Here there be dragons...

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

XC Adventures @ GV

So do you remember the story of the disastrous day at Grandview? I could post a link here, but really... I'd rather not :) And then the far less entertaining, far more disastrous clinic a few weeks ago where my little horse learned that ditches are to be feared?

Alright so combine those two days and you know where I started when I called Bob and asked if I could bring Sienna up to GV for a lesson. Their show was last weekend, so I knew everything would be in great shape and with no other shows on this weekend, I had hopes he might be available.

Yup, good to go. I can come up on Sat. Of course it's supposed to be pouring rain on Sat (after weeks of stunningly gorgeous weather) but such is my life. In my request I believe I asked for scary stadium fences, ditches and banks. And in mind there are two other fences on his course I wanted to jump too but they were pretty low priority. And I knew fully well I was asking a lot because as we all well know that is not ONE lesson I was requesting. But I figured we'd go up and get through whatever we get through.

So while I'm setting this up, my friend Anna (for those who've been following this blog from the beginning, this is the same wonderful Anna who petsat Bilbo - my rabbit - for several months for me so I could go to Denny's), calls to ask something about GV (don't remember what exactly) because she really wants to go have a lesson there. So of course I invite her to come play with Sienna and I :) Always more fun with a 2nd person! And clearly meant to be after that timing. So after a little bit of time shuffling we had it all set up.

Sat am rolls around, stupidly early, and I'm sick :( Very icky sick. Fortunately to me it seems as though it were something I ate (and the timing was such that that'd make sense -- several hours after last meal etc). So as miserable as I was, I had hopes I'd still be ok to ride. Esp as I had cancelled TWICE with B before (she who *never* cancels lessons) and so was not about to cancel again shy of a lame horse (and even then I'd still have taken Anna). Fortunately for me, we had an afternoon lesson booked, so I had most of the morning to recover.

Head out to the barn, feeling almost human. Feed beast, hook up trailer. Have the timing down to the second -- just long enough to get everything packed and groom and load Sienna. No problem. Except that when I went in the barn one of my students was seriously stressing over the rider exam she was prepping for (to do on Sun) and things were deteriorating rapidly. So I had to take a little while to help her get sorted out, solve the issue she was having, and then kick her out to go hack or jump or something and have fun *g* (it's not too often I tell my students they're not allowed to work, but sometimes, it's necessary. For the record, she passed the exam with flying colours :). So this is all well and good, but now I'm supposed to be pulling out the driveway and the truck's still not packed and the pony's still in the field. hmmmm less good.

Pack up truck in record time (it's not as though I can't do that in my sleep by now :) and go get Sienna from the field (who thankfully almost always comes when she's called). She's only filthy on ONE side so that's a start. hahaha Fastest grooming job ever (hey at least my tack was clean!). Load Si and off we go. Get to Anna's about half-hour late... Fortunately for me I'd added in an extra half hour when planning the timing. And since her horse loads as well as Si, we were off in no time.

So bright blue skies until we were about to leave the highway and suddenly dark ominous clouds the direction we want to go. Classic. But A usually has *good* luck with weather, so we were really hoping her luck would outweigh mine. Pull into GV with 2 minutes to spare -- which sounds great till you realize we haven't tacked up yet. Fortunately B was busy with a dressage lesson that was running late, so we had time to unload, tack up, and head over there without seeming to be all that late. hahaha We were quick about it, but not as frantic as it might've been (I even snagged a few seconds to run another brush over Sienna so she wouldn't be quite so appallingly turned-out).

Head down to dressage world where B is finishing up his previous lesson. Has this awesome new footing -- except that Sienna wanted nothing to do with it. Stepped on it very tentatively, snorting and looking at it. But her usual options for scary footing are jump over it or run across it. And neither of those work in a giant ring she's expected to work in. Poor girl. Trying to keep all four feet from touching it -- but very carefully. No bucking or silliness, just anxiety and some quick steps. I could feel her heart pounding top speed. And she never did chill out about it. B's lesson ends and he joins us, "so how's your mare?" "As you see." I answer with a roll of the eyes as she snorts, yet again, at the footing. "Looking for a confidence building school."

Ok so with that beginning we trek up to stadium. Usually when I go there to school XC we warm up in what is the stad w/u area in their competitions (so on sand but not in the actual show ring). And the flags flapping around the T+ course (on grass) definitely catches her attention, but she's not bad. In fact she's pretty much the opposite of the horse I had the last time I was there. Doesn't want to go forward! Had to really work just to get her to trot. Sheesh.

Gradually build up a gymnastic. Nice, easy, inviting. Great start with the whole confidence boost thing given that Sienna can do gymnastics in her sleep. And A's horse is far more experienced than Si so they're good to go :) So at this point I had figured stad was a no-go and we'd just go out on XC. Fair enough. Except B clearly remembered my less-than-good results at the last show. "I think I should send you in the stadium ring." hahaha yes please! Now the only thing we cheated on was that she had a minute or two to walk around the ring (and shy at the flags and the judges booth) before we had to jump. Which always helps and you generally don't get in competition (unless the person in front of you demolishes the course :). But we jumped the course that was there without introducing her to the fences first. And while it wasn't always pretty, and at least one fence was in trot, she did jump clear and did keep her brain between her ears. So that was good.

THEN we got to go out on XC. Meander over to the start box and the first two fences on the E course are super inviting and in a reasonably straight line (down a dip - not really a hill - up a dip inbetween). So the idea is we trot down passed the 2nd one, turn around n jump them both backwards towards home, then turn and jump the PT 1st fence. And as I trot away Sienna is being super-nappy, so I'm having visions of the mad gallop back to her friend, but actually she jumped both very quietly and the PT one just about perfectly. Ok, good start.

So then it was jump the E ones away from home, pick up the third one on the E course then go into the next field and jump something there. All good, except after the second one Si was all about turning home to her new friend. So when I not only make her keep going away but also turn decidedly the opposite direction, this did not go over so well. So now I'm fighting not only to keep her going the direction she'd rather not, but also to get her to jump the coup she wanted nothing to do with. Less than good *sigh* Did eventually get her over it and into the second field. Where I opted not to battle over the next fence but instead made her hang out till her buddy got there. Once he was hanging out on the other side of the last fence, then we went and did it :) hahaha so B hiked way out to where we were and we did a few more combos involving the fences she was sticky with and a couple others -- no more issues, except that the unwillingness to go away was becoming more evident. Going to have to work on that one. No bolting back towards though, so that's a start.

Then the DITCH. Ohhhh/ahhhh. Now to put this in perspective -- this ditch is the first one Sienna *ever* jumped (last spring) and she had no problems with it. It is also on the T course and regularly eats people (you could see the scuff marks from all the abrupt stops the wknd before). So we go the easy way first -- and it's shallow enough she can walk through it, so I'm pretty determined about this one. And she stops and starts shooting backwards. Blah. But B just takes her and leads her across. Yeah! Then we do it on our own (at this point still in walk and still stepping IN the ditch). Try it the other way (with slightly more of a downhill slope on the approach) -- stops but then goes again w/ no lead and no backwards. Better. Then in trot both ways. Then in canter both ways. Woohoo! Yeah event horse :) The one way was perfect; the other a little sticky, but still clearing it each time. I was pretty thrilled.

Then the BANK. Ohhhh/ahhhh. hahaha "just trot up that and run down the other side". Sure. Did I mention Sienna's gone up exactly 2 banks, ever? Well I'll tell ya, she did it like an old pro. "You lie!" from my coach *g* Yeah she really did make it look like she was an old school pony. hahaha So then a course. Little house, roll-back through the trees away from the friends, ditch, other little house (in the tree-line), up the bank, down the slope, over the little brush fence. Did I mention the little houses were on my "fences I'd like to school" list? Mostly cause last time we were there she wouldn't even walk near them (and at the time was too green to push it). Sure - I'll go first *g* Well I'll tell ya, I had to *really* ride each fence, and we definitely trotted the ditch, but she jumped every fence on the first try AND she let me rate her pace to set her up for the bank. I was super-thrilled. (I think B was a little puzzled why I was so excited by that :) We didn't get to school down banks today, but given how much we did that the other day @ Cedar Run and that my focus for the day was more on ditches, I was kewl with that. A was disappointed cause her horse is much better at down than up *g*

So next stop? Another ditch. This one has a bit of an awkward approach since it's part of the Int coffin, but the ditch itself is shallow and baby-friendly. First jump was perfect -- but we followed A's horse so kinda cheating. Going back the other way didn't happen -- again though this battle was entirely nappiness (didn't want to leave the other horse) and the ditch was just an excuse. So turned it into a figure 8 of jump it the easy way, keep going, loop back to jump it the hard way - and she did it (not brilliantly, but she did it). And then she focused on the int skinny with a "are you sure?" feel in her body. I could just feel the relief when I told her no she was absolutely not jumping that and she should really hold the line I put her on that went away from it :) hahaha we did that one the easy way once more and then moved on.

To another ditch. hahaha starting to see why I wanted to come here? (Well that and B's coaching of course >;-P All the better to get both in the same place :) This is the little baby ditch that's actually *on* the PT course. hahaha and she hesitated, and got growled at (literally "use your voice" -- which esp as I almost never do, startles her over the fence :) and hopped over it. Back and forth over that one a few times and on too....

The water! Woohoo. We're good at water so this is just fun :) Splash through, jump out, jump in. All good :) So then a course of ditch, random xc fence (reasonable size and scary *new* wood, but she did it well on the first try. Had to really ride it, but it worked), curve around back through the water over the little vert. Well she def stopped at the ditch. Booo. 2nd try we made it over and the rest of the course was good.

Ok one more. Ditch (other direction this time), jump into the water, and then go jump the little bench (which'd be the *other* random fence I had on my mental list of "it'd be good if she got to jump that"). This course she did really well although ridiculously nappy leaving to the first fence (umm ditch :) but once she focused on it, the rest was good.

So as the sun came out we ended on that. B hung out with us for a bit while we were getting untacked etc. Had a fairly interesting conversation about teaching philosophy (which I'm always up for - esp with those who know more than me :); S joined in for a bit of that too (which is kewl cause I've only met her once or twice). Sort of amused me since I'd had a very similar conversation w/ my weekly coach the day before. Something in the air :) Let the horses graze for a bit and have some water before loading up and heading home. Nice end to the day.

Lessons learned -- remember voice is a highly effective aid when used appropriately *g* Pony needs lots more practice leaving other horses (and I will *really* have to ride the first few fences on XC). Up banks and water are evidently no problem whatsoever. Down banks and ditches still need some work. Also needs work with going into a ring and jumping without getting to explore first (more jumper shows *sigh*). Oh and Anna's weather luck outweights mine. Woohoo!

A long day, but a good one.


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