Here there be dragons...

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

Sometimes PlanB works out!

Taken from GRS Blog:

So last month I was supposed to take Sienna and a student w/ her horse to David's clinic @ Cedar Run. And she went off. So I cancelled, and while I intended to bring student anyways, she kindly offered to wait and go to the next one. And David, being the super-kewl person he is, let us transfer our entry fees to this one. So the second clinic was on Saturday -- but Sienna's grounded till she gets pads on. I *really* didn't think it'd be good form to cancel again, and seriously not kewl to the other rider, so PlanB it is -- I borrowed a horse from an awesome student of mine and off I went.

Now I've ridden this horse but never jumped him before. Since I teach lessons on him all the time, I was reasonably certain he's of the "point-and-shoot" model *g* Which I don't often get to ride, so I was sort of amused at that idea. That being said, I could count on one hand the number of times he's been ridden outside of a ring and have fingers left over.

So somewhere along the long drive up, student asks "are you going to ride with my group?" And to be honest, I didn't get it at first. I thought she meant ride along while they had their clinic (just walking around) and then do mine. Which I might've done with the ridiculously fit Sienna, but would not be fair to ask of my borrowed mount. And then I clued in she meant INSTEAD. ummmm brilliant! I was a little concerned about taking him PT w/ no XC experience and little experience over height (although I honestly don't think it would've been an issue). But E was a much more fair level for him. So when we got there I tacked up as though I were in the group and figured if David said no I'd just untack again :) No problem.

Last time we took this horse out, he was anxious on the trailer -- sweaty and stressed when we got there. So I was a little concerned until I opened the door to check on him and he gave me this look like "you expect me to work? I'm in the middle of breakfast" -- sure enough, a solid half-way through his exceptionally full haynet. hahaha Oh so calmly backs off the trailer and lets me tack him up. Not quite as well trained a car horse as Sienna or B but then, he's never been asked to be either. Hop on, walk around a bit, realize I forgot flyspray. Hop off, spray horse, remount. Rolling eyes @ myself all the way. But me being me we were super-early so lots of time for that sort of silliness. Well that and I tack up reasonably quickly *g*

So I'm back on waiting for the other rider to finish getting ready and all of a sudden the beginner-friendly, might-as-well-be-a-stuffed-animal horse comes to LIFE. hahaha he starts doing the passagy/prancy "something exciting is happening" sideways trot. ummmm ok :) So I let him trot, but tell him which direction he has to go. Well no, he wants to go the other way and if I won't let him he's going to canter. But you see the thing is, I can ride as fast as he can run. And we were in a huge, nicely mowed, show-ready field. Canter away my dear. hahaha that lasted less than half a lap before he decided it was way too much work. After that I schooled around our big parking field for a bit, walk/trot as others meandered their way over and joined my warmup. He was awesome -- had this big, floaty, on-the-bit/on-a-mission trot. Bending both ways. A tiny bit ADD of course, but on the grand scale of things not enough to comment on.

Our fearless leader appears over the crest of the hill, so I trotted over to ask permission to switch groups, which was granted :) And of course run into somebody I know in the group finishing so chat with her for a bit while he does basic introductions. I've known him for years now and brought multiple horses to him and had already met everybody in warmup, so didn't feel too bad about being on the sidelines of that conversation. I did join in long enough to give PlanB's history: "lazy but willing, possibly the most honest horse I've ever met, almost never ridden outside the ring before. I just want to get him out and do some confidence building." So we left that topic as he asked me about Si and we chatted a bit about her as we headed up to XC.

So we get to big field # 2 up on top of the hill which includes the start-box and the first fence on course (PE-T). Wanting to see how everybody's doing and get a feel for everybody's riding and horse before we start jumping, David has us continue our warmup in this field -- any direction etc. Walk/trot to begin. No problem. Mr. PlanB is being an absolute star. Trotting around like a little (well not so little -- at least not compared to Si!) dressage horse. Not paying any attention to anybody or anything. N by this point I'm totally chilled. Chatting with David, randomly riding around watching some of the other riders to find out who knows what in this group. At E level you tend to get novice riders on pro horses or pro riders on novice horses. It's only scary when both are green *g* And it's usually clear w/in a few seconds who belongs in which category. So I was in this kind of inattentive riding style when we were asked to canter. Remember, we cantered already earlier. This is not new or exciting. So I didn't think anything of it. Well I don't know what it was that triggered the fuse but Mr. PlanB did about the most dramatic transition ever and then followed with a series of reasonably impressive bucks. hahaha now I rode him on the flat one day and he started "bucking" that had me giggling like I'd been smoking something I shouldn't've once I figured out what it was he was trying to do. Bucking is an interpretive movement in his world -- more like a slightly ambitious canter. Yeah not so much this time. He just about got me. Seriously. I think @ least partially cause he caught me by surprise though *g*. But I was way high and off to the side and my brain is going "you are NOT going to fall off *this* horse in the first 5 minutes of the clinic. Get back in the middle and sit up!" And fortunately my body listened. Clinician watching this comments to the rest of the group "so for those of you who don't know Lauren, she has amazing balance and ability to stick." hahahaha You see, he knew Zel in her baby year *g* Got quite a few comments on that from those around me later. So of course after this game I canter PlanB around for a bit and then repeat the transition. This time he canters off like a normal horse *g* "Lauren that was a much better transition!" "You think?" hahahah couldn't've been much worse *g*

So then it comes time to jump. We start w/ the PE log that they could literally walk over (as it should be given that it's the first fence on the PE course). Except that I got back in the game with the canter transition and was fully expecting it when Mr. BombProof PlanB landed and took off bucking. Not a problem - leg on, ride forward, and it ended after only a few strides. Rinse and repeat a few times and eventually he decided it wasn't worth the effort. Meanwhile student is totally showing me up having fun w/ her very enthusiastic TB :)

One of the girls had mentioned having start-box issues, so it was decided that we'd do start-box schooling. Two options there: either the horse gets so reved that it tries to bolt, or incredibly nappy and won't move. She had option two. But PlanB has never seen a start-box in his life, so of course he couldn't care less. We walk in, halt, lots of pats. Go jump fence. "Any fence" we'd been told, so I figured I'd skip PE and jump the E fence -- which was a non-issue. B, right behind me, made the same choice :) So we repeated this a few times till the other girl's horse learned to behave itself and PlanB just moved up a level every time. Never looking at anything. Never overjumping. Just behaving like an old pro. PE - T in one day! We had one discussion after the first fence that there would be no spinning and ducking back to the herd, and after that, perfect. Boring really *g* But sometimes boring is a relaxing change.

Next few few fences were pretty straight-forward PE/E type jumps. We jumped them each once, every time he was great. The others were doing each of these fences multiple times, but he was good and I didn't want to use up his fitness level, so he mostly grazed while others jumped around. I figure it was good for him to see others come towards him and gallop away without him and remain chilled. The only one I did twice was a brush fence cause he wanted to get in deep to it and it took me a second try to convince him to do it properly :) But we got there. There was a log to a hogsback combo that was incredibly simple *except* for the giant drilling machine right beside the middle! Person welding so sparks flying and the huge machinery rattling with every pound. *I* didn't want to go by it so I entirely understood his concerns! hahaha I'll tell ya, we *flew* over the second fence as by that point we were going away from the scary machine at all possible speed.

He lead the way over the tiny run through the trees (4 little logs, each in a tree line, each a few strides apart from one another). I opted out of schooling the bank with him -- figured exciting XC stuff can wait till next time :) Although I did get one other rider's horse some experience for her :) So PlanB got quite a long break there, where his primary job was being the horse "over there" that the others would ride towards. hahaha. We did a few mini-courses -- each of which I added an extra fence or two. Which usually caused those behind me to follow my plan, and those ahead to regret not having gotten to do it *g* hahaha PlanB was awesome the whole way around, and really starting to have fun with it. I actually needed a reasonably strong half-halt at one point. But he came back to me w/o much of a fight so I was pretty happy with him.

So eventually we make our way to the water. Big square eventing water (as opposed to natural river, which is also on the property). Well he wanted nothing to do with this. "It's *muddy*" -- I could almost feel his disgust. And having spent the last hour teaching him *not* to get upset when everybody else left him, he didn't really care that all the cool kids were doing it. I did eventually get a lead from another horse and PlanB bravely tiptoed in. And then walked back through the other way. And then trotted. "Hey! This is sort of fun." And then the canter. And he got splashed. So he tried to jump it. And got splashed bigger. Hahaha we were flying by the time we got out of the water that time. Well shortly after that he decided this was about the best game *ever* and got thoroughly annoyed when I told him he could stop and graze for a bit... "but the others are still getting to play in the water!!!" he bounced his way sideways down the hill in an attempt to join them. Super animated. So much for me worrying about him being tired!

Last line was to splash through the water and pick whichever end fence you wanted. I chose the PT one -- just in case he *was* tired and just didn't know it yet I didn't think we should do T, but he was way beyond E level by this point. And I have to say, at that very last fence, he got it! Gallop (well hand-gallop realistically) sit up, balance, jump, land and gallop forward again in a straight line (the forward in a straight-line was the most challenging thing for him all day). Text-book perfect. I was pretty proud of him :)

So it turns out my student has a much nicer horse than I thought at first *g* And I told her as much :) I was really quite impressed with how he behaved himself and the best part is, he seemed to have a ton of fun doing it! Always good :) And, of course, so did I :)

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