Banks

The first time I went down a bank it was on my first horse, Sheena. I had trailered in to a friend’s barn to go trail riding. Instead, being young and stupid, we went to play on their XC course without permission. (I know. I know.) They had a bank complex and Sheena, who was not willing over anything higher than 2’6, dropped down a huge training bank with no questions.

The second time I rode a bank it was with Dandy. It was his first XC school and I wasn’t just asking him to go down his first bank, I asked him to go don’t his first bank into water (granted, a small bank). Dandy was a very brave horse but he went cautiously down the bank his first time. Dipping his foot in cautiously which led to one of my favorite pictures.

So when I started working with Gus, I didn’t give a second thought to going down banks. I had had two horses who didn’t think twice about it, why would Gus? Oh but Gus did think twice and thrice and even a fourth time about going down banks.

We would school it one weekend and be fine but the next time we saw a down bank it would be like he had never seen it before, even if it was the exact same bank. So I think it’s a little understandable that I started developing a complex about them. I just didn’t know what I was going to get at any one time.

Then at our XC schooling before Full Gallop we came across a small bank complex. While getting Gus to move out of the way I asked him to step down the most baby of baby banks there ever was. It was basically a pole with an extra two inches on one side. He balked. And continued to do so until we got a lead over with another horse.

What. The. Hell.

So we schooled it. Over and over again. Moving up to the next size as Gus got more confident and was willing to go down at a trot and then at a canter. And I got schooled too for not leaning far enough back and not keeping my legs on. All very fair criticisms but I was just more frustrated at Gus more than anything. Why do we constantly have to redo this? We have no problems going up banks. (Or, at least, Gus has no problems, I’m a mess and can’t coordinate myself, but he takes care of me.) But with down banks I feel like we start over at stage one every single time. It’s frustrating and it certainly puts a dent in my confidence.

At least when Gus does get to the going down part he at least jumps down nicely instead of launching himself. Small victories?

Eventually we were going down the Novice size bank and LT moved everyone over to do a Novice size Training Question: downhill to a brush fence and then three strides to a down bank. She told me I didn’t have to do it unless I wanted to and I did not want to, did I? I mean it looked kind of fun but it was a down bank after a downhill jump. Oh, what the heck, I told myself. Worst case scenario is that he stops again.

But he didn’t! Because I actually rode the fences Gus quietly hopped over and then down for me.

I was pretty pleased with myself. We can ride banks! At least for now.

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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