Here there be dragons...

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

You should learn something new every day. I'm good for about a year now.

VERY long and exhausting day but I'm a little wired so figured I'd write, esp as the end of the day was So. Much. Fun!

So last year I was chatting with Amy and her parents and somehow the conversation revealed that her dad, Joe, has a sailboat - which he races.  And how very much I would love to try it :)  Which, kind people that they are, led to an invite to go sailing one night.  But my schedule being what it is coupled with Amy being away all summer nothing ever came of it.

The offer though was very sincere and made again this year.  And the very exciting part - the races are on Wednesday nights.  The one night I can actually play :)   Sweet.  And last week I actually had a Wednesday with nothing booked!  Woohoo!   Sadly though that didn't work with their schedule *sigh*   hahaha ah well, gamely try again and *this* week I got to go!  YEAH!

And then it was POURING rain *sigh*   The forecast of sun failed.  And I had no idea if they would even go in the rain, but would probably have gone anyways and then -- it cleared up!   Sweet :)   Amy told me later it's a rain or shine event, so would've been ok but likely not quite as much fun.   Sort of like eventing in the rain.

So I get there, super early and reasonably excited.  Call Joe and he tells me how to get to the right general area and meets me there.  And we get there and I'm thinking back to my high school days when all my friends had little sailboats and am expecting something like this:

Instead I see:

hahaha ok that might be a *slight* exaggeration *g*   But it sure seemed that way on first glance :)   I'm pretty sure the inside was bigger than my first apartment.   Admittedly that's not saying much, but a whole lot more than the "barely room to put a person in" I was expecting!

That one's more the general idea :)   Sadly did not have my camera for an actual photo, but it's the right general concept.  My apologies to anybody who actually *knows* anything about boats as it's probably horrifically inaccurate.  But it's hard to google accurate photos when you don't actually know what you're looking for *g*   I lurked Amy's pics to see if she had any I could steal, but no such luck :)   Like the non-horse-person describing the 19hh-fire-breathing-monster they rode on a trail ride:

Take it for what it's worth *g*

So I got introduced to the crew who were all awesome, welcoming, and incredibly patient with a *complete* newbie.  I learn fast, but I didn't even have time to google before I went so I literally knew nothing.  Put it this way -- I was moderately surprised by how many people were required (again, keep in mind the size of boat I was expecting!)  hahaha  so yeah, by this point I figure anything goes.  They were setting everything up so I mostly watched fascinated while trying to stay out of the way.  Not a lot of room for two-way traffic on one of these so that's more of a challenge than it sounds *g*

Now it turns out sailing's a lot like riding.   Rule # 1 - keep boat between sailor and water :)   Got it!

hahaha so knowing that important basic, we headed out.   A couple of the guys started trying to cram knowledge into my head as we were waiting for the race to start.   Some of it very useful - I would never have figured out what a halyard was in time if they hadn't told me :)   And some if it really interesting -- little details like the cheater-strings on the sails that let you know if they're doing what they should.  Very kewl.

Now waiting for the race to start sounds so quiet and peaceful... The perfect time to be learning random factoids.  Waiting for the race to start...  Ummmmm let's think this one through.  It's not like you can line these things up at the start line for an equal take-off.  Oh dear.   Picture xc without a start box.  A big warmup ring with all the warmup chaos and somebody fires a gun that means "5 minutes" and everybody tries to time it so their last jump and gallop puts them at the start line when the next shot goes.  Oh - and make that a novice warmup ring where you can't be certain the other guy knows the rules -- or has either breaks or steering installed.

Chaos.  Highly entertaining.  Slightly life-threatening.  Chaos.

And then have somebody put a hold on the course.   Seriously.   Just like riding *g*   Apparently the wind couldn't decide which way it wanted to blow *g*   Score one for Mother Nature.   But after only a short delay we were back on track.

Fortunately by this point I had complete confidence in our crew who, other than me, were all clearly very experienced and overly competent.  This was a non-issue for them as in-between intro-to-sailing lessons they got themselves sorted out in exactly the right place to be going the right direction at the right time and cross barely seconds after the "go" shot without even pretending to crash into anybody or be crashed into.

I was quite impressed by the communication between them and the timing.  Going out on XC it's only me and my horse -- I push my stopwatch at 10 seconds and away we go from a halt.  Running starts are decidedly frowned upon *g*   Here though, there is no halt option.  So they're timing their pace and distance from the start to match the 5 minute countdown so that they'll get there at exactly the right moment.  And of course you can't actually SEE where you're going from the steering wheel -- the sails are in the way.   So the helmsman has to rely on a navigator (and I'm totally making up titles here -- I have no idea what they actually call the person at the front of the boat, but it's not navigating gps/stars style...   One second....  Ok Google says that person is a tactician.  I have no idea if that's actually right or not, but sounds good to me :)   Anyways -- he was in charge of time and making sure we had enough space between other boats going various directions to make it without swimming.  Oh and while all this is going on - thirty other boats are doing exactly the same thing trying to be in exactly the same place at exactly the same time.   Tricky.

So my job for the day was grinding.  Lovely eh?   hahaha but I think it was a case of almost-idiot-proof combined with do-the-least-harm.  Basically whenever we were tacking or jibbing (HA - don't I sound like I know something?  That'd be turning to all you land-lover types.    hahaha just don't ask me to tell you the difference between them.  Suspect one goes into the wind and the other away from, but not actually %100 sure on that, nor do I know which one's which.  And Google's busy right now  >;-P)   Ok so back to my story -- whenever we were not on a straight course, I got to spin a crank as fast as I possibly could to help wheel in a rope.  Oops.  I mean a LINE.  Ropes are only ropes until they're attached to something.  Then they're lines.  Like dogs are only dogs until they're used to foxhunt -- then they're hounds.  hahaha so wheel in the line and get the sail to switch from one side of the boat to the other.  The pathetically sad part is, whoever was actually manning the line was, without fail, significantly faster at pulling it than I was cranking so I really wasn't helping much at all.   The only use seemed to be *after* it was pulled as much as possible, the crank added a lot more strength to get it pulled tighter.  Everybody pretended like I was doing something useful though -- really was a very supportive group and they answered every one of my million questions.  Those of you who've ever seen me try to learn something will know that part actually *isn't* hyperbole!

Oh, AND I also had the VERY important job of being "extra weight" to go sit on whatever side of the boat was highest and keep it down.  Yeah.  Pretty sure I failed that one too >;-P   hahaha I'd get to the right place at the right time, but I'm not sure the boat knew it *g*

So very much fun.   The course was incredibly simple, but then - my comparison is stadium and dressage.  Methinks dozens of sailboats trying to do a 20m circle, or better yet - a rollback!, while highly entertaining might be less than a good idea.  And seemed VERY short, but that was potentially because I was still having tons of fun and trying to sort everything out rather than actually being short.

We ended up in second and floated our way back with some commentary between the boats as everybody clearly knows each other -- fairly entertaining to listen to.   Docked and put everything away and then some really civilized cheese, crackers and drinks.  Mostly of the grown-up version but somebody managed to find a pepsi floating around for me *g*   I told you they were very patient :)

So yeah - learned a TON, had a BLAST, and met some really great people.   Not a bad way to spend an evening :)

Oh and one very important lesson - don't offer a sailor ice tea.  Just trust me on this one *g*

Critter Tales

I was somewhat amused watching the cats at breakfast today.   My cat Sherlock is, and always has been, the boss.   When I lived in Brampton, Red came to live with us.  He learned to sneak a paw into Sherlock's food and take a mouthful at a time -- and Sherlock seems ok with this.  Fast forward a few years and introduce Rusty, who is potentially the stupidest cat I've ever seen.   I feed Rusty separately because otherwise he won't get any food, but sometimes he's too stupid to find his own bowl.   Today though he got ambitious and thought he'd try Red's trick.  Only instead of stealing a mouthful of Sherlock's food with his paw, he dragged the whole bowl away.

I wish I'd had it on video. Sherlock gave him a stunned look that clearly suggested he couldn't believe what Rusty had just done, then folded his paw the same way, swatted him across the head with it, took his bowl back, and resumed eating.  All in one totally smooth and quiet move.

Poor Rusty just sat watching Sherlock eat like he couldn't quite figure out what had gone wrong until I eventually took pity on him and redirected him to his own bowl.   Was pretty funny though.

And Sasha the super-puppy who passed grade two with flying colours last week went to agility fun day today.  OMG So. Much. Fun.  hahaha  We got in trouble a couple times for making things more interesting than they were actually supposed to be, but she was too good at the basic stuff.   Had it down solid.  And fast.  hahaha she starts actual agility classes in Aug - can't wait!

A year in a week

Wow.  What a week.  Pretty sure it lasted about a year.

Let's see... Monday?   I don't even remember Monday.   I vaguely recall Kennedy, Rowan and Chelsea doing some superstar dressage which pretty much made my day.  But that seems a LOT longer ago than Monday.

Tuesday I'm pretty sure didn't even happen.  Do you remember Tuesday last year?  Yeah, me either.

Wednesday is what made the week so long.  Wed am I woke up sick.  Very sick.  Food poisoning.  As unpleasant and uncomfortable as you can imagine it being.   Steph was doing the morning barn for me (never been SO very grateful for that!) and being the awesome woman she is took over the afternoon for me as well.   Now usually Wednesdays are my easy day because I don't teach in the evenings, so if I have to be sick, that's the day to do it.  The problem?  It was the day we had booked for the first xc school of the year. And usually feeling the way I was it would've been cancelled.  No question.  But did I mention it was the first?  And Saturday was the first HT.  First HT *ever* for two of my students.   XC school before that is important.  And they were really excited.  And I know how upset I would've been in the same circumstance if my coach had cancelled.  AND I know all of them would've been totally cool about it -- which made me that much more determined to try to help them.

So Stephy to the rescue again.  I showed up, but she managed the organizing and hung out for the loading since I couldn't've handled anything other than perfect equine behaviour the way I was feeling.   Fortunately my horses are saints and all loaded beautifully.

Got there and got organized - Rowan on Jack, Chelsea on Lissy, Kennedy on Nick, and Amy on Flora.  Flora, who's almost 5, was going for her first xc experience ever.  We started in stadium -- I was feeling almost alive then.   Warmed up and let the horses and riders relax a bit and then started very slowly over tiny fences.  Slowly we jumped bigger and more interesting jumps -- it was really cool to watch both horse and rider confidence growing!   Till at the end Rowan and Chelsea even jumped the castle :)  Woohoo!

Then it was time for XC.  All the girls navigated the PE course beautifully, while Chelsea and Rowan also tackled some of the Entry fences.   Flora was so much fun to watch -- you could see just when she got the hang of the game.  She went from never having jumped anything xc to being able to confidently do the bank combination on the first try!  Woohoo.  It's a shame she's destined to be a hunter >;-P    Jack, otoh, was having WAY too much fun.  Rowan's challenge isn't getting him over the jumps -- she's figured that out.  Her challenge now is keeping control *sigh*   Jack felt the need to go for a gallop and decided he could do it faster without his pilot.  He went left when she went right and then he continued to book it around the field for a few more laps -- even jumping a fence on the way!  Fortunately Rowan was fine and hopped back on. And since Jack had galloped himself out, the rest of their school was uneventful.  Chelsea and Lissy are on a serious ON streak.  They jumped everything beautifully on the first try, both clearly having TONS o fun.  Really good to watch.  And while Nick was being his usual lazy self, Kennedy did a good job with him getting him to jump the entire PE course -- coming from hunter world, Nick isn't nearly as easy to ride on xc as he is over sticks because he's not at all sure what he's supposed to do with these weird log-type things.   But Kennedy did a great job of convincing him to go over them all :)

Only issue is about half hour from the end of our xc school, my endurance ran out.  I started to feel horribly ill again and when I stood the world spun.   It got so that I was teaching sitting down in the middle of the field *sigh*   Ah well.   Steph managed the untacking and organizing again and Bryn very kindly drove the truck/trailer home for me.  I *almost* made it, but not quite.

So Thurs I was supposed to have MY xc school.  Which I @ least had enough sense to cancel.  I was feeling much better, but still pretty dopey and a long way from ready to eat anything.  Took me forever to get stalls done -- and even that only happened because my amazing dad helped me out.  Thurs eve before teaching I decided to ride.  Yes it was stupid, but you're not surprised are you?   Now I *did* at least consider that it wasn't a great idea, so I went out with the hill-work idea.  Ie, walk-trot only.  Perfect.  And the walk went well enough - she was through and marching well enough.  I was a little dizzy and my reflexes were down -- it'd been almost 48h since I'd eaten anything by this point.  And then I tried the trot, and it was a horrible fail.  After about 10 strides I had to admit defeat :(   But it was sunny, with just the right breeze...  Perfect riding weather.  And I was feeling like crap and grumpy and tired and really just wanted to ride my pony.  There are times when it takes a four-legged being to make you feel human.

So do I acknowledge this is a bad idea and go back?  Of course not.  Can't trot, may as well go for a walk hack.  She needs lots of lsms and I never have time to give them to her...  We get out about as far from home as we can go without leaving the property when the world starts to spin.  Less good.  So I get that I have to go home -- but the question is how?  Do I dismount and walk or try to ride?  The issue of course being that Athena doesn't lead particularly well.  hmmm ok try riding.   Heading back on no contact.  Athena's power walking but maintaining her walk.  All good.   And then a rabbit jumps out in front of us.  Time froze for a moment as my barely-functioning brain processed "rabbit = scary monster = horse spin and bolt = too tired to stay on = this will hurt.  *#$*"

And then... "Wait, why am I still on the horse?"   Yup, my saint of a pony took care of me.  Didn't move a muscle.  No spin.  No bolt. No nothing.  Just stood very still and grew for a second.  BIG pats for pony.  Walked home uneventfully and I fed her an extra couple carrots before putting her outside.  Then I just went and curled up in a ball till it was time to teach *sigh*   Lessons actually ended up going well, but omg I felt horrid.

So the debate that night was, do I cancel my Friday lesson?   You know the answer to that :)   Now I *did* actually manage to eat half a piece of toast on Friday am, so that was progress.  And my coach knew I wasn't well since I'd cancelled xc the day before.  So we did a lesson with a focus on slow and details rather than speed and strength.  Probably smart.  I was frustrated with my riding, but we did manage to get Athena working well so at least partially effective.   The rest of the day I was feeling almost human.  Tired and slow but not ill any longer.  Sweet.  Even managed to have a sandwich mid-afternoon.  Lessons went really well -- Rowan and Jack came to an understanding and went off adventuring with no excitement, so good to go for Saturday.

And then Saturday hit and I felt sick again.  Booo.  But got out to the barn and got to the show and after a little while felt normal again.  Phew!  We had an AWESOME day at the show.  That story is on the GRS blog :)   Jack wore his big-boy clothes, Lissy was an all round superstar.  Both girls rode like pros and jumped double clear.  Woohoo!   Sat eve I was still pretty exhausted.  I hate that being sick on Wed still knocks me out on Sat :(   Also forgot my book at the barn so that pretty well destroyed my evening relaxing on the couch with a book plans.  Searched for a movie but couldn't find anything.  All-round fail.  So spent forever writing a blog post or two and then actually went to bed at a reasonable hour.  Imagine that.

Got to SLEEP IN this am.  You have no idea how amazing that was.  Rebecca did the barn for me and I didn't have to teach till 11.  Sweet.   Taught a couple lessons - both of which I was really happy with.  My last lesson got cancelled so I decided I had time to ride.  Was a little bit of brilliance or disaster there.  Oh dear.  From "can't keep the horse in the dressage ring at the canter" to some of the best movement I've ever had from her.  Swung back and forth between the two several times, ended with something reasonable and went out for a hack :)   Figured that was a good compromise.  Afternoon stalls took next to no time since the horses had only been in about half an hour *g*   Fed my ponies and went home for Father's Day family dinner :)

Happy Father's Day Dad!!!!

So apparently it's not just me...


Lucinda Green Clinic - Day 2

So. Much. Fun.

Very tempted to just leave the post at that line.  Summarizes fairly well I think :)   But I suspect people might be less-than-thrilled with me for it.  But that being said, I'm known for only writing about day 1 of clinics so even just three words is improvement right?

hahaha ok so on with it.  XC am dawned cold but, thankfully, dry!  Got to the farm with lots of time to feed and water Athena and let her digest before her ride.  She was clearly tired after yesterday given that my somewhat psyc weaver was standing quietly.  Looked good on her *g*

Went to the indoor to w/u.  Knowing that she was tired and had 2-hours of xc ahead of her, our w/u consisted of a reasonable length walk, lots of leg yields, and a fairly short trot set which showed me that she was moving remarkably well and not stiff or sore at all from yesterday.  Sweet!   The other riders seemed much of the same mind as only one was really working in the w/u -- the rest were more wandering...  Fair enough :)

Followed Lucinda out to xc.  She had us do a quick w/u on our own over fences again with instructions to jump some little fences until we felt our horses were leaving the ground and then come back.  No ditches or banks.  No more than 5 mins.  So we all went our own ways -- there were only a handful of jumps that met that criteria, but everybody was sharing nicely *g*  And soon we were all ready to play.

We were originally going to start with some ditch work, but the ditch on that side of the property ended up being a little too intense, so we switched gears and went to play on the bank instead.  We walked up and down, stopping on a straight line as per yesterday.  And then the skinnies came out.  hahaha  bending lines of course with three-foot skinnies balanced on caveletti blocks.  All sorts of combos: log, skinny, bank, skinny and back again.  And every variation you can think of.   Athena tried her little heart out.   You could see she was a little overwhelmed by the idea, but she held her line and figured out what to do with her feet.  It occasionally took us a bit to get the halt at the end, but she did manage to navigate all the questions.   For a horse who really started experiencing skinnies yesterday, I was pretty impressed!

Then it *was* time to go to the ditch.  We had already discovered that two of the more experienced horses really weren't feeling ditches today, so Lucinda asked if any of us could get our horses over.  The other two riders seemed pretty hesitant to commit to it, so I told her I thought we probably could :)   The only ditches she's ever done were at Grandview and they were super-inviting which this one was not entirely, but she's tried everything I've ever asked her so I had high hopes.  One of the other riders threw in his vote for "the little black mare" being the one most likely to succeed, so away we went.  Nice forward walk.  Slip the reins and stay back.  Athena's head goes all the way down INTO the ditch.  And then...  she gamely hopped over it!  hahaha I was so proud of her!   And then we did it a couple dozen more times giving leads to everybody else till she was bored :)   Woohoo!

The ditch got built up into a coffin (using show-jump fences) which she was a little stickier at, but she did it.  Then we worked on a half-coffin by angling fence A and then jumping the wider half of the ditch on an angle.  That she did quite well, but admittedly because she was last to go and was rather frantic to catch the other horses galloping up the hill away from her towards home!   But hey, whatever works right? :) We also got to do it the other way with the ditch first to the vert which she found comparitively easy.

Next step was to move to the *actual* coffin which was far more substantial than anything I've jumped with her xc yet.  Admittedly not saying much since she's only really jumped entry fences and the occasional pt jump, but still.  Walked her over the ditch and cantered out over B.  A little iffy because she's still *really* unsure about jumping out of the walk, so turned around and went the other way at a trot to far more success.  Then Lucinda offered us the chance to school the full coffin.  I was the only one who hesitated a second which drew a puzzled look -- understandably since my super-pony clearly has a good heart and no ditch issues -- so I felt the need to clarify it wasn't the jumps that concerned me -- it was cantering down the hill!  Coordination and balance in the canter aren't our strong suit :(   And really most of what we'd done both yesterday and today so far had been out of a trot.

So Lucinda suggested just cantering down the hill since clearly she needed practice and either skipping the jumps all together or if I felt things were going well to take the B and C elements.

How long have you been reading my blog?  I'm guessing most of you will know exactly what ended up happening *g*  We cantered down the hill, me fighting her all the way for some semblance of balance and rhythm, and... well...  the A element was in the way of B and C...  So of course we jumped all three.   I'm only wimpy till we start moving :)  Once we start going, my brain switches into xc mode and we're good to go.  Pretty it was not.  Effective it was.  There was no way I was going over that ditch without her *g*  She jumped A long and then got frazzled but thanks to the "emergency rein contact" from yesterday when I had to slip the reins over A we were still good to go for old-school pony-club "just keep kicking" methodology which got us over the ditch.   But of course she way over-jumped it giving a wicked chip to C.  *sigh*  Ugly.  Lucinda seemed fairly amused by the whole thing "you know I only *said* do B and C" and just as I was about to apologize for adding in w/o permission she follows up with "but I LOVE that you did all three."  And as I'm all happy with that "very brave of you to attempt that with that canter!   It's a good thing you can keep your balance in the middle of your horse."  hahaha yeah ok -- methinks that was a not-so-subtle hint I'd crossed the line from bravery to stupidity there.  *sigh*  But despite its ugliness I was still super proud not only that she got through it, but that she jumped out confidently even from a tricky spot.  And she landed *really* proud of herself.  So pretty stoked about that.

Next step - Weldon's Wall.  That's right -- a vertical fence with a ditch in front of it.  A ditch they generally don't see till the last stride.  Oh good.  So we all did the little one -- Athena hesitated slightly but jumped it cleanly on the first try :)  Then we were given the option of the little one again or the big one.  Funny how this time the option wasn't really directed at me.   If you're not sure which one we picked, read the above paragraph.  She FLEW over it.  Only thing is, she was once again *very* much focused on catching the horse in front of her, *not* on what she was doing.  A little terrifying as that is not the type of fence you want an out-of-control pace to.  *sigh*  She did clear it beautifully and in stride.  I'm not convinced she even saw the ditch though so less-useful as a schooling exercise.  After that it was determined that she should not follow anybody   Not that it mattered as the rest of the exercises we ended up doing all involved turns so it was never again a case of catch-me-if-you-can.

We moved on from ditches at this point to the fairly steep up-down bank.  If you go up the lesser-slope it's two steps, but we were going up the side which is basically a climb.   Did it once or twice and then skinnies appeared on either side of it.  Who's surprised by that?  Yeah I wasn't either *g*   "But don't worry," Lucinda assured us, "these are wide skinnies.  Five feet!"  Right.  Wide skinnies.  About that.  hahaha but to be honest, after the skinnies we'd been doing earlier, five feet did indeed seem wide and neither fence was an issue for anybody.  My biggest issue was keeping Athena's hocks under her on the down and not leaping off the bank (which would've WAY overshot the skinny).  But she really tried and pulled it off.  Then a little coup-type thing got added in; this one we were given permission to skip.  I'm not entirely sure why - size maybe?  But she landed in balance from the skinny and focused really happily on the coup that we jumped it anyways.  She definitely really enjoys those types of fences.  Big, wide and nicely curved are exactly her thing :)   She's seriously uncertain about anything technical, but just plain solid is np.

Then we got to play in the water.  Walk in, trot out.  Trot in, trot out.  Trot in, trot out over barrels.  Trot in, trot out up a bank.  All no problem.  The first couple walk/trot in she wanted to have a VERY careful look and seemed to have some trouble keeping her feet under her.  I seriously thought we were going swimming.  But she figured it out and was soon gamely trotting through.

Jumping out was np.  BUT then we were to drop off the bank in.  That was more of a challenge for her -- she hesitated and danced around on the bank for a good long while.  But just as Lucinda was starting to ask one of the other riders to give her a lead, Athena gathered up her courage and took a great leap in :)  Woohoo!
Ok...  If you *really* want to!
Such a good heart that one.   We landed with a slightly less-graceful splash but good to go and continued out over our barrels.  After that she quickly gained confidence and by about the 3rd time was stepping off quietly.   After the years of wild launches with Si, it was such a relief to have a horse who figured it out and chilled out about the whole situation.  She's going to make such an awesome school horse next year!

To end the clinic Lucinda gave everybody the opportunity to play and school over whatever they wished.  Athena though was clearly done so I left her on that.  She was still high -- I didn't dismount and walk her as I usually would as I knew I'd have more control on top and she was still bouncing.  But I could feel the high was adrenaline not strength.  She was really tired.  So we watched the others for a few moments and then walked her back.

So end result: I have a horse who feels ready to take on the world, Lucinda remains one of my favourite clinicians, and I had a TON of fun :)   All good really.   She expects her riders to smarten up and pay attention, but if you're on the ball and make an effort you'll get a ton out of it.

Line of the day from Day 1:  "You make ugly look beautiful"
Line of the day from Day 2:  "Wow.  You're *really* brave."

hahaha didn't know exactly how to take either, but both made me laugh :)   And as we all know, that's a great thing to do while riding :)   Can't wait till the next clinic!

Lucinda Green Clinic - Day 1

Fun. Focus. Footwork.  Those were the key words of day one at the Lucinda Green clinic at Eventing Canada.

The weather was cold, windy, rainy, and generally miserable, but being eventers we sucked it up and rode outdoors anyways.  You don't have to be crazy to participate in this sport -- but it definitely helps!

Today's focus was on using stadium exercises to improve and train for xc.  All the jumps were set super-low, and we were told they would remain that way with a focus on accuracy and complexity rather than height. After all, height is easy; technical separates the riders from the passengers.

There were skinny fences scattered all around the ring as well as two arrowhead jumps with the points directed at each other several strides apart.  We started with a free-for-all warmup with the instructions to jump anything we wanted, with no concern to equitation.  The only rules were "no runouts and no cantering".  Everything was to be under complete control -- tricky with several OTTBs in the group!  And the jumps were low enough that should they need to, the horses could walk over them.  A stop is acceptable and can be dealt with; a runout is rider error.  You keep them straight and they jump - that's the deal.  If you don't hold your end, why should they hold theirs?

After we'd all jumped around a bit there was a discussion about the key requirements for jumping skinnies -- or jumping at all really.  Basically it came down to leg, hand and eye.  Simple right?  And that was the point -- it's *not* complicated, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy.   Hold them with your leg, fine tune with your hand and make sure you're looking where you're going (Lucinda borrowed Pat's "beaming" energy analogy).

We did some practice over the arrowheads -- something Athena's certainly never seen before!  But she figured it out and by then end was jumping it confidently.  Then onto course work -- with instructions including what gait to be in at each fence.  Cantering a trot fence or vise-versa was unacceptable and would result in repeating the exercise.  Got horses AND riders sharpened up pretty quickly!

After that it was all about turns and skinnies.  Lucinda was quick to correct any rider's position that was unsafe (ie jumping ahead) but otherwise the focus was entirely on effectiveness.  Gait was open to choice at this point and the courses included lots of bending lines with very skinny fences and fun combinations.  Athena was VERY confused at first but she kept trying and eventually got a really lovely course and was even calmly cantering it.  I was pretty thrilled with her.

Then the focus changed and we started working on walk-fences.  Walking up to a barrel jump and hopping over it.  I think I only *truly* kept her in a walk twice; every other time we got at least one jog step *sigh*  But it was a HUGE difference from the first time we jumped in in w/u and cleared it by about 3' :)   The walk jump exercise led to practice with the "emergency contact" -- which I suspect will come into play in tomorrow's xc adventures.  This is basically after you've slipped the reins for some reason, holding your hands wide and your body back to maintain the contact over the next obstacle.  This exercise very quickly differentiated between those with event experience and those without *g*  "Make it ugly!" was the quote of the day.  Which of course raises the question - if it's ugly and it's supposed to be, is it beautiful?  hahaha oh dear - the 4h of sleep is starting to show through :)   Since after too many years of riding babies, my number 1 bad habit is slipping my reins, this was one exercise I could do in my sleep *g*  Athena was a little puzzled, but we got it done :)

Throughout this adventure there were a few random theoretical discussions (cause we were all just enjoying the weather so much!).  Appropriate tack -- the softest bit that enables control (Lucinda changed a couple of them with the rider's permission to softer ones).  A crop is obligatory.  Martingales should be properly fit pony-club style.  That is, when the horse's head is raised it should come about to where the jaw meets the neck.  Most were far too short.  Gloves should not be leather as leather slips.

There was some discussion about the use of studs -- whether or not there should be one on the inside; tradition says yes, but Lucinda presented several reasons why that may not be truly the best situation.  Risk of inside stud hitting the opposite leg and disabling the hoof's ability to turn as it should being the top two.

Let's see...  Also discussion about how to retrain a horse who runs out (one of the more challenging issues -- better to just never let them learn it in the first place!), discussion about jumping form and how the horse has to move its head to view and evaluate the fence and how that can or should be a consideration in your riding.

Basically it was an awesome clinic -- both from a riding and a theory point of view.  I unfortunately only got to watch one other class as we had to get back so I could teach tonight!   But tomorrow I'll get to see most of the day, so quite looking forward to that.

HUGE thanks to Stephy for coming as groom/ring-crew and surviving the brutal weather.  Poor Steph always seems to be with me on the particularly horrific days!   And to Rebecca who took care of everything at home so I could go play :)  AND on top of that to Jamie and Arthur who fed and checked on Athena this evening so I could go teach and not have to drive an extra 3h to feed my horse.   Having horses in two locations an hour and a half apart is tricky!

There's a ton of other stuff I'd love to write, but the alarm's going to go off again in about 6h, so I think I'd best be off.  More tomorrow.  Hopefully!