Thursday, October 15, 2015

quick xc school (with helmet cam!)

As previously mentioned, I took Isabel xc schooling earlier this week. This was the third and final installment of our "dot every 'i' and cross every 't' preparation tour" leading up to Sunday.

I am so grateful to have three thoughtful and talented coaches who are willing to work with me (esp when I start getting a little panicky and obsessive haha). If only finances were such that I could take these three lessons EVERY week... imagine the possibilities?!?

aopf is a very pretty farm. feels like we're on top of the world here!
Anyway, Dan agreed to meet at An Otherwise Perfect Farm, site of our last xc schooling in August. This lesson wasn't very different from last time, tho it was just me and Isabel out there and we kept things a little shorter. Didn't jump anything HUGE - but tackled all the important questions and tossed in enough N-sized stuff to boost confidence.

pretty mare and barn! less pretty manure pile lol
While warming up, Dan talked about the importance of having distinct riding styles between each phase - and that for xc he wanted my galloping position to include hands farther forward. As in, half way up Isabel's neck, with knuckles actually pressing into her neck. He used Andrew Nicholson as an example of a rider who really doesn't move his hands at all, and rather makes all his adjustments through his body and legs and core, etc.

small red roll tops! jumped these a bunch in warm up
While cantering around in this position, he told me to change directions without changing anything else, and whadya know, Isabel popped a right-to-left change. Wasn't perfect (and was most definitely late behind), but it happened and she did it all on her own. Nice to know!

Then he just started calling out jumps - beginning with a small log on the ground, then a coop, then a couple passes through the BN red roll tops from last time. And the whole idea was that I'd maintain this feeling of hands farther forward and adjusting with my body, weight and legs. So that whole sequence is in this first video below.

Then we moved on to a little more actual course work - including the same roll tops plus ditches and banks and some other stuff.

Dan spent a couple minutes telling me how I ought to ride it (pushing her up into the contact without pulling back) and I opted to include that lecture in the video. Makes for longer video , but I find it useful to listen to, and perhaps you will too?

other red roll top - not sure if this is BN or N
That course started well, was kinda iffy over the BN ditch, fine through the banks and log, then the wheels very nearly came off coming back over the N ditch and I pulled out from the line to the above roll top. And proceeded to get lectured at some more (also included for your enjoyment!).

irish banks again!!
Essentially, I missed a critical piece of the 'hands farther forward' puzzle - my hands were in the right place but I didn't adjust the reins accordingly and essentially rode with a loop through them. Whereas Dan wanted to see me pushing Isabel up into the bridle - without bringing my hands back (didn't he just say that before I started? ugh I'd be annoyed at me too lol).

He said that it should feel like Isabel is PULLING me to the fences. Not that we are going fast, but that she is pushed so far up into the bridle (and in front of my leg) that I can have my hands up her neck and still feel her pulling me forward. And that if I *don't* have that feeling - if I ride with a loopy rein or a horse behind my leg - we're gonna get that balky near-disaster at the ditch every time, and I'm not gonna be able to fix it when we find ourselves in trouble.

N ditch is a Big ditch
So off we went to do it again better, and were actually pretty successful in those efforts. Go figure - appropriately adjusted reins and leg ON makes all the difference. Who woulda thunk?

video of course 1 (with banks and ditches) here, complete with trainer commentary

Then we moved on to the last two courses (both pretty short). Really I wanted to avoid wearing Isabel out (she was EXHAUSTED after our schooling in August) so I was happy to keep things quick.

cute carrot!!! also - have you gotten the feeling yet that we jump the left side of everything? one day i will learn to properly steer to the center....
First we did a little romp around over a carrot to a cabin to the one-stride logs. Again with the same feeling of pushing Isabel up into the bridle such that I can make all necessary adjustments through my body, weight, legs, etc. And this went really well.

And actually - it's not as obvious in the video as I had hoped, but Isabel definitely asked how committed I was to the cabin. But since I had her pushed up in front of me, it was super easy to just say 'yes I am committed, please jump the jump mare!' And she jumped it just fine.

in and out logs!! these continue to ride super well
Then we moved over to the water, where Dan again explained a little more about the necessary riding technique - continuing with the same idea but pointing out that I'd have to be even MORE diligent about keeping the mare pushed up into the contact through the water.

log directly out of water
He warned that if I let her change her rhythm or get behind my leg, we'd run totally out of gas for the jump. Which, the jumps themselves weren't exactly large so he told me not to think about distances - just keep pushing her forward.

So naturally I got worried about distances at the first jump and backed off and we just barely made it over... but the second log went better.

just chillin in the water
He called it a 'tale of two rides' - saying that I second-guessed myself at the first jump and backed off when really everything had been just fine right up until the moment I squeezed in an extra stutter step. Whereas the second jump we technically arrived at a worse distance but everything worked out just peachy bc I had the mare up in front of me. This whole lecture is also included in the video.

Essentially, the takeaway of the day is: no matter what happens, keep riding forward into the contact. Always and forever amen. Isabel has the talent and ability (and education) to get us out of trouble - but she's not going to do it for me. I have to ride her such that she's best positioned to do so.

sleepy mare!
And I definitely got a feel throughout the ride for how it worked - especially our second swing through the ditches, and at the cabin and the second log in the water. Just gotta remember that feeling. Bc the other alternative - like our first time at the ditches and the first log in the water - well... under the pressure of competition that can easily turn into a full out refusal. Or worse.

she has such a dainty face lol. that's a cob-sized halter on the smallest settings!
Part of me wishes we had jumped one or two bigger things... but honestly I think the mare is fine size-wise. Especially if I ride the way I'm supposed to. And I'm starting to suspect that it's all these combinations he builds into courses - like the short lines at the red roll tops, or the one stride logs - that actually promote better jumping by Isabel, rather than just plain old big stuff. The combos make it feel like she's leaving the ground and landing again very well.

lots of grass for the good girl
Plus we'll be fresh off an appropriately sized stadium round - so that should be enough to get her eye adjusted to the height. Hopefully, haha.

So now we just settle in for the last few days - hacking out and light dressage schooling. Should be good!


  1. You really do love the left lol. That carrot is super cute, I want one of those.

    1. lol tell me about it... tho now that i'm also jumping bali (who loves the *right*) i'm starting to believe it's just a problem of not loving the center enough haha. and i love that carrot too - they have a bigger one on the other side of the field that you can see in the benches gif. so fun!

  2. You really do love the left lol. That carrot is super cute, I want one of those.

  3. Love! Thanks for including Dan's comments - super helpful! I also adore Isabel's ears in the videos. "DAT ONE NEXT?! OR DAT ONE?? DAT JUMP???!?!?!?!?" so cute!

    1. haha she's always on the lookout! and glad you found dan's comments useful. he's another one whose lectures would love to record and play on repeat while i ride....

  4. Looks like a fun adventure! Helmet cam for the win.

    1. thanks haha - this helmet cam is maybe the best thing i've ever gotten for myself lol

  5. Awesome lesson, awesome videos (: It's so great to see how obviously Izzy loves her job!

  6. What fun! Great lesson - so much to learn forever... Egh... Haha :) can't wait to hear about the event this weekend!

  7. Haha - you gotta stop singing "to the left, to the left" ;)

    And Iz is a JUMPING MACHINE. I also love the carrot jump!

    1. lol right? i have this stupid nonchalant attitude like 'eh, so long as we make it between the flags who cares?' but........ yeaaahhh i should probably jump the center at least SOME of the time ;)

  8. I love those Irish banks- they look like so much fun!! Also love Isabel's obvious joy at XC!

    1. i like the banks too! it's funny, i have zero worries about jumping up banks... but then put a jump on an uphill approach and i freak out lol. but yea izzy really does seem to like xc :D

  9. What a great schooling! Love that carrot.

  10. Great lesson!! Haha, you make me wish I still wanted to do that. XC on a horse that loves it is really unforgettable.

    Alas, so is XC on a horse that isn't as into it... ;-)

    1. xc on isabel is an experience unto itself - she's pretty incredible. but i see exactly what you mean about there being different versions of 'unforgettable' lol

  11. Looks like so much fun! Watching your helmet cam videos always makes me miss jumping.

    1. If you wanna come school her on the flat you can jump her to your heart's content!! ;)


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