Wednesday, November 13, 2019

waredaca XC

I actually have a huge backlog of stuff I want to write about at the moment. Including quite a few experiences specifically relating to Waredaca outside of this past weekend's starter trial. Like recent volunteer and educational experiences at their annual Three Day Classic. And doing the course walk with Eric Smiley. And thoughts on recent course walk experiences more generally.

And it *is* important to me to get these posts out and written, bc honestly I really love having this blog as a repository for all my horsey experiences, learnings, thoughts, ideas, etc. For whatever reason it's been challenging lately to cough up all the words -- but I am determined to do so haha. And hopefully soon.

waredaca is an absolutely stunning farm with breathtaking vistas over their scenic pond. just imagine there's the pond in the background of this picture instead of dead grass ;)
It was especially relevant this past weekend tho, bc like I said -- I've been at Waredaca a lot recently for other events. And so I had some expectations about what my own course might look like based on what I'd seen over the previous season.

Mostly: I expected terrain. And more "classic" style questions and combinations. I didn't expect anything too too crazy tho. Actually, the N3DE course a few weeks ago had wildly underwhelming waters and just did the same up bank that Izzy and I did on the starter BN back in 2015. So I felt fairly confident that my own starter N course this weekend should be well within hand, while hopefully still providing some challenging bits.

jump 1 was quite a nice pheasant feeder to get us going toward home. you can see the line of logs at 2 in the background
Secretly, I was maybe hoping that they'd just recycle the same course they used for the recognized HT recently, which was just a tad watered down from the N3DE course. It didn't quite work out that way - the middle was completely different (and shorter), but the beginning and end were the same. So ya know. Still felt like a good test overall.

So to sorta briefly recap my last post - Charlie had just come off a pretty solid show jumping where he was jumping well and easily, and covering for my mistakes. We did a single warm up fence for xc, which went very smoothly, and I opted to proceed directly to the start box at the earliest moment.

it's a good sized log, but maybe not particularly eye catching
Charlie continued his trend of leaving the start box smoothly, to my massive relief. For so long I had so much anxiety about whether he'd turn into one of those horses who refused and balked and napped at the box... But honestly he hasn't done that since last year. So maybe he's over it now that he knows the game??

Anyway, the course started out heading directly toward home, which obvi always helps haha. Charlie started running almost immediately after 1 and honestly I kinda just let him. I maybe had this idea in my head that I should be able to let him pick his own pace to the fences, and adjust his own self.... Or, ya know, make the mistake or whatever.

heading up the huuuuuuuuge hill to jump 3
But idk in retrospect if that was the right choice. Bc he definitely kinda ate it over 2. Just ran at a nothing spot and ended up sorta skipping / skimming uncomfortably over the top. Whoops.... Not the greatest feeling to start the course...

This part of the course was similar to the previous recognized event where I was the warm up steward and watched horse after horse (esp on the BN course) balk and spook and back off going up the hill away from the gate to jump 3. It was just a set of logs, but positioned as it was, for whatever reason the lower level horses were reeeeally not having it.

there's that lake!! also these unimposing logs at 3 claimed a shocking number of victims over the last few shows - the BN log even more so
And maybe riders were a bit to complacent too, bc "it's just a log!" But for whatever reason, jump 3 claimed a substantial amount of victims a few weeks ago, and this weekend too. Luckily tho I'd seen the carnage with my own eyes and knew not to take the jump for granted.

Bc yea, Charlie backed off hard. But with a little firm encouragement he oozed over the top more or less fine.

It's a lot to look at, suddenly finding yourself on top of a massive hill overlooking the pond. And, naturally, what goes up must come down and our track took us straight down to the lake.

ahh the many face of charlie out on xc!! :D
Which is kinda funny thinking about, in terms of nostalgia. Bc I STILL remember the days where even the thought of trotting Charlie down a hill was terrifying haha. Gosh this horse has learned so much about how to handle himself on terrain tho!

He cantered down more or less reasonably smoothly, and then proceeded across this earthen bridge / dam thingy between the pond and another marshy section. Really, it's hard to describe just how beautiful Waredaca is - if for no other reason you should watch the helmet cam just for the scenery!

nice bench leading directly into a barely-there path cut through the woods
But ya know. The scenery was all VERY NEW to Charlie, and provided a whole new obstacle in his ability to focus. He wasn't spooky, per se, but definitely felt a bit unsettled and distracted. And like he wasn't really paying much attention to the jumps themselves.

If anything, the jumping part kinda felt a lot like our final BN last year, where he was preoccupied by everything BUT the fences, which apparently weren't impressive enough haha. Like this bench. It's not enormous, but it's solidly N. And Charlie kinda just... made it from one side to the other without much thought, style, or, er, ahem, technique.

jump 5 was just another log, cruising right past a water complex without even going thru. 
From there we had a little passage through a narrow wooded path (including jumping the itsy bitsy stream bc #obvi), then emerged into another tumultuously hilly zone next to the first water combination. Again, it's a lot to look at and a lot to process -- all completely separately from the fences.

Somewhat annoyingly tho, our course didn't really do anything in that zone except pass through. Didn't even get a line through the water. We just moved on to a little log in the tree line (above). During my course walk I was starting to worry that maybe the whole course would be just little logs... but luckily more was coming, and soon.

things started getting interesting tho!! bending line at 6
Amazingly, Charlie has never seen a proper bending line in competition on cross country yet. Which.... is weird, right? Like that's one of the key elements distinguishing N from BN, so you wouldn't think it'd be such a rarity even at starter trials.

Finally tho, we got our day haha. The line walked in a fairly direct 5, but we kinda got a steady in jump plus drifted a bit left, so the 6 ended up being very smooth for us.

a version of this question appeared on the T3DE course too
This was the section that had been so dramatically shortened from the recent recognized and N3DE. Those courses meandered out into a whole 'nother field for their bending line, mound, and ditch combinations, before coming back through the above area. Our course skipped all that entirely, tho, and we just turned right back from the bending line to this giant mound.

I really liked this question tho, bc it was nearly identical to something from the T3DE course, except in N form.

and our only nice picture from xc <3 <3 <3
The T course had their version of this same rolltop positioned right at the base of a different (but similarly sized) mound. The jump was far enough away from the mound that you still landed on flat ground, but it was sorta an imposing visual to jump into for the horse. Then the T course also had a jump on the far side of the mound.

Charlie's and my course tho just had the rolltop, which Charlie jumped quite nicely with a lot of leg haha, then up to the top of the mound, which was also flagged with a very steep descent.

simple rustic step up bank at 9
I half expected Charlie to trot down the far side of the mound but he actually maintained his canter. Still tho, we were going back directly to the lake and combined with the rapid fire nature of everything that was happening, Charlie felt like maybe he did want to trot after all.

Which, for my purposes was perfectly A-OK since I wanted him to have a nice comfortable step up the little bank at 9 next to the lake.

skirted around the lake and down an embankment to another log at 10
From there we eased back into canter again, on another little lakeside road, before dropping down the shoulder from the road to this log thing. Again, the jump itself is just a log, but the terrain and placement etc create an interesting question.

since the pickins were so slim from xc pictures, you're getting more from this jump haha #dealwithit
Charlie hardly noticed tho lol. And I can't for the life of me decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Like I wish he cared more about the fences bc maybe he'd jump them better... But in a way it's kinda nice feeling like he's gotten to a point now where he can cope with whatever.

there was a third photographer stationed here at the half coffin who somehow missed me. i looked at some of his shots of other riders tho and... yea he's still learning anyway lol so not much of a loss
Anyway, from there we proceeded directly to the half coffin. Or whatever they're calling it these days LOL. It was just a simple small ditch straight to a nice house. We did it in a steady 4 tho I bet it would also have been a good 3.
frustrated to have a second course in a row not do much with the water. also yes the water's surface is iced over in this pic haha. winter is coming, yo!
Obviously tho Charlie's internal GPS kicked in to tell him he were heading back toward HOME, so he zoomed into high gear heading toward the water. Just a plain crossing, sigh.

Again, I have other posts that I want to write on this topic... But it's extremely frustrating to me to see T courses have all manner of intense water combinations, with N courses at the same venue not doing literally anything at the water. Like... Where's the progression? How are N riders supposed to get competition experience building up to what's expected at T? That's a rant for another day, tho. On this day, we just cantered on thru.

these chevrons were great tho!! and in the background you can see the giant hill we climbed, with jump 3 poised right at the top. we had jumped 3 coming toward the camera in this shot
It was kinda funny bc where the beginning of the course was more or less all logs, the end of the course got pretty intense pretty fast haha. Charlie's only ever seen chevrons once before so I really had no concept of what he'd think of these. Go figure, tho, he locked on and jumped them beautifully. Good boy! Where's that picture, photographers?!?

yep, sorry not sorry. the colors are so pretty tho! (just pretend it's in focus, m'kay?)
Then we climbed back up that massive hill in the background, wherein I finally let Charlie gallop a little bit. Just three jumps from home, now, tho two of them were prettttty big.

after climbing the giant hill again we got to the second largest fence on course: a chunky corner
I honestly expected this corner to be fine tho. Charlie's got a fair amount of corner experience, thanks in large part to Loch Moy having a little baby BN version too. This one at Waredaca ain't small but... Ya know, even at it's widest it's still within the limits for what's considered jumpable at N.

Which is useful haha bc Charlie and I definitely jumped the widest part after sorta drifting and getting one too many strides in approach. Sigh. Sorry buddy.

then back down again to the actual biggest fence: a brush ramp. remember when the BN version of this jump scared the bejesus out of me back in 2015??
Same story to the brush fence. It's maybe a mercy that the photographer didn't shoot this fence lol. Bc again, Charlie just wasn't really respecting the fences. Wasn't sizing them up, adjusting to them. Just instead kinda going a bit pell-mell to them.

A tad disorderly, if ya know what I mean. Never not jumping them -- he's definitely going to the fence and definitely jumping it. Just... In his patented "Charlie don't care!" sorta way.

final fence was just a red barn to the finish flags!! go Charlie GO!
Luckily tho we got a good enough approach to the final fence (which the photographer DID shoot!), and voila! The course was successfully completed haha. Actually one of our fastest courses to date, too haha.

Tho... Now I'm regretting not paying more attention to the posted distance on the course map. Bc... It may have been a pretty short course.

Possibly the most interesting piece to me tho, in retrospect, is that while this course wasn't necessarily any smoother or more polished than Loch Moy... I felt worlds better about it after finishing. So much of the bumps in the road, the rough edges, I'm convinced have more to do with being rusty at actually running a full course.

Like... There's something about putting together 5 straight minutes of uninterrupted cross country that is kinda hard to replicate in a schooling environment. The hardest parts aren't even necessarily about the jumps themselves. Rather, it's about finding a rhythm, adapting as the course goes on, figuring out how to ride the horse under me at this exact moment vs the horse I had two fences or two minutes ago.

best part of waredaca is the onsite brewery lol, complete with little mini bar stationed in a repurposed trailer out by parking haha. coffee stouts are the best post-show beer :D
If anything, my feeling coming off this course was one of validation. That my decision to squeeze in two back to back events before the season ended was exactly what we needed.

I got more cross country lessons this past year than ever before in probably my entire riding life. My horse and I have schooled all manner of crazy new and interesting things. We've learned a LOT. And it was GOOD.

But that's still not really a replacement for actually getting out there and putting a full course together from start to finish. So here's hoping I can use what we learned these past two weekends to help make a more balanced plan for next year haha.

At the very least, it'll be nice to have these recent memories (and videos!!!) to look back on since winter is apparently arriving in no uncertain terms ;)


  1. I honestly wondered if the issue with jump 3 was also light. You had that big hill climb which I saw too many people not keep impulsion to the top. Then you had to jump into a shaded treeline. Definitely a tough one (that you guys clearly ate for breakfast). Also... COFFEE STOUTS ARE BACK?? OMG yessssss!

    1. I <3 the coffee stouts tho!! And actually our 3 was out in the open on the exposed hilltop with the lake right behind it. I think all that visual stimuli is part of what made it tricky, bc I didn’t really see many issues with the N3DE course that went into that little wooded cut thru. Hard to say tho, ya know?

  2. Autumn is Charlie's color, seriously.

    Bummer about there not being more water and the course not having all the characteristics you'd hoped for. But all the same, y'all totally slayed. Congrats again on a successful outing!

    1. Autumn is the best color for everything <3 <3 <3. And yea I’m frustrated at some aspects of low level course design bc I basically want Olympic combinations with novice fences LOL. But ya know. Mayyyyyyyybe that’s not super realistic haha. This course was actually pretty great overall tho and I would 100% ride there again!!

  3. I agree that schooling can't mimic a true course experience. i actually dread schooling xc because I never do get a rhythm and it never feels quite right.
    I'm glad you went out and got this one done and ended the season on such a high note!

    1. thanks i'm super glad we made it out too! and yea, schooling is just so so different from competing. i've really come to appreciate our schooling outings and am grateful for all the good ones we've had this past year, but in a way charlie is kinda a different horse in schooling compared to in competition. and... ya know, i kinda like him BOTH ways haha - so we need more full runs!!

  4. What a great outing for both of you. I agree that there's nothing like having to string it all together in a competition. I find that even in dressage. at home if I don't like a transition or we miss a point we can do it over. In a competition you have to just regroup and keep going.

    But how did you finish overall??? You never said!

    1. definitely agreed. like even when i'm schooling and i tell myself "i'm going straight through the whole test!" or whatever, i still don't really treat it the same was as if it were in front of a judge. it's just hard to replicate the competition experience, i guess.

      and i finished 4th ;) we were able to sneak up ahead of a couple riders who had rails in stadium, but everyone was clear on cross country (it was not timed) so we finished on our dressage score with no additional movement up the board. i'm happy with it tho!

  5. Sounds like a perfect way to wrap up the season! Congrats on a great (and fun) run!

    1. thanks! i'm really glad i made myself do it haha, even if it took a fair amount of personal butt kicking LOL

  6. Love it! Glad you had a great outing!

    1. thanks ;) it's a good feeling going into the off season feeling hungry for more!

  7. I have a shot of me and Cash galloping over that bridge/dam on the far side of the pond, with all the fall foliage in the background. From 1999. Your pics bring back so many good memories. <3

    1. aw that's so awesome! and i'm only just a little teensy tiny (enormously) bit jealous that you got a shot with the lake and foliage etc! the photographers were positioned to grab those shots at this show, but the first i guess just kinda missed me (??) and we went around the wrong side of the second without realizing it, so no pretty shots this time around. guess we'll just have to go back ;)

  8. How awesome!!

    Well done to you both.

  9. Congrats on a successful run! Those autumn colors are fantastic! I love them! It does seem hard to school xc since nothing can quite compare to a competition run. Still tho, I'm glad this run had a better feeling after it!

    1. thanks! i love all the colors too and am moderately sad the photographers didn't catch more out on xc!! lol sigh

  10. That XC course looks aaaalmost as gorgeous as VA International's ;)

    It sucks about the photographer, and I get what you're saying about Novice waters not being a good progression to Training. At our "home base" at Carolina Horse Park, BN goes through water and jumps a single jump pretty far out of the water; N goes through water and jumps a single jump closer out of the water; T has a drop into water, a bank out of water, and a few strides to a skinny on a mound. So yeah...

    1. yes omg that is EXACTLY IT with the water complexes i'm seeing!! i'll have a post on it later, but the difference between N and T at the 3DE i worked at a couple weeks ago was... unreal. absolutely unreal. same story at the N championship course at Morven another few weeks ago. like, you could walk off a winning N championship course feeling like hot shit, and still not be anywhere close to what's asked at an average T course. i also feel like... this didn't always used to be so true either. sigh.

  11. Love love love your XC media posts. They make me simultaneously itch to try eventing and remember that I'm not nearly brave enough. Wow!

  12. What a cute beer stand! And I am disappointed for you regarding the lack of imagination on that Novice course.. do you think course designers just kind of phone it in at some point? But I am proud of what a XC animal Charlie has become with all your hard work!


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