Let's start with the lesson, which we moved to the cross country field in preparation for our upcoming events and to test how well I'm internalizing our lessons.
We went to An Otherwise Perfect Farm - apparently one of Dan's favorite places to school, tho I had never been before. It's easy to see why it's so popular tho. We primarily stayed in one HUGE field set on a large hillside - with jumps and combinations set out everywhere in arrangements for practicing anything you might desire to practice.
He also had us try for a lead change while galloping. Apparently it's easier when they go faster? Idk. I opted to try a left-to-right change, since Izzy will do those automatically sometimes. And whadya know, she did it! Even so, tho, I still did simple changes from right to left throughout the schooling when circumstances called for balance and organization...
|bn roll tops on a slightly angled line|
Then course 1 started with reversing the warm up course - the coop going to the line of BN red roll tops, then turning down to the bottom of the field to catch two novice roll tops in a balanced 6 strides (tho I did 5.5), then allllll the way back up the hill to a one stride in-and-out over two logs.
|novice roll tops|
|this in-and-out rode well in both directions|
All the related lines over short distances was pretty interesting to work on - since that's not something I've done much in xc practice. I guess it helps keep the horse sharp and serves as an obvious litmus test for whether I've allowed Isabel to get strung out?
Next we turned it around again - starting with the in-and-out logs then cantering alllllll the way down the hill toward the novice roll tops. I asked Dan if I should go for the 5 this time, esp given the downhill approach, and he again said to do the 6. He warned that getting strung out and overly long-strided on a downhill approach was a recipe for disaster, and that I needed to just focus on the canter (as always).
Well, I still kinda barely fit in the 6, tho it was better than the first time. Then we curved up left to catch a bench on the way uphill then continue all the way up to jump the big corner. What a thrilling feeling when Isabel jumped both beautifully!
Dan wanted us being very careful to not get strung out going up hill too - saying that it's actually easier to lose your canter going up hill vs down hill. I tried to really keep everything super organized and felt like this was our best course of the bunch - everything came up roses (especially the benches!!) .... right up until the very end where we biffed the corner big time and I almost ate it.
|big wide bench on an uphill approach|
But upon reflection, I think it boiled down to our canter (as always) and a little complacency on my part. We had just nailed 6 fences that are all challenging for us in their own right, and I kinda forgot that it wasn't easy - that just bc you jumped 6 with no problem doesn't mean that the 7th won't send you ass over teakettle. Oops.
There was a long stretch of uphill canter after the second bench heading straight to the spot we had been finishing on for every course. And we had a somewhat blind turn to the corner. You'll see on the video that Isabel is practically asleep on her feet as we make the turn past the chevrons to the corner (watch her ears). Totally zoned out, just cantering.
She locked on to the corner about four strides out, but I don't think she ever really read it right and I never pulled the canter together enough. So she knocked it hard enough to pop me out of the tack and up onto her neck. Thank god she's a saint and kept her neck up while I wiggled back into the saddle!
(I did you the service of editing out the 1:30 minutes of lecture that mistake at the corner earned me.... possibly the most words i've ever heard dan string together in a row....)
We went back and fixed the corner, then moved on to other things. Namely - the holy trinity of eventing: ditches, banks and water. Isabel and I were both pretty gassed at this point so things got a touch sloppy (did I mention it was hot out?? bc it was REALLY hot!). But we made it work.
|baby ditches still require attention and careful riding|
Our other lesson mate tied the trakehner on the far left of the pic above into this course instead of the ditch.... but I declined. Sure, it's more of a rider frightener than anything else... but I just didn't quite feel up to it. One close call per schooling is enough for me. It felt a little bit like a cop out, but Dan agreed that I shouldn't be jumping anything that makes me worry about crashing. So we'll save trakehners for another day.
|fun irish banks!|
|log out of the water (note the splashes all around us)|
Dan was especially clear here that I should not be worrying about distances. The logs were small enough that it was more important that I pay attention to our canter, keep the mare in front of my leg, and stay in the back seat with my legs on while Isabel sorts herself out.
Following that, we were DONE. FINISHED. OUT OF GAS. Haha. Isabel is such a good girl - but I think the heat and hills took a bit out of her, and the near miss at the corner took a bit out of me.
It was a great lesson tho - really eye opening about a lot of things. I absolutely 100% can NOT get complacent on course. As Isabel gets tired she WILL lose energy and get strung out, and it will take a lot more effort to put her together again. But it's imperative that I do so, lest we risk actually hanging a leg.
Dan also suggested wearing spurs, since it becomes increasingly difficult to get Isabel in front of my leg as the ride progresses. Some of this will get easier with improved fitness, but in the meantime I should consider spurs an 'insurance policy.'
Phew.... writing that all out kinda made me tired all over again haha. BUT - we're not finished yet!! We have a contest winner to announce!!!
Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my 'One Year' post - it was really wonderful reading all about why you like this blog and choose to follow along!
And, the winner of 'Fraidy Cat Eventing's $25 gift card to SmartPak is.... *drum roll please*: Karen from Bay with Chrome!
Congrats and I will be in touch!