Monday, January 7, 2019

XC Clinic with Dan!

I'll probably eventually write more about my goals this year, including a more in-depth look at those 9 bullets. In developing that list, I spent a lot of time planning my budget especially with regard to the whole "invest in becoming a better rider" bit.

Way back in 2015 I wrote about my training dream team - the group of trainers who have been the most influential in my riding: Trainer P, Trainer C, and Dan C. Tho, if you've only been following since 2018, you are forgiven for not being familiar with those last two, considering in 2018 I rode with Dan once, and Trainer C just 3 times.

And why is that? Honestly?? Probably mostly laziness. But like, that passive, tacit kind of laziness. The logistics of riding with both Trainer C and Dan changed after I left Isabel's barn, and I've been slow to adapt. Riding with them now requires more advanced planning in terms of scheduling and budgeting.

Realistically tho, their lessons are 1,000% worth it to me, so my goals for 2019 include committing to a sustainable plan for riding regularly with both. Right now, the tentative idea is to ride with either C or Dan every month, probably alternating between them as makes sense.

some days i swear charlie is taller than other days lol
So when Loch Moy advertised a clinic with Dan on their all-weather arena cross country courses.... Well, it was a no-brainer. Clearly this would be my January lesson!

And it was a good one. I've written before that it's been a while since I've gotten feedback on cross country riding. Our 2018 schooling sessions mostly did not have the advantage of professional eyes on the ground. Not for lack of trying, mind you, but that's how it goes sometimes.

last time we got this view was back in 2015
Luckily Charlie has continued progressing all the same, and has no problem rocketing around over T fences despite his decidedly amateur training. But.... ya know. We could use some refinement haha. Esp as we tread through waters unfamiliar to both of us.

Essentially, I'm pretty hungry for a challenge right now, and I think Charlie is too. But there are some things I've been reluctant to try on my own (mostly relating to combination questions). Unfortunately this would not be the lesson for addressing that - partly bc I was a little too slow / passive in explaining my goals to Dan, and also partly bc it ended up being the wrong group.

warm up exercise described more below
Don't get me wrong - it was a very good group of horses and riders. But they had different agendas and goals, and had signed up for N, not T. One pair is preparing for the step up to N, and the other was a very new partnership (just about one month, I think) getting the feel for each other. So we focused more on the fundamentals of xc as they relate to maintaining pace across longer gallops and approaches. Plus a few turning exercises too, which was nice.

Dan warmed us up with a focus on adjustability. Transitions within trot, promptness to the aids, and steady pace. For instance, since there were just three of us circling him, he instructed that we maintain an equal distance from each other and adjust pace as needed. He also had us do our canter transitions from different trots - one lead from a bigger working trot, and the other lead depart from a very collected "trot in place" trot.

warm up focused on adjustability and lead changes
For Charlie, our working trot needed to be bigger, and our collected trot needed to be more collected. I guess I've kinda settled into this sorta blah in-between trot, and need to be less wishy washy about it. Good food for thought!

The warm up then moved to very low fences. I cut this out of the video bc it doesn't look like much from the helmet cam, but the gist was doing a figure of 8 over two intro fences. The landing from each fence involved a very short turn inside of other obstacles (during which turn we should be doing lead changes as needed).

N log roll
Dan wanted one fence in the figure 8 to be taken out of stride. He explained this doesn't mean not having a long or short stride to it, but rather it means having even strides to the fence. That the stride isn't shortening or lengthening to the fence, but that the fence is jumped from the same stride we're already on. The other fence he wanted on a shorter more collected add stride.

So the warm up exercise was: jump fence 1 out of stride, short inside L turn, collect to fence 2, short inside R turn, open the canter back up and jump fence 1 again out of stride, wash rinse repeat.

BN table
From there we started putting stuff together. Mostly very small fences - honestly Charlie probably jumped the most intro and BN fences since.... uh, March 2018.... But again, the focus was pace and balance. Which realistically are harder to maintain with Charlie over small fences that he doesn't respect. So it was good practice.

It was kinda funny bc Charlie had a little trouble locking on to the smaller fences. Like it wasn't immediately clear to him that "Yes Sir, we are jumping that" vs when you aim him at something bigger and can feel him immediately puff up and draw in toward the fence.

literally my only jump pic from the ride, off a BN fence we kinda biffed lol. go figure!
And actually, he was kinda spooky about some of the fences! Like when we did a little loop from an intro jump, turning R to a BN jump, turning R to an N log roll (first sequence in the video) and he jumped the shit out of the log roll haha.

Tho when we turned that sequence around to turn L, the turns were predictably a lot harder. Not all of the earliest lesson footage is included in the helmet cam (bc again it really doesn't look like much and I wasn't trying to make a 6min video, ya know?) but this sequence in particular did make the cut, mostly bc we reeeeeally kinda biffed it (above lol).

N tootsie roll. doesn't look like much but always seems to jump poorly. also does this count as "slicing" a fence? lol...
Luckily the jump out of the sharpest L turn was an extremely forgiving BN roll top (same type of fence as the T version we jumped last time) so I just sat back and let Charlie sort it out (literally the only jump picture I have of the day, womp). Which he did. Good boy.

Anyway, we moved on to another sequence of sweeping L turns, from the BN table to the BN brush table thingy, to an N tootsie roll, to another N roll top. All of which Charlie handled without issue, as he damn well should considering he schooled the T versions of all of these jumps literally a month ago.

we jumped these 3 during the lesson. Charlie jumped the T M version last month (far right edge of pic. originally thought we jumped the T, but after seeing the difference in paint brightness i'm pretty sure we jumped the M one). sigh. 
I fully admit to being sad about not aiming at the neighboring T fences instead, so it was at this point I talked more with Dan about my objectives for the day and the season ahead.

Which like. Hindsight being 20/20, I regret that it took this long in the ride to do so. Considering Dan was like, "Oh so you want to jump bigger fences? Np." and after that all our lines incorporated T fences.

spookin at the T brush haha. jumped it great anyway <3
Just another reminder to verbalize and communicate my intentions, I guess, rather than assume they're self-evident. Esp considering I've been such a yellow-bellied pansy for so long, it's reasonable my trainers are surprised I'm suddenly begging to do the bigger stuff.

N table, another one we saw on course last May
In any case tho, lest you think I'm whining too much about fence size, again the point of these exercises was about pace and technique. Dan intentionally had us doing single fences off long approaches with lots of room for galloping in between, mimicking real course work.

He wanted us approaching the fences from a forward true cross country canter, but still balanced. For Charlie, this meant actually a little less open of a canter than I would do on my own. The feeling had to stay the same tho - my leg had to stay on. But a little more balance coming from my upper body and core.

T log roll, which we also jumped last month
And Dan wanted our adjustments to happen quickly after a fence. Charlie likes to land and RUN, so it was my job to land and regroup immediately, then maintain a steady stride to the next fence.

Anyway the next sequence was the N tootsie roll going the other way, bending back toward the swoopy brush tables, but this time we jumped the T version, then continue on to the N table and finishing over the T log roll. All of which Charlie aced <3

skinny T coop that isn't really skinny when it's flanked by other fences
Then we went down to the lower ring to finish out the lesson. We did some cursory introductory work with the ditch that was kinda comical - just trotting single file over it, but the first horse ran out and the second balked and then Charlie bringing up the rear was like "WTF is going on here?" but jumped it anyway despite the pile up of horses. Probably the one part of the lesson I distinctly feel was... uh, not additive to Charlie's education haha.

not included in the video, but i couldn't deprive you of the hilarity!!
Then a little trot through the water, before putting together our final sequence of the day: Skinny T coop (skinny, sure, but nestled in the middle of a line of jumps so not truly asking a skinny question), through the water, then up to the T garden gate.

Actually, the gate was flagged T but I'm about 90% sure it's actually the N version of that jump, bc I think the T version is shaped like a "u" rather than the "n" shape of this jump. Idk tho.

proof that we did actually accomplish the ditch in a civilized manner, tho we didn't do anything else with it
Charlie handled it all easily and in watching the video I kinda wish we had continued on to the T corner that was right there intended to be jumped on a line after the garden gate.... Oh well. We'll get it next time haha.

wheeeee water!!!!
Even tho we never quite got to the challenges I was hoping for, it was still a full hour and a half in the saddle and Charlie had been a super star for all of it. The rest will come on some other day (hopefully not in the too distant future).

Takeaways from the clinic include being quicker in my adjustments to our pace, and more definitive. Both on the flat and while we jump. My aids should make a distinct and prompt difference. Turning exercises (particularly to the Left) also continue to need work.

charlie's got this garden gate figured out
But all in all? Mostly the lesson was one of reaffirmation. Charlie is in a good place.

And when I told Dan about my goals for the season, he agreed Charlie is well on track, and that the qualifications idea was a good goal for the horse.

we can all agree that charlie looks mighty proud of himself all the same <3
More is needed (always and forever). But it's only January, after all. I'm hoping to take full advantage of our current mild weather while it lasts. But at some point winter will settle in and we'll be left to marinate on all these takeaways until spring time.

So maybe I'm feeling a bit like a squirrel right now - trying to collect and hoard as many acorns as possible to sustain us through those winter months lol. And this clinic definitely counts as another acorn in the cache. Hopefully there will be more soon too!


  1. YAY! glad you got a good xc lesson in with dan! looks like it was great for both of you

    1. definitely!!! all these lessons ever make me want is MOAR lessons haha

  2. Woohoo, that looks like it was so fun! Even the biff picture really isn't that biffy :) Glad you got so much saddle time!

    1. ha thanks! definitely a ton of fun, i wish this place was closer to home so we could go all the time!!

  3. It sounds like a really beneficial lesson! And so right, it's only January. You're building up for a great year ahead.

    1. aw i hope so! and definitely a beneficial lesson - it's hard for me to get a good feel for charlie's canter bc it can increase in stride length so easily without me noticing. our work on pace in this ride was super helpful in that regard!

  4. That ditch gif was my life with Gem. Good boy Charlie for doing the thing regardless of the bottleneck. Charlie's brain is amazing...even when things aren't perfect he knows that he is supposed to jump so jump he does.

    1. he really is such a good boy, and i think he honestly likes the game!! definitely makes life easier lol!

  5. OMG Charlie's calling is to be a steeple chase horse! He clearly has no issue jumping next to other horses. As well as showing them the way!
    Sounds like a great lesson! So jealous you are doing xc in January!

    1. omg he LOOOOOOOVES jumping in company haha! loves it! i'm pretty sure it's his favorite - like when we did our fun hunter pace last summer, and the hunter trials pairs/teams rides this past fall. he is super happy jumping around with other horses - definitely even more motivation to get him out on the hunt field one of these days!!

  6. Sounds like it was a fun xc outing! Charlie certainly had no issue jumping near other horses lol. You two looked great!

    1. ha he ought not have any issues with jumping in company - he's had plenty of practice at it!

  7. yahoo for getting a jump start on those clinics already!! the first of many, i imagine!

    1. i hope so - definitely eager for a year full of learnings haha

  8. That pile up at the ditch. Man that didn't go the way that was planned. It sounds like a really productive lesson. I look forward to hearing how future Dan lessons go. :)

    1. lol yup - definitely didn't go exactly to plan, but was a learning moment all the same haha. hopefully it won't be too long of a wait before another lesson, but all our local pros are on the verge of making their annual pilgrimage to aiken for the winter season, so we'll see....

  9. Charlie DOES look pretty proud of himself there. And that chestnut is cuuuute.

    1. that chestnut is super cute haha, and just a little bebeh!

  10. Sometimes refining something at a lower level really pays off in the more advanced work (at least I find that in dressage). I'm glad that you are getting into the training you wanted.

    1. thanks - that's my thoughts too!! like on one hand i kinda want to take advantage of the mojo whenever i feel it, but on the other hand i know that there are many many many moving pieces in the picture and we don't have to do them all at once. all in good time, right? ;)

  11. Ah I am glad you were able to ride with Dan again!

  12. You guys look great, and good on you for taking the initiative to step it up!

  13. Alright - I am going to say it. If you are asking Dan to point you at the bigger jumps, I am not so sure you can continue to be "Fraidy Cat Eventing" hahaha. More like Fraidy Cat Reformed. ;-)

    Charlie looks super happy to be out there doing some XC stuff.

  14. Wow- it looks like you accomplished a lot! And that facility is SO freaking dreamy! Jealous!

  15. That's a whole lot of riding! Sounds like a great lesson

  16. "Right now, the tentative idea is to ride with either C or Dan every month..." I like the idea of a goal that is within your control (as much as anything is with horses). Riding at this show, or winning that title, depend on so many outside factors. One can have a brilliant year but still "fail". Ask me how I know. Anyway. Good luck with your plans & goals.


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