Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Event Derby


So you guys know there's a reason I love eventing, right?

Well Cross Country is it.

Don't get me wrong. I love Dressage - I love gymnastically developing my horse, deepening the connection and communication between us, and gradually learning to influence all parts of her while she's in motion. I love Stadium - the tight turns, the bright fences, the relative low risk.

Our dressage test was mediocre at best. Clearly I have been putting a little too much focus on our jumping work. She was a little nervous and looky, didn't really want to focus. She wasn't trying to take off, and she completed all movements, but was very stiff to the left and in general just kind of unresponsive. Time for more schooling.

But I love XC. I don't think I will ever find anything else that rivals the rush of galloping in an open field, coming up to (big) solid obstacles that I fully trust my horse to get us over. It's fantastic. I was grinning like an idiot the whole time. Mmmmmmmmmm it was amazing.

Pandora, for the record, was awesome. I've no idea how much actual XC experience she has. She was boarded at Inavale by a girl who evented her (they have a record for 1 recognized event), so I'm assuming she got plenty of schooling.

But still. It was my first time going XC with her. And she was fantastic.

Since it was an eventing derby, XC and Stadium were combined in a big field. The first several fences were stadium fences, and most of the rest were solid XC fences. She was not too sure about the stadium fences at first! But she went over, and by the time we hit the first big log, we were rockin' and rollin'. We weren't really galloping, but we had a big, forward canter. She figured out all the striding on her own. Sometimes it was a little tight, but oh well.

Her 'diving' tendency came back quite a bit- on the takeoff and landing side she had her head and forehand down as if looking at the fence. She used to do this a lot doing regular jumping in the ring, and it's gone away with miles and fitness, so I'm not too worried. Riding that course was definitely a challenge to her fitness, and we did it twice. We've simply never had the space to canter/gallop for long distances before. I am hoping to work more of it into our schedule if possible, and our long road hacks (once the weather lets up a little!) should help as well.

We had one stop. My first round, the second-to-last fence was a maxed-out coop. So it was 2'7 (I swear it was taller), probably 3' in depth, and it wasn't a super wide fence either. On an uphill. I could have forced her over it, but for some stupid reason I decided to wear gloves (because everyone else does??) and I couldn't get a good enough grip on my right rein to keep her straight. No big deal - circle around and we jumped it fine. The second round we were more confident and cruised over everything, though she was getting a little tired.

One of the fences was about 3', too -- hay bales. There was a lower option, because I think the taller option was for the level above us, but oh well. It rode really smoothly.

I was so proud of my girl. I'm going to a clinic next weekend at the same location - we'll spend the first half on dressage and the second on jumping, so I'm excited to get some good schooling done (for both of us). Now that I've got a baseline established and I know what she's like going around a course, I want a pair of eyes on me to make sure I'm not doing anything stupid with my position whilst caught up in the adrenaline rush.

I even sponged her legs, back, and chest down with a little liniment-water afterwards. She probably didn't need it. And it probably didn't really do anything. But dang, it made me feel good! And the spearmint smell is wonderful.

....you didn't think I'd leave you without a little video, did you?

Here you go. Hope your weekend was as awesome as mine!

Edit: the video was looking really weird and grainy, so I took it down for the moment. I'll get it back up tonight when I get home.

Here's a few things I see. I'm doing a pretty good job of not jumping ahead, though I still did it a little. This is the first habit I regress to when nervous or trying new things, so it's understandable.
I need to allow her to have a more forward pace in order to hit the fences in a good rhythm. This means I need to practice riding at speed more so I can get A. more comfortable and B. more aware of what speed is appropriate.
Steady, steady, steady is what we need. I think we can get it if we can just get some time riding outside somewhere.
I'm also going to install some lead changes sometime, or at least start asking her for them more over fences. I didn't want to fuss with her and make her do an interrupted (through the trot) change, so I either let her do a flying change on her own (which she did) or just go around on the wrong lead, which we also did. It got irritating though. So I think I'll start asking for leads over the fence or even asking for the change -- if I don't get it, no worries, but maybe I'll get some.

In a couple days, expect some more in-depth training posts. I've been thinking a lot lately. And when I think a lot, you get thoughtful posts ;)

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