ditches. Before long, Gus and I were both going over them like they were no big deal. As long as I keep my eyes up and shoulders back, we should be able to conquer these ditches.

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When we were over working on ditches, New Trainer had us do a small series of fences. We came in over a ditch, turned right to a small hanging log, back around to a coop, and then over a trakehner that was in the shadows.

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We had no issue with the ditch, or the small log but when we came around to the coop it was HUGE. Hard to tell in the pictures but that was actually probably a novice level coop. I sat up put my legs on and said we are going over. We did. It was awesome.

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Then we came to the trakehner. Gus was having trouble reading the question and was generally unsure because, again, it was big! He started hesitating a few strides out and I put my legs on. He paused at the base of the jump and I dug my spurs in. Gus lunged over the fence. But we did it. And then we did it again.

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I’m really proud of some of the things we accomplished at this schooling. There were definitely some hard questions for us and there were some fences that really scared me. I tried to ride boldly to every fence and I think that helped both of us. I have a lot of technique issues to work out but those will come with time and more experience.

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The plan is to go to the Chatt Hills schooling show in November. I need to see if I can get enough of my act together to make that worthwhile. What with all the house renovations Gus has sadly taken the back seat. Hopefully though that will change soon!