Here there be dragons...

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

From what do pheasants feed?

So Wednesday was a brilliance or disaster kind of day...

Steph, the awesome student who came to help Hailey and I at Cedar Run despite the stupidly early start, had asked if I would take her out to school xc.   Totally reasonable request and, let's be honest, I *like* schooling xc - and if it's just one student, that means I *have* to ride too.  The things I do for my students :)

hahaha ok so where to go?  Well first we were going to go up to Myrddin and hop around there -- which would've been fine.  It's close, they have a ton of new jumps, and I know the property inside and out.  No problem.  Except that I wasn't thrilled with my last xc school, and since there's a very realistic chance this'd be the last outting of the year I wanted to make sure it was good.  And I wanted help.

So when we were up at Grandview I asked Bob if he could fit us in -- I usually go up there a couple of times a year for xc schools and it's always a good experience.  I love the variety of jumps and his coaching style - so it's a good combination.  And he's kewl with me bringing students along so that's always a plus too.  And despite short notice and a rather limited available timespan, he fit us in.  Sweet.

Loading Athena is always, ummmm, an experience.  *sigh*  But fortunately this time she got on with only minor grief - maybe 15 mins instead of 2h.   And Lissy's a pro so she just walked herself on and away we went.   On time even.  All good.

Until we're driving down Trafalgar and all of a sudden the truck and trailer start lurching in a big way.  And my digital trailer break readout starts jumping around wildly.   Not fun.   Get pulled over and stopped and go check on the horses.  Truck and trailer are still hooked up correctly; no warning lights or anything disconnected.  Horses are both shaking and clearly anxious (understandable - so was I!) but seem otherwise ok.  So we chill them out and then continue.  Stopped again right before getting on the highway just to check and both horses were once again calmly munching hay.   Strange.

Rest of the drive was entirely uneventful.  Got to Grandview and unloaded - both horses relaxed and happily grazing -- a HUGE difference from Athena's last outting!  Pull the boots off and...  Both of Lissy's hocks are scraped.  :(   Booo.   Not seriously enough to need stitches, but seriously enough that she's in no shape for a ride.  SO glad she had the boots on - can only imagine what would've happened without the extra padding!   No idea what caused it; my first guess was she tried to kick A and lost her balance.  Although my coach mentioned once he had a similar experience with a horse who freaked out when a bee got in the trailer.   I never saw anything but who knows?   What is obvious is that for whatever reason when we were going in a straight line at a consistent speed, all of a sudden all her weight went against the trailer door and her hind legs slid under her (think sitting).  Poor girl.   The trailer door is now seriously warped out.

Since she doesn't need the vet and movement will be better for her than standing and she's happy grazing along, I tack up Athena and we take both horses up to the sand ring.  I briefly considered offering Steph Athena since the whole reason we were there was for her to go xc, but both she and I know that my horse of choice has never been *her* horse of choice (and vice versa) and that her catch riding one of my horses on xc is likely to be ummmm less than successful.

Start warming up and when Bob gets there, explain about Lis.  He takes a look too and agrees with her walking along and offers us cleaning supplies when we get back.  Sweet.  So I give the 30 second rundown on Athena's history, explain some of the challenges I've been having with her, and mention our goal of starting at PT next year and if all goes well upgrading to T mid-season.   He starts us out over a tiny show jump fence on the wheel of death, that grew every two or three laps.   It wasn't nearly as accurate as I'd like -- our wheel was somewhat lopsided at times!   But at least we started consistently hitting a distance and landing on the correct lead.  So that's a start.  Then had us do a mini-course (really mini - 3 fences set at about E height).  First attempt was rather disastrous.  Second attempt after he made a few changes to my position was brilliant.  We're either *really* on or *really* not.  hahaha.   And sometime before show season starts I need to shift the balance so that the ON is a whole lot more frequent!   But it was really great to have some feedback not just about her but about me.  Because obviously the better I do it, the more I'll be able to help her.  Most of the time it's all about training her but I really appreciate when we can fix me in the process *g*

Ok and out on XC.   Jump a few E fences with some discussion about how to get/keep her butt underneath her so we can actually get to the base of the fence with some power.  First course a little iffy.  Next one with the PT fences thrown in, much better.   Switch fields...

And leave my brain behind.  hahaha   Seriously.  Was embarrassingly bad.   Not the riding - that was actually mostly getting better.  No, what was bad was how *many* times I could jump the wrong fence.   So he set a course that included "go through the gap and jump the pheasant feeder".   Ok, now I have absolutely no idea what a pheasant feeder looks like.   M had one at her place that she called that -- I always called it a mushroom.  Mostly cause, well, it looks like a mushroom.  I know - I'm creative that way. Only problem?  No mushrooms in sight.   There's a round coup off on an angle that could be a mushroom-top flat on the ground...  There's a triangle house/coup like thing.  And there's a palisade.   Now the palisade is in the gap and has a slight drop to it (which was also in the instructions).  So I point - 'over there?' -- yes.  Ok fine.  Go jump my course.

"Great job, but wrong fence.  That one's much harder than what I wanted you to do."  hmmmmm oops.   "I wanted you to go through *that* gap," pointing to a different tree line, "and jump the pheasant feeder."

Oh ok, "the one over there?" I ask, pointing to the shortened mushroom.  "How do you get there?"   What can I say, it looked like an awkward line.   "Just follow the path," he told me with an implied "you idiot" hahaha.  Oh... Ok.   Off I go.   And it *was* an awkward line.  Very awkward.  And we landed slightly out of control.   But eventually got it back together and finished the course.

Return to coach.  "You really don't want to jump that pheasant feeder do you?"  Frig.   Only one fence left.   And I can see how both ways I was pointing would've seemed like I was pointing at it.  And sure enough there is a *much* easier approach to it with a newly mowed path.   "I was *trying* to make it easy for you..."  Really, at that point there's no way to salvage the situation -- although now I know that pheasant feeders can be round OR triangle shaped, but they always have the mushroom post under them *g*.  There's your educational moment for the day.  And for the record, we jumped it beautifully.   We also got a TON of practice with the icky turn to the sharkstooth that we did following each of the wrong jumps *g*   So when we see that on competition, we're set!  hahahah   But I can't remember the last time I went off course, so to do it twice in a ROW -- when there are only 3 fences to choose from at that -- well that's so bad it becomes funny.   Only saving grace is that Bob's taught me before and knows I'm not *usually* a complete idiot.  >;-P   That and at least I made *different* mistakes each time.  Points for creativity!  Hey - I'll take em where I can get em.

And on the plus side - I got to jump several extra fences, one of which was an ok size.  And that's the first palisade I've ever done with her too.  Yeah us.

On to the ditch.  Which she shows no fear at but goes through rather than over.  hmmmm less good.  Try a couple more times and she does it better each time.   Was having some control issues at this point, esp going downhill, but they're flatwork not jump related.

Alright, on to the bank.  A couple E fences spread out to get us going then up the bank and back down again.  No prob.  Except that 3 strides in front of the first E fence she grabbed the bit in her teeth and nosedived.  Yeah - a little terrifying.  It took me a good 10 strides to get her back after that (that may not seem like much, but it felt like forever!  And if there'd been a second fence 2 strides later, we would've been in serious trouble).  Show jumped the second one - it was beautiful, but really I rode it like stadium rather than xc.  And the banks both ways np.   We got a new course in the same field but with all the PT fences instead of the E fences.   The jumps rode well and I was starting to find the right balance there, but the in-between was a battle and a half.  That whole big loose-ring snaffle thing again.   Doesn't give you a ton of power when your horse turns into a runaway freight train.  Ah well >;-P    Cantered her over the T ditch a few times - perfect.  She learns fast this one.

But at this point, while clearly the adrenaline was still there, she was lagging.  So I mentioned to Bob that I didn't have much horse left and we shortcutted the rest of the random jumps (which, let's be honest, she'd've done just fine) and headed over to the water.   Water will be an interesting challenge for us I think.  She goes in just fine, but can't seem to figure out how to *keep* moving once she's in there.   We jumped in and out over a little stad fence a few times, but the jump in, canter through, jump out....  Well I never did manage to maintain the canter all the way through and the jump out out of the trot was, shall we say, less than pretty.  *sigh*   So we got a good effort and left her on that.

And pretty clearly if we can get our act together in the other two phases as well, PT will be a totally appropriate starting place next season.  So pretty stoked about that.

Head back to the trailer, give Athena a bath (with only a *minor* meltdown at the washstall), then trade horses with Stephy and cold hose Lissy's hocks (she was not thrilled at that, but not horrid either).  Then thanks to Bob and Sarah got her cleaned up and thoroughly slathered for the ride home.

Have to admit I was a little concerned.  How to load these two horses with only two people?   I usually like to load Athena first so no horse is trapped in the trailer while she plays her games, BUT it takes two people to load her.  And with the trailer ride up being so scary, I wasn't sure either one of them would be willing to get back on *sigh*.   So I decided to try Lissy first -- she's such a sweetheart.   And she thought about it for a second, but then she followed me on, quietly as could be.   Athena took a while longer, but even from her there was no drama (now to be fair, she was *rather* tired at this point :).   Both horses loaded and treated and we could go home.

Fortunately without incident and they both unloaded beautifully.   I did call the vet the next day for Lissy, just to be sure.  He agreed that it was superficial and put her on just-in-case antibiotic and anti-inflammatory meds.  Figures she'll be good to go early next week.   Phew.

But yeah - best xc ride of the summer for me and got some much needed fine tuning.  So pretty excited about that :)


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