Saturday, August 22, 2009

Banks, Riders, and Falls, oh my!

We had our cross country schooling today in preparation for tomorrow's one-day. It actually went very well, except for some rather significant lows- both my trainer and I fell off, and there was at least 1 scarily incompetent horse/rider combo.

We actually went to a concert last night, Shinedown/Rev Theory at the State Fair (which was awesome!) so we were all really tired for cross country this morning, although we perked up after we set up the dressage arena for the show tomorrow and ate lunch. Then, we tacked up the boys and headed out.

My trainer went first, and except for a fall/slight mishap at a trakehner, was very pleased with her horse. It was my turn. Things started out just so-so; after the first few jumps we did a bit of gallop-collect because he was dwelling a bit. Once I had a more forward horse, things started going pretty awesome. At the first jump, we were cut off by this one rider, who I'm fairly sure has been rude/stuck up at other shows I've been to. A long way away from the fence I was jumping, I called, "Novice!". Then, as I saw her going in the same general direction, I called it twice as loud, and she said, "That's where I'm going too!" Really? Did you ever think about maybe calling it?!

At the warm up area, I also saw this one crazy out-of-control horse and rider. They were having major steering/stopping difficulties, and the rider looked completely out of shape and overfaced with this horse. The scariest thing? She was teaching others! She'll come in to play later.

So, we continued on, jumping the next roll top twice and then heading through the trees. There is this one fence that's just plain rails on either side of a large brush, but I've always thought it was a bit freaky. Today, we jumped it! My trainer told me to go a bit far away in the field, gallop for a while until the fence, then really get his "dressage" canter and make him jump it well. So, we did exactly that. A few strides out, I felt, "Eh, I don't know about this, mom" but I was able to change his mind with my handy stick. Then we came back and did it again with less hesitation and more "go" on landing.

We were going to jump a large grey ramp to the novice rails combination, but out-of-control lady comes barreling towards it, has a really violent run-out from her horse, and falls off, apparently injuring her ankle. It was a complete non-surprise. That she even pointed that horse at a fence the way he was going is beyond unbelievable. The horse looked like a really fantastic guy that, under the right hands, could be amazing. He ran off to the trailers with, oddly, one of her students chasing him on horseback! Really, who doesn't know that it's a bad idea to chase after a loose horse? They only run faster. (The lady was fine except for a sprained ankle.)

So, instead of doing the grey ramp, we just came straight to the rails combo, did that twice, then headed down to the water. There, we jumped the cordwood very nicely and I finally cantered through the water! We usually trot through it and pick up a canter in the middle, but this time we cantered all the way. We also did a tiny bank up out of the water a few times, and that went fine.

We headed out to the remainder of the novice course, did another in and out, and then received our assignment- go jump the novice log to the bank down, come around and jump the red coup, then jump the red roll top.

Well, I had a mite of a problem with the bank down. Two, actually. We hopped over the log easy, and I was attempting to get a nice, slow canter to approach the bank down. Well, apparently I forgot to add more leg with my hand, and Val thought, "Stop? Okay." Problem number 1. Then, I remember actually weighing my options- reaching back and smacking him, which would probably cause him to jump way out off the bank, or just letting him stop. I didn't smack him. Problem number 2. So, I did a rather painful tumble down the bank. I've got to tell you, looking at the ground from the particular angle I was at in the air was a bit disturbing. I was really lucky I didn't land straight on my head; I tucked at the last minute and rolled on my shoulders.

Val, being the good boy he is, was just on the top of the bank staring down at me. He seemed to be saying, "Well, that was dumb." I agreed. I'd had the breath knocked out of me and had hurt both my shoulder and thumb minorly. So, my trainer told me to hand my horse off to my mom and walk around a bit and drink some water. Once I could actually breathe again, I got back on, and trotted off the bank several times until we had it down. Then, we ended up just doing a real simple coup a few times.

Except for that mishap, it was a very successful day for my horse and I. At out last event, where we got third, I felt like I was lacking speed control on cross country. I was very close to pulling up and retiring on course, but I didn't. Why? Because the jumps were coming great- we had a great ride to every one. He even saved my butt on a bank up that I got him to on a ridiculous angle. He was like, "S'okay mom, I'll fix it!" He just hopped right up. My trainer pointed out the obvious- jumps always ride better when you actually have impulsion.

Turns out, that's very nearly the feeling I want. I'd just never gotten up to that speed before, and it felt uncomfortable to me. So, today we practiced on kicking it up a notch to real XC speed, and not trying to maintain our show-jumping canter around the whole course. It worked much better. I've also been having a bit of a problem lately with getting the spot different from my horse; either jumping ahead of or behind him. That was much better today.

It helps that XC is really my comfort zone; I have complete faith in my and Val's abilities. Sure, we still fall off every once in a while, (that's actually only my second XC fall) but going out there with any uncertainty is always a bad idea. It translates so easily to the horse, and can lead to ugly things. XC is all about being confident. If you can't put your nerves in a steel-tight box or find a horse that can deal with a rider's nerves, you don't belong out there. It is so much better to go out believing things will be great then feeling that you know they'll go wrong.

So, that's my bit of wisdom for the day. I'm thinking tomorrow will go well, and we'll prove that we really are ready for nationals. I'm still so excited!

(Dang- I can't believe I have to add a "falls" label already!)


  1. Haven't fallen from Greta yet.... it'll happen eventually. Probably in the middle of a test or something!

    That's so good Val cantered all the way through! That will save time on the clock, right?

    Ugh, I hate having people who don't know what the hell they're doing out in the warm-up ring with people who do know what they are doing and are trying to get it done without an out-of-control horse running them over! A "trainer" too! How funny!

    Can't wait to take Greta to her first show... when she's ready. There's some schooling shows coming up in October and November. Hmm.....

  2. When I first got Val, I counted my falls. Then they got too numerous to count! None major; all jumping-related! He just doesn't' buck/rear under saddle at all. I think someone would have to use a cattle prod on him to get him to buck me off on the flat!

    Yup, it definitely saves time. There's just always that moment of hesitation right when their feet are about to touch water of "will they go?" and sometimes it's easier to trot in if you're not sure, because the deceleration from canter to 0 can really throw you. It's nice to be able to canter in!

    Oh, I think you guys would have a blast at a schooling show! Go out and have fun! :D