Here there be dragons...

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

Day Four: The pieces come together

Woke up today to thunder and lightening.   I happen to love a good thunderstorm, so not tragic, but admittedly less good for riding.   Ah well.   Drive to the barn to find...   Sunlight!  Sweet.

Getting towards the end of the week now, and wanted to get some pretty intense lessons in, so opted to skip the practice rides in favour of longer lessons.  I decided to take a quick ride on Athena while the girls were taking care of their horses.  Had great intentions of doing real dressage, but it was nice and warm and *sunny* out - despite the ominous forcast, so I figured I had a chance of beating the weather and decided to ride outside.

Great idea -- she's been on exactly one hack so far this year.  It's crisp and sunny and she's alone -- except for the horses she can see being turned out in the distance.  Each one of whom requires a greeting and inspection.  hahaha she was, shall we say, a *little* distracted.

But, to be fair, she wasn't the only one.  I was enjoying the stunning weather when I happened to look over at the pond that was reflecting a brilliant turquoise colour -- and on it were floating two ducks.  And for some reason that totally made my morning.  It's the little things in life -- what can I say?

Eventually though we got our act together and, after *lots* of cantering and some bouncing around, finally settled into some really nice work.  And as soon as we managed that, I deemed it entirely too perfect a morning to be doing dressage, so we went out hacking :)   She bounced her way along till we got about half way around the first field and then she settled and was absolutely perfect the rest of the way.  Which is making me look forward to show season just that much more!

So I returned to the barn, totally relaxed and happy, and was excited to discover the timing was perfect -- both horses were groomed, and Olivia was just tacking up.   Took care of Athena and was ready to teach just as Olivia was ready to ride.  And since the weather was still seriously decent out, she too rode outside.  The focus of her lesson was on accuracy and effectiveness.  We practiced various test movements paying special attention to exactly where they were going and when various transitions were happening.   I think Olivia might be riding 20m circles and center lines in her sleep after today :)  hahaha but she was able to put it all together and today's practice test was a significant improvement over yesterday's.  Sweet!

Then it was Chelsea's turn -- her lesson was focused on transitions and getting Lissy a little more consistently through and in steady rhythm.  That's a lot to do all at once, but Chelsea was up to the challenge.   Lissy went from running around the ring like a sewing-machine gone mad, to a nice rhythmical stretchy trot that was consistently connected and leading really close to being on the bit.  I was really happy with what I saw.  Awesome dressage Chels!

After horses were put away we had our lunch break - once again with puppy entertainment.  Warmer outside than in so we picnicked again :)   Today's lunch conversation was course designing -- which, when given the chance to try, the girls found a little more challenging than anticipated!  With some guidance though they got a reasonable course designed and we went out to the ring to build it.  I *might've* stepped in and told them where the fences should go for the related distances -- both for safety and time saving (cause let's be honest, if it's not right, I'm the one who'll have to move it for them later >;-P)  but they got everything built and significantly faster than their first jump building attempts earlier this week.   Sweet.

Horses back in from the field and tacked up.  Arena windows open for a breeze -- how great is it that we want that in March?  :)   Course set.   Good to go.  Amy and Jack joined in the jump set and all three riders warmed up.  This time they figured out appropriate warmup exercises on the first try -- pretty happy about that.

Now in competition, at least in eventing, you don't get to jump all the fences before you do it for real -- you get three, usually very boring, warmup fences somewhere away from the competition ring, and that's about it.  We didn't have another riding area, so two specific fences were designated warmup fences and after jumping over them a few times with focus on the three Ps: pace, path, position - it was time to give the course a try.   Our course had 12 jumps.   Cool eh?   For two of the riders I'm reasonably certain that's by far the biggest course they've ever done, and pretty sure it applies for the third too (at least in recent history!).  So step one -- memorize the order of the fences.  Step two -- figure out how you're going to ride them.  Step three -- do it.

No problem.

Chelsea got volunteered to be the first victim... Ummm rider :)   Always hardest to be first -- you *really* have to know where you're going because you can't watch.  AND you have to know what you're doing because you can't see where the monsters appear for the other riders.   She gave it a really solid effort.  The turn from fence 3-4 was quite technical and they didn't make it on the first try, but she gamely reorganized and was over on the second!   Then she made it *almost* all the rest of the way around flawlessly -- the only catch was she jumped the wrong fence 11.  hahaha made the line a whole lot easier for herself :)   But I can understand that.

Olivia followed up, but wasn't quite able to learn from Chelsea's mistakes -- making the exact same one at that evil fence four!  She did, however, get all 12 in the correct order and with all the rails up.  Sweet.

Amy was clearly paying close attention, because after the first two riders she rode fence four *very* determinedly and got over it clear and straight -- beautiful really.   But then she celebrated just a little too long and pulled the rail at fence 5.  *sigh*   That'd be my classic move -- ride the difficult fence as a pro and completely miss the gimmie fence.   Ah well - she jumped around the rest of them clean and in order :)

And the one thing they *all* discovered:  jumping a course of 12 fences is far more challenging than jumping a single fence 12 times.  An important thing to note for those who want to compete -- if you're going to show over courses, you have to practice courses!   All of them felt their position and effectiveness disintegrating through the course.  Chelsea did the best at keeping it together throughout -- but she's also the rider who'll do endless posting trot with no stirrups even when she doesn't have to, so I'd say she's earned it.

What they all did REALLY well though that I was super happy about was ride accurate lines.  Lines were straight, rhythm was good, they used all their space well, no cutting corners.  Dressage came shining through the show jumping -- exactly as it should.  So I was pretty thrilled at that.

Everybody got a second try which was significantly better than the first all-round.  Clear rounds, more rhythmical and with lots more confidence.  Sweet.  Then each got a chance to clean up one thing (one was working on position, the others: number of strides in a line).  And then we could leave it on that.

All the pieces of the week starting to come together with what they'll need for show season.  And now all have a pretty good idea of what's left to work on!  But it was a ton of fun.   And sitting grazing the horses in the afternoon sunshine...  Well it just doesn't get much better than that :)


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