Here there be dragons...

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

Only an eventer can hit the ground three times in two days and call it a success.

So I got a message from my mum this morning:  "Loved the blog post, but let's not have any more yellow rabbits today."  My mum's a wise lady.  One of these days I'll learn to listen to her.  Today was not that day. And let's be honest, wisdom wasn't exactly the word of the weekend. Sheesh.

If you're just joining us -- the game is, I took Lexi -- basically unbroke, after six weeks off and four rides back, to the Lucinda Green clinic at Eventing Canada.  Right.  If you actually know me in person, you won't be terribly surprised by this *g*  If you don't, you may be considering sending the men in white coats my way.  You may be right >;-P

Alright, back to our regularly scheduled program.  I figured the only thing we had going for us with our utter and complete lack of preparation, was that by XC day, she'd be *very* tired.  And a tired horse is a ridable horse.  Theoretically.
About how I expected to find her...
As with yesterday, my goals were actually *very* realistic.  I wanted her to hack out (something she's never done), with a group of other horses (which she did for the first time yesterday), and not lose her brain.  I also had vague thoughts of trotting her around said other horses and hopefully riding her through the water.  Banks and ditches were in the far periphery of my brain (cause, let's be honest, I'm a xc rider) but were not sincerely part of the actual goals of the day - more of a "maybe if everything else is perfect" variation.

Lexi was still pretty calm and happy in her stall when I got there. This is something I've noticed from day one with her and am *thrilled* about -- she seems to settle easily in new environments. Not that she's been to many -- but when I brought her home, no drama.  Change paddock, no drama.  Ride in the sandring - okay admittedly there was some drama, but not insanity :)   I was expecting a very tired grey mare...  That's not what I found.  Alert, happy, head over the open part of the stall watching the world.  Uh oh...
What's next?
Tacked her up and got on indoors -- needed Steph to hold her for that (thanks again Stephy!).  Our "never get on unless you're standing still" rule isn't terribly easy to apply in a clinic scenario.  If I lunged her long enough to overcome her adrenaline, I'd not have any horse left to ride.  So I made the decision that for these two days, she could be held to mount.  She still had to stand -- but she had help to do so correctly *g*  We followed her newest best friend out where the others were walking around the start of the xc course.  Amazingly she didn't really seem to care about the donkey we had to pass at all.  hahaha now the dirt, and the grass, and the rocks, and the . . .    Well you get the picture.

She jigged her way out but once we were there I was mostly able to keep her in a walk.  When Lucinda arrived the others halted all around her.  I tried to do the same but it was an utter and complete fail.  So though I felt incredibly rude walking around while she was talking, forcing Lexi to stand would've had her standing on two legs.  Her brain just wasn't up to that yet.  So we walked.

The warm-up was, imo, going to be the most exciting part of the day.  I've ridden with Lucinda a few times so was reasonably confident the actual lesson would involve one horse going at a time in an organized fashion through whatever exercise we were working on.  But warm-up?  We'd only just gotten out there and suddenly all four of her buddies were going different directions at different speeds.  Oh dear.

And I have to give her credit -- that's a difficult situation and she didn't lose it entirely.  There was some dancing on her hind legs (I *really* hate that game) - then finally got her at least moving forward.  A couple scoots at high speed when another horse cantered or jumped behind her.  I have to say the other riders were being amazingly considerate and cognizant of the fact that I had little to no steering.   They basically rode around us. I know at least one changed her line when she saw I was having a challenge.  She had right of way, but I couldn't give it to her.  I did at least shout a "sorry/thanks" as they turned away *g*  I love eventers.  Especially eventers who ride babies.  They get it.

But Lexi dealt.  And soon I could at least pick the gait (Trot please!  Walk gives too much time to think and canter too much adrenaline).  She'd go *really* fast then super slow depending where we were or how much she wanted to investigate the footing -- which was perfect, but you know, different colours of grass are a problem.  Steering was slowly coming into play.  It wasn't exactly accurate yet, but I could at least get her going mostly where I wanted to go.
Brain almost reinstalled :)
All too soon we were being called over to start the class.  Fair - everybody else was ready to go.  I would've liked a brain, but really - I wasn't finding it in that field, so may as well ride on!  First exercise -- go between the barrels and drop down the bank.   Right, about that...   Did you read yesterday's experience?  Oh dear...

But I think the outside world was just entirely too fascinating to focus on silly barrels.  Lexi went through them with barely a scoot and walked off the bank like a pro!  We cantered away with more enthusiasm than was strictly required to shouts of "straight line halt! Don't let her learn to run away!" behind us.  Tricky with neither steering nor breaks, but we got there *g*   Going back up, Lucinda let us go first so we could go through the barrels once rather than over them.  She was a star!
First time down the baby bank
Next it was down the bank, right turn, over the skinny.  It wasn't pretty, but we got it done.   Reverse and go back up -- this time *with* the barrel jump on top of the bank.  And she did it absolutely perfectly!   Back over the barrels, down the drop, over the skinny...   And so on and so forth.  By the end she was trotting the bank easily and we were well under control -- getting to the skinny as though we knew what we were doing instead of resembling a drunk but determined snake on speed.   The others in my group did the same thing with a second skinny on top of the bank and the log afterwards, but Lexi was excused from that one.

Did you get this though, cause this was the highlight -- she jumped the barrels like a SANE horse.  On the first try!  Do you have any idea how excited I was by that???  hahaha oh yeah, and up and down banks a complete non-issue.  After Si who always *launched* off a bank, this was pretty sweet too.

We had a stop and group chat about the different issues being faced by each rider in the group and suggestions on how to deal with them.  While this was going on though, Lexi was supposed to be learning to stand still.  At least a little of the edge was off by this point, but this was definitely a challenge.  And I'll admit, far more of my focus was on keeping her still and calm (she'd eat a bite or two but then wanted to be off again) than on the actual conversation.  But she does have to learn to be patient in a group, and when Lucinda says halt, she means it *g*  Eventually I got her to hang out between two horses where there was enough space for a tiny circle every few minutes when it reached the "forward or up" stage of her abilities.  Not ideal yet, but admittedly far better than I'd expected even half an hour earlier.

Okay, next stop - the ditch.  Ohhhh, ahhhh...   Having hand walked her over the ditch yesterday, I wasn't actually concerned about this one at all.  She might clear it by a mile, but I had complete faith we'd do it.  We watched a couple others go and then took a lead from her super-star buddy, Oz.  Great name eh?  :)  Oz is 18 and knows his job, but can be over-enthusiastic about it at times *g*
First ditch ever!
So I rode to the ditch reasonably defensively -- baby horse, first ditch...  Not new here.   She jumped it absolutely perfectly.  I was thrilled.  And subconsiously relaxed the defensiveness a little on takeoff.  I thought she might bolt or buck a little on landing but I was okay with that.  We were over.  Right, my subconsious is no longer allowed to make executive decisions.  She landed, perfectly.  And then I was standing on the ground next to her holding her reins.  Again?  Really???
Just like that.  Really.
Oh dear.   But I pretty quickly figured out what had happened.  You see, our fearless leader Oz had been having speed issues, so Lucinda had been getting them to stop after every fence.  Until this point it had taken multiple strides to make that happen.  His rider though was working *really* hard.  And on this jump got him stopped on the FIRST stride.  Which meant as Lex landed she had nowhere to go *sigh*  So she jumped off to the right in a big way, and I kept my nice straight line.  Classic. Apparently it was nearly identical to the move that unseated me yesterday, except this time she had a reason for it.  hahaha I'm going to have to learn to stick that or convince her to jump straight!  Preferably both :)

So Oz got a new rule - when they're being the babysitter, they keep going after the fence for at least a few strides *g*  After the second try though we got to do it by ourselves and she was an absolute pro-star!  I was so stoked.  Lucinda gave us permission to excuse ourselves then if we wanted -- I guess hitting the ground twice in two days isn't always easy to shake off *g*  But no way, my pony was being a superstar!  The fact that I can't seem to stay on her isn't her fault.

The ditch was then built up into a coffin, using show jumps but with natural standards and rails so it looked xc-ish.  Lexi got to go first.  You remember -- the one who has done gymnastics what, maybe three times?  And not since before she got hurt.  And never been ridden outside before.  And been introduced to a ditch only a couple paragraphs ago?  Yeah that one.  And she did it like an absolute pro.  Both directions, shadows be damned.  You can imagine the grin on my face.  It's still there actually.
Through the baby coffin
The only thing Lexi was having trouble with was standing still while the others were going.  Esp if they all happened to be on the other side of an obstacle from her.  Even though she could always see them, that wasn't allowed.  When the drama really started to present itself we were given permission to resume our walking around *g*  Phew - that makes life easier.  And knowing that she could walk, she was actually willing to stand for longer periods -- although it probably helped that at the same time another horse came through the coffin and joined us.  There'd been a rather long discussion going on while Lex was on one side and everybody else on the other.

So everybody's having their turns and Lexi's being patient, standing slightly off the path in the longer grass.  And then - we're on the ground.  No signs, no pawing, no change of behaviour.  Her front legs buckled, she went down and flopped over sideways.  I was terrified something horrible was happening.  Hopped off her (fortunately kicked my leg out as she lay down, so not trapped or squished). And then...  she starts to roll!  Omg.  I was actually stunned -- my emotions couldn't get around utter fear that something horrible had happened to my horse to dealing with the fact that no, she just felt like a roll.  Frig.  And then I just had to laugh -- what else can you do at this point?  I mean *really*???  I said we were there to provide the comic relief, but this was excessive!
But when Sasha does it, it's cute...
I'm still shaking my head remembering.  Seriously?  Does that even happen?  I'd understand it if we were in the water, or if she'd been pawing and I'd ignored her, or even if she'd stepped way under with her hind legs.  But no.  Nothing.  Just standing still then on the ground.  Sheesh.

Was offered yet another chance to excuse myself from the class -- by this point I was starting to wonder if Lucinda really thought it'd be best if we went home *g*  But she seemed amused when I simply fixed my saddle and accepted yet another leg-up.  Tried to position Lexi so she was downhill but that wasn't going to happen -- however, the guy who was actually giving me the leg-up just laughed.  No problem.  Turns out he's a lot stronger than the hundred-and-nothing pound twenty year old women who I usually get a boost from *g* Imagine that.  So I'm back on and Lucinda's just kinda shaking her head - credit for guts if not sanity.  hahaha   "But Lucinda, I haven't been swimming yet."

"No, you've had your three, you're done."  hahaha oh good.

We went and had more standing still practice while the three more experienced horses practised with the training coffin.  One of the other horses was ditchy and had been an absolute superstar over the baby ditch, so his rider opted out of this exercise and she and I hung out and watched the others play.  Good practice for Lexi who stood still AND stayed on her feet.  Funny, I never thought I'd consider that an achievement!

Then it was to the big hill, for lack of a better description.  They've built two decent sized steps out of nothing, so there's an easy slope up one side of this man-made bank and one-stride steps down the other.  But what Lucinda does is have them climb up the side of the bank, halt at the top, then climb down the other side.  This is not my favourite exercise, having ridden a couple horses who tend to leap off of it.  But Lexi had been *really* sensible so far so...   Yup, she was a pro.  An absolute star.  Only hesitated once at the scary down (one side is steeper than the other) but she still did it without a lead and calmly.  I was pretty stoked.
Up the mountain
Then it was time to jump the actual steps, which I figured we'd be excused from.  But she actually got to play!  Just instead of doing both steps, we climbed up the grass to the bottom step and dropped off of it.  Much bigger than the first bank, but she did it like an absolute pro!  A bit more enthusiasm than technically necessary *g* but she went on the first try.  Super brave!  Lucinda's instructions: "slide the reins to the buckle, grab the oh sh*t strap, and lean back." bahahaha and there we have the real reason for the martingale.  We did not progress to the double steps, which I think was the right choice.  I don't doubt we would've done it, but I'm not convinced it would've been pretty or a positive experience.
Off the bigger bank
So ditches, banks...  The only thing left is water.  Lexi wasn't certain she wanted to go in, but after everybody else went in and a buddy came back to get her, she gave it a go and soon enough was confidently splashing through on her own.  We also went up the bank out several times.  Then it was time to go down it -- she *really* wasn't sure about that, but she gamely made the effort to follow the Great and Mighty Oz.  She oh so quietly stepped down - no wild leaps for her!  And then got her foot caught on the edge of the bank :(  Had a horrible time getting her feet under her and very nearly went swimming :(  Sooo disappointed. She really scared herself and after that there was no way she was going off the bank again.  But I did, at least, get her back in the water -- first taking several leads and then getting her going in all the entrances on her own several times.  So that part's good.  But suspect down drops into water might be an issue for a little while...  I see more wading in my future *sigh*   Will deal with that another day :)
Pats for the brave pony in the water
Finished up with more discussion, which will get its own post, and then hacked back.  This amused me to no end -- pony should be tired.   She doesn't have the best walk in the world and I wouldn't let her jig, so she was having to work to keep up with the other horses.  And yet -- she still had all kinds of energy to spook at the backpack lying on the ground, the rock that was clearly offending her, the mud puddle...  Sheesh.  She was still bouncing when we finally made it back to the barn.  hahaha gotta love her!

Line of the day from Lucinda - "Your mare is *such* a character and I'm so glad you are such a plucky rider!" bahahaha love it!   She also gave me a mini confirmation analysis when I ran into her while grazing Lexi afterwards (she was on her way back out to teach again) showing me what exactly it was about her build that she really liked.  So what a great way to finish the clinic :)


Ah Lauren, I am in exactly the same place as you with my big grey mare. 7yrs old and *emerald* green ! ;) You and her are our Canadian dopplegangers, she too has issues when her mates go away and do their own thing. She does fantastic impersonations of a cross between a mustang and a member of the Vienna Riding School horse. :D. I wear a Point-Two air jacket...always... Wendy x


bhahaha a mustang and a vienna riding school horse - what a perfect description!


Sounds like such a blast, comic relief and all. I had a yearling TB colt do that drop thing on me once - remarkably, he went halfway down and then decided to get up again! So does almost-5yo WB = yearling TB brain? :-D

Would love to have seen my silly TB mare on the same adventure, but I don't know, I think perhaps I'm a little more conservative, year?


hahaha I think you're right about the brain comparison *g*

Maybe we'll teach you XC this year and Gracie next? :) Or - there's another clinic next weekend.... >;-P


Sounds like a plan. The first idea, not the second, haha! We're just starting to go quietly in the outdoor ring! OTOH I'm more than willing to take her galloping through fields. Just not ready for the speed bumps, perhaps! ;-)


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