Sunday, April 18, 2010

Further Rally Reports, etc

First off: just so you know, I was quite pleased with Pandora at the rally. Her rider only got the chance to hop on her ONCE before the rally! They had a great schooling session at our barn, hopped over many fences, and in general looked really good. In the competition ring things weren't quite as perfect - rider nerves feed into Pandora nerves which feed into rider nerves! - but then again, neither were McKinna and me, so there you have it. Still, by the final round they were pretty in-tune with each other and had some very positive rides.

I'm very proud of both of them :) Catch-riding a horse is no easy thing, especially when it is a completely different type and size than you're used to. To adjust to a completely different feel, and be able to give a horse a completely different ride than the one you're used to, takes some skill and confidence. For Pandora's part - well, a year and a half ago she got anxious and tense when an unfamiliar rider even sat on her to walk and trot around, and last week she calmly and happily jumped with an unfamiliar rider. I am thrilled.

In other 'Pandora really rocks' news, I had the BEST XC SCHOOL EVER on her the Wednesday before the rally. It was the first XC ride of the season and we went to Make Your Mark Stables. After a couple weeks of torrential rain and cold weather, it was beautiful and sunny and warm out there.

The footing out there is AWESOME. Seriously. It rained all the way up through Tuesday, and there was just one little area where the footing was a LITTLE squishy. Impressive. I would also like to add that even when we cruised through the mushy area, and even when we took a fence for the first time and discovered that the landing area was a bit soft, Pandora kept herself completely together and didn't care. This is Pandora! The mare who hates even walking through mud in a pasture! I was pleasantly surprised .

Anyway, here's the rundown: Pandora was a rock star. We even got used as an example of good galloping form, going forward and collecting back up. I had such a great time and couldn't help feeling like my girl is all grown up! Part of it is the new bit that I talked about here, which gives me just a tad more weight to my opinions; I think the biggest part is all the hard work we've done over the last few months to build strength and enable her to carry herself properly. She finds it much easier now to stay off the forehand, so her gallop is more balanced and it's easier for her to jump from a forward canter.

We started off on a big, loose warm up circle. Devin (my regular jumping trainer, who gave the clinic) told us that when she starts off warming up for XC, it's not much different than her warmup for dressage: she still wants the horse balanced, moving properly back to front, responsive to the leg and seat, and so on. Only after she establishes nice flatwork will she go to open up the stride and gallop a bit. She said this really helps show the horse that just because you're out in a big field doesn't mean you get to ignore the aids and just go for a big gallop.

Then we worked on galloping, which felt wonderful (product of our newfound balance!) and was super fun. Pandora has learned to cruise. I just hang out in my two-point, knuckles on her crest. If I want to go faster, I close my angles, which means I fold closer in my hips and knees. If I want to slow down, I just sit up more. Very cool feeling.

When heading for fences, Devin had us hang out with hands still gently set, but add leg to drive the horse's butt underneath them. I am still learning that even on a forward horse, you STILL have to add leg. I know this logically, but it's hard when most of the time I have all the forward I could ever want!

Overall she was just great. We had one catastrophe going through a one-to-one triple combination of SJ fences out there in the field - I got confused about the distances, Pandora got wiggly, and we oozed over the last fence at the last minute to take it out. I had to really ride her forward to get her through it again because she was quite apprehensive after that! But, even though the screwup was totally my fault, she went through it for me and was a very good girl.

All the XC fences rode wonderfully. She cantered over a ditch beautifully, jumped a skinny log, and was just generally awesome. The only times she didn't go well were when I didn't ride well. You can't ask for better than that! I ride right, she goes right.

It was so much fun.

Speaking of fun, I don't think I mentioned the competition we had at the rally....while we were waiting for scores to be posted, the Chief Horse Management Judge had people bring out quiet/reliable horses of all sizes, from teeny pony to a big 18h guy who I'm pretty sure was a Percheron/TB cross. Then we had a vault-onto-the-horse-bareback competition!

I had issues at first because I was trying to run, jump, land on my belly, and squirm up like everyone else. I couldn't even get on the 13h horse! Then the Chief showed us how to do it (the way I usually had done it in the past, actually!): stand at horse's left shoulder facing the haunches, reach up to grab mane, then just kick up and over with your right leg and get on.

So after that, every try was successful for me. I worked my way from the 13h pony all the way to the 18h guy, where my arms were almost completely extended above me just to hold onto his mane. What a fun thing to do. He was a very sweet horse too, very tolerant of all the leaping and squirming. Nice jumper as well, he was in the 3'3 or the 3'6 class I believe. Not always super careful about the rails, but a kind and willing type it seemed.

Finally, I went to a mock rating with McKinna yesterday for my C-2 and had a great time. I will try to write a full report on that soon because I felt like it was a really valuable experience. Basically, it was wonderful to have a less formal interaction with the examiners, get the chance to ask very specific questions, and I'm feeling a lot more relaxed about my real rating in 2 weeks.


Leah Fry said...

Ah, to be young and lithe enough to just hop on a 18hh horse. I don't think mine would be tolerant of all the squirming either.

manymisadventures said...

The Chief just hopped up there too, and rumor has it she's in her 60s ;) She foxhunts too!

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SydneyJ22985 said...

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