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Sienna's first XC school!

Ok so Sienna's first XC school was beyond amazing. And this post will probably take longer to read than the actual lesson was -- so consider yourself forewarned. hahaha the Coles Notes version is on if you want it instead ;)

I was hacking around Gorstella on Sat and Shannon mentioned having trouble finding somewhere to go school XC before Will O Wind... N the light goes on -- I'm schooling Grandview on Sun, why don't you come? So she decides she's going to come play, at which point my pony promptly pulls a shoe. Classic eh? No luck getting in touch w/ my farrier, but sure enough there's one at Glen Oro (which was running their CT)... So we bump the loading time up a bit, go to Glen Oro to get the shoe put on and say hi to some people, and then head over to Grandview.

I got in two *whole* circles on the lunge line before Bob got there. hahaha it's a good thing I don't actually *need* to lunge her before riding anymore eh? Hop on and head out -- fortunately starting in the stad ring (where stad w/u is for competition) first... Miss Sienna was a *little* high (I have one not-so-great shot that demonstrates exactly *why* she wears a standing martingale when we school away from home :) but pretty quickly that high lead to a *literal* high as she felt the need to clear fences by a ridiculous amount! hahaha

So we're trotting around the ring on speed, and then cantering around endlessly (thankfully it's a very big ring) in hopes of taking a *bit* of the edge off before we start to jump, and I'm keeping half an eye on what Bob's setting up... Canter pole, X, Canter pole. Very basic exercise. Except, of course, Sienna did her first EVER canter poles the day before -- and it was not exactly ummmmm shall we say text-book style. But hey, part of the reason for the lesson (beyond making sure I haven't already undone all of Denny's hard work fixing my position) was to have an objective party judge what's appropriate for the horse. N realistically there's no reason she couldn't do it, so why not. The only rule of the day (which was made clear @ the very start) was they *must* jump on the first attempt. It doesn't have to look pretty, but they have to always get from point A to point B. And you know what? Miss Si really tried. She wasn't always entirely sure where to put her feet, but she definitely had the pointA/pointB concept down.

So much so that she made up random fences! hahaha like when I missed the turn (going a *little* too fast) and so we ended up jumping the puddle at the edge of the ring (a lovely jump, just not entirely intentional) and going for a short canter through the grass. hahaha

As soon as she had the pole/x/pole concept down a 2nd fence was added to the game. It was an X (yeah -- we like Xs :), and it was a civilized four strides away from the first one (three from the pole). Now fortunately we HAVE done related distances at home before so this was not entirely new... Still the first time in there was enough hesitation that while we did technically do it in 4 strides, we *really* should've put in 5. hahaha can we say long spot anybody? Also known as the flying leap! The next time we landed w/ a little more intent and things worked out better. And THEN the back rail went up. Yup that's right -- that'd be Sienna's first ever oxer. In a strange place. With brightly coloured poles. But I tell you, other that being 3' higher and wider than necessary she had nearly perfect form over it. Certainly wasn't concerned or backed off by it. I was pretty excited I gotta admit :)

And then it's time for XC. "Trot down to that little fence in the treeline" -- ok fair enough. Well except for the whole trot DOWN part. hahaha We've only ever trotted on flat surfaces before. I certainly wasn't about to mention this though -- so Shan and I gamely trot down to the lovely little baby fence. Sienna was allowed to walk around it but not to stop and check it out (which I agree w/ entirely so I was quite happy about that)... and I took her for a stroll in the other field so she could see where we were going to be landing (said baby jump is in a tree-line -- thought that might be a little much for her first non "log" xc fence ever). Tuffy (isn't that a great name???) went first and kindly hung out in the other field so Si had someone to jump to -- and she did it. It definitely wasn't pretty and there was certainly some hesitation, but she got from point A to point B :) 2nd try was at canter and significantly better.

And that's enough of that -- time to move onto another fence. I actually really like that -- hate drilling the same jump over and over once they've got it. Zel taught me that *g* A bored horse is a creative horse. hahaha My only concern was WHICH fence we went to. Back up on top of the hill, jumping towards the stad. I'm sure most of you know the fence I'm talking about, standard 2nd fence on the GV entry course -- three logs on a nice inviting up-slope on top of the hill... T and P jumps on either side as wings, etc etc. As friendly as they come right? Except that it's about twice the height of anything she's ever jumped. hahaha minor detail. And apparently completely irrelevant. She *launched* over it. I was entirely catapulted -- n the peanut gallery was quite amused by the excess height involved (got some great pics of that game!). hahaha the feeling was basically that of walking up to a 3'6" oxer and jumping it. Prob being, when I aim to jump a 3'6" oxer at a walk, I'm fully prepared for the launch. This one... Man not so much. I'm quite certain there was no point of me actually in contact w/ my horse at that moment. Fortunately we did land together -- and even more fortunately since I was trying *really* hard not to land on her back (cause really don't want her to have any negative associations with jumping) I somehow managed to land w/ my feet back in the stirrups so could stay up off her back but yeah -- graceful it was not. Entertaining, however, it was :) After the 2nd try which, even though I was prepared, I was still launched I said something to Bob about "I just can't hold my position over that" to which I got "nobody could hold their position over that -- don't worry about it." hahaha and a few suggestions as to how to make it work better (these actually made a HUGE difference so will absolutely be keeping that in mind when Si meets new jumps from now on. Can't *always* hold it but still better than nothing). Anyways -- cantered around over that one a third time which was not quite as dramatic. Then it was time to put them together. So Tuffy (who's basically solid @ PT -- Shan was being very patient babysitting us *g* Tuffy was being not so patient -- that whole bored = creative thing... and doing random rodeo auditions to keep life interesting) -- anyways, Tuffy went first jumped the fence cantered down to the other one and jumped into the other field. Where Sienna couldn't see him. My instructions "jump the first fence, *trot* down the hill, jump the 2nd fence" No problem (remember we trotted down this hill for the first and *only* time like 10 min before). Except that Sienna was evidently more concerned about "those trees ATE Tuffy!!!!" than listening to minor details in instructions like "trot". hahaha so we jumped the first fence, made the turn to go down the hill -- at which point she could see Tuffy was still very much alive and having fun doing the rodeo thing and well, she'd better just run over to make sure. I asked for trot. She wanted to gallop. We compromised with one of the nicest canters I've ever had on her. Unfortunately she was SO focused on Tuffy she neglected to acknowledge the baby fence between her and him. hahahaha slightly less than graceful. But again, did get from A to B.

Next challenge was a cute little cordwood jump. Again bigger than anything she's seen before -- BUT smaller than what we've just done so should be easy right? hahaha yeah. Here we have a case of "never teach your horse something you want her to forget". She *did* get from point A to point B -- but she did it by jumping out to the left over the corner and basically crashing in all sorts of unkewl ways. The next attempt was a more graceful version of the same. Oops. Evidently this is the way this game is played. So Bob goes into the woods to get "wings" and I'm thinking boooo -- don't get wings in competition. May be necessary but still feel sort of defeated needing them. BUT he put the "wings" up as flags. So they're not wings in the sense I think of them but rather exactly as XC flags -- which you DO get in competition. And she jumped it beautifully! Although the pics reveal *why* she was opting for the side route. hahaha apparently she was having issues judging how *wide* the fence was. Gotta luv greenbeans :)

So Si got a bit of a break while Tuffy the pro-star got to do some PT type fences. Then it was down to the ditch. Sienna was amazing. Absolutely amazing. I've never started a baby over a ditch as easily as that one did. And it was a reasonably wide ditch too. The serious advantage was that it was *very* shallow so if she wanted to go in it she could. Walked her through it the first time and then after that she jumped it like an old pro. Now the actual pro felt that this should be far more dramatic than was actually called for and attempted to restructure his rider's face in the process. I only know two people who consistently injure themselves without falling OFF the horse -- and both were there today! hahaha Stephy however, managed the whole day injury free though (well minus the rather stunning sunburn -- this is why they invented HATS girl -- seriously!). Anyways -- Shan got seriously bonked over the ditch on one attempt, but in true eventer style continued on regardless. And Tuffy redeemed himself schooling the bank -- up and down like no problem. Sienna skipped that one and we went to the baby one instead. This one is in the treeline and heading towards home (I'm wondering if there's ever been a stop at that in competition -- I honestly can't think of a more inviting up-bank I've ever seen). And again, first try we followed Tuffy, who disappeared through the trees. Well Miss Si wasn't about to be left behind and was entirely willing to leave out strides to get there! hahaha yeah remember that whole "don't teach your horse something you want them to forget" thing? Sure enough, second try (alone this time) we were dead on to the perfect spot, except that she choose not to actually land there but rather to take a flying leap from the stride before it! Oops. Left that for a moment and tried the down version. Tuffy wasn't so tuff here, so Sienna lead the way -- and just walked off as calm as could be. I was seriously impressed with her for that. No hesitation, no flying leap, just "I got it" and down she goes... I seriously think our bushwacking hacks have helped a ton w/ this. She's gotten used to climbing over/up/down various obstacles. The first time we try to do it faster than a walk might be interesting, but really -- that doesn't have to happen this year ;) Decided things were going well, we'd add in... Following Tuffy's lead again, we took the roll-top to the step (Tuff took the stairs instead -- a bit more interesting for him). Si wasn't sure about the rolltop but she gave it a really solid effort and of course flew up the step missing that spot AGAIN. I swear that Spot had a name tag and was sitting there barking at her but she STILL didn't see it! hahaha Tuffy, otoh felt the need to rather exuberantly celebrate his stair climbing abilities putting in a reasonable audition for the 8-Second award at the top and jamming Shannon's thumb in the process (remember that whole injury w/o following off thing? I mean really, is this a title you really *want* to keep claiming?) So Sienna went back down alone to go do it by herself, and this time I was rather more insistent that you WILL wait for the civilized Spot (who's been waiting soooo patiently for us) and it was perfect. I don't say that very often, but this one really was. She jumped straight and bravely and not overly huge over the roll-top and actually listened when I asked for balance and pace control to the bank. I was beyond thrilled.

Then we got to play in the water -- and after playing in the river on our hacks and then @ Shan's the day before (and that was *deep* -- my boots got wet! - and had a reasonable current) Sienna really has absolutely no concerns about water any more. Still hates mud, but water is just fine. So quite happy to go through this and eventually jump in and out. I wanted to take the roll-top out, but Bob vetoed it. Ah well -- next time :) So we just stuck to the stad fence set up on one side. Then eventually raced Tuffy to the traditional "Rock n Rail" fence (T did the higher one obviously) and we were done.

SO much fun. As you can probably tell by the novel I've just posted :) Pic's'll be up whenever I get them from Shannon's computer -- thanks tons Stephy for taking them all!!!!!


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