Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

A leap of faith...

(from GRS Blog)

So took a couple horses up to Cedar Run to school XC w/ David Wilding Davis this weekend.

We started out with a hunter-world convert and his hunter-world rider. Their first "official" XC outting. To put this in perspective, it was the second time ever they'd ridden anywhere that has a hill. Any kind of hill. And Cedar Run is in the Blue Mountains *g*. The horse was a little high so I took Sienna over as well so I could watch and help the supremely nervous rider through the inevetible meltdown. She bravely stuck it out, even though I'm sure absolutely every instinct was screaming that this was a bad idea. Relaxed a little when the first exercise involved walking over a pole. So far within her abilities it was laughable :) And when they started to jump and her horse behaved... exactly as he always does :) Then she could relax a little more. And so on. As is typical of David's clinics everything was very relaxed and very positive. And by the end they were confidently tackling lines of multiple fences and a PT level XC hogsback. Woohoo!

When I was reasonably certain she was starting to enjoy herself (or, at very least, wasn't about to bail -- the enjoy part of things might've come slightly later :), Sienna and I departed to return to the trailer.

Well Miss Sienna was not happy about that. Screaming every stride all the way back (it's a LONG walk) and once we got 3/4 of the way rearing and just generally being ignorant *sigh* Fortunately when we did get back, while still tense, she relaxed somewhat as other horses were there as well. So tack up and head out and horse promptly goes to sleep. hahaha guess that means I brought the quiet horse :) Only three people in our group, which was amazing. A PT level group - theoretically. But really we had Alyssa (names changed for the simple fact of I don't know the riders well enough to be putting their real names on the internet w/o permission! :) who was @ PT and getting ready to upgrade to T, Kara who was a reasonably novice rider well mounted on a nice trusty horse -- both of whom were appropriate for E/PT level, and myself with my pony who can probably jump the moon, but has been xc fewer times than I have fingers. hahaha Should be in E but I wanted her to learn about PT type stuff :) And really, I always prefer to be at the bottom of the group -- the top is boring.

W/u was very relaxed (who am I kidding? the whole day was relaxed :) -- we started over the same pole the PE did. Albeit we got to trot over it first instead of walk *g* hahaha Jumped a bunch of random fences all well and good. Got to a trakehner -- low and inviting but I opted out given Sienna's recent ditch games. Figured it was a
case of pick your battles -- and pick ones you can win. I wanted to deal w/ the down bank thing and ditches if there was a good baby one (there wasn't). So we sat that one out, and let the other two jump it a couple times.

Went down to play in the water -- Si's a water superstar, so no problem there! There was a fairly massive brush fence hidden in the woods off a curve - so through the water, half a dozen strides, over the brush. ummm sure :) Decided I'd follow Alyssa's T horse - she was reasonably confident he'd jump it and I thought Si might require the encouragement. Cantered through the water (woohoo! Have never managed to convince her to do that before). A's horse chipped in and popped it and then disappeared down the other side. Sienna was like "that fence just ATE that horse" and hesitates, but I was expecting that (learned to watch out for it in the w/u!) and was in a position to convince her to keep going. hahahah might very well be one of the biggest jumps I've ever done. Not the fence itself -- it'd be big for PT but small for T. Maybe in the 3'3 range. But the fact that she cleared it by an insane amount, entirely in stride, was pretty impressive. Awesome bascule. We were not going anywhere *near* that fence. Actually rode beautifully although made me laugh in the air out of surprise :) hahaha WISH I had that one on film. Man. Ah
well. Did not end up repeating that one Did jump her over another brush fence that was much more open and inviting -- that one also rode well, without nearly the drama. Kara's horse was the only one who actually did it properly with just the right amount of enthusiasm *g*

Then we headed down to the woods where there was a bank. Two of them in fact -- roughly facing each other, so you could go down one, three strides, up the other. Or you could go up or down either one and straight. We're told to trot off it -- sure np. I stick Si right behind Alyssa's horse (hey I'm not new here :) in hopes that the T horse might lead the E horse down. Yeah not-so-much. Her horse went beautifully. Mine stopped and reversed at top speed. Wanted nothing to do with it *sigh*. So with memories of the last clinic I asked David if he'd mind if I dismounted and lead her off. "Absolutely, excellent idea!" and as he helped me get the rein undone (so I'd have one really long one) he goes on to tell everybody why it's a good idea to school nervous greenbeans in hand so they don't get thumped
on if they take a flying leap and launch the rider (thereby never wanting to do it again). So I tried to lead her down and even then she was *really* hesitant -- unusual for her. But with me in front and David behind waving a twig (it hardly counted as a stick at her) she was convinced to jump off. Well flying leap would be a toned- down description of what she did. With the double length of the reins AND being ahead of her, I still had to run so that she wouldn't get caught in the mouth when she landed -- a ridiculous amount ahead of where she should've stepped off (this bank was maybe 3' -- if that!) Gotta admit, I was rather glad I wasn't on her when she did that *g* So "6 more times!" David tells me (while the others are
practicing going off both this one and the other one). By the 6th time she's only taking a small leap. Not exactly lowering herself gracefully, but not the scary launch from the beginning. Ok, get back on and try it mounted. And beg Alyssa for a lead again -- hey, any advantage I can get when schooling a greenbean. hahaha well we went off -- very close to the original leap. hahaha brutal. Gravity saved me -- in that even though I got launched, I got launched the same distance and speed as my stirrups so when we came landed I could go straight into a 2pt and stay off her back. Let her run a bit and then came back and did it again w/o a lead. Better. Not good, precisely. But better.

So we're coming back from that one and David suggests I take her off the other one (it's on my way at this point). Sure why not. Oh yeah -- new bank. Looks exactly like the last one, but evidently not to her. *sigh* Same reaction but when she decides to run backwards she slides down the hill. Classic. Try it with a lead. No go. The other two riders are being remarkably patient -- didn't even roll their eyes when David suggested I hop off and lead her again. They were practicing jumping down one and up the other by this point, but even still everybody knew we were hanging out there just for my horse. So I lead her off. This time only took two tries. Hop back on, grab a lead from Alyssa and down we go. Not bad. About on par with our last attempt off the first bank. So go do it again w/o a lead. It was perfect. Literally perfect. Lowered herself exactly the way they're supposed to and cantered away quietly. No drama at all. I was ecstatic!

Sweet. We're done. Head back out of the woods up to our next set of fences.

Another bank *sigh* Oh goody. And I'm warring with myself between do we leave it on the absolutely perfect jump we just had, or do we get in as much bank practice as physically possible. I let David be the deciding factor -- without raising the question, when he said walk her up and off that bank that's what I did. Or tried to. This bank was set up so you can run on and jump off (up a ramp to the edge) or going the other way jump on, stride, jump off. We took the ramp route, following our now good friend Alyssa. Hit the end and shot backwards all the way to the bottom of the ramp. David suggests getting off and leading again, but her behaviour was *bad* I didn't want to reward it with getting off. It's one thing to do that with a
horse who genuinely doesn't get it, but I'm not getting off one who's actually being rude. And I know she's concerned about it, but running backwards is just not allowed. So I walk her back up to about the half way point, where she stops again, but has at least realized backwards isn't allowed. When Kara's horse comes trotting
by -- and as he passed, Si followed. So I let her :) And down the bank we went. No problem! Surprised Kara a little *g* but she was kewl with it. Now the easy route (PT) through this bank complex has a fence, about 3-4 strides before the ramp, 2-3 strides up/on the ramp, down, 2 strides, vertical. We, of course, were just going up
the ramp and down the bank. The others were introducing the first fence, then quietly up the ramp and off. So they're getting very good at that and we've *almost* got the hang of off without being out of control. They start adding in the last item, and we get to put in the first. We jump the first fence and land so fast there's not a chance. Abort mission. No way I'm running up a ramp at that speed. Good way to get me launched! Circle around and try again. Trot the first fence, serious breaks and determination get us back to a trot at the top and off the bank and flying away. Sweet. Still alive! Do it again with a little less chaos. By this time Kara's done and hanging out and Alyssa has moved on to the on, across, off,
rolltop combo going the T route. I circled in and let Si jump the third fence all on its own and then went around to put it all together... Over the first, back to trot (a whole 2 strides from the bank), down the bank, two strides, over the vert. She did it! Under control even. And was oh-so-proud of herself! As was I :) hahaha and *that* is the whole reason I go to David's clinics. In about half an hour we went from rearing and running backwards to confidently riding a combination. Not half bad :)

Then Si finally got a bit of a break as we went for a walk while Alyssa jumped some of the training fences (corner and coffin). I felt kind of bad for Kara since she was the only one who was actually AT the level the group was supposed to be but was waiting first for me and the banks and then for Alyssa to do the T stuff. But she
seemed totally kewl with this. Every time I spoke to her she was smiling and happy. And was absolutely thrilled that she got to lead my horse :) hahaha too cute. So we jumped a few more little things on the way home and we were done for the day :)

Awesome clinic :)

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