Posted by: shannonc | September 13, 2010

Presses, part 2

Leaving D, I peek through the trees to sj and see that the course is being reset, so I hop down, hand Blue’s reins to my wonderful but somewhat reluctant husband (who prefers managing the smaller pony), and hurry in to walk it.  I figured I’d get to watch some rounds later, so I didn’t go over the track too thoroughly (is your red flag alert going off?) – I just checked out the turns and let myself be mightily distracted by the footing.  Surprise, it’s the same grass they have on the other side of the hedge.  It hasn’t rained more on this side.

I’m thinking, if he didn’t like the way this felt for flatwork, how’s it going to feel jumping?  I just fixed the foot.  I don’t want it to break again.  I don’t need him to complete this event; I need him to be my horse next year.

I go back and forth a few times in my head and decide I will make the call right before entering the ring, when we are allowed to use the small warmup area just outside the tape.  I will pop one of the jumps there and if he doesn’t feel right, we’ll be done.

He’s good in the upper sand warmup, although he wants to land in a heap and root and yank me out of the tack.  I try to send him on, but I don’t commit to fixing it completely.  I’m counting every jump.  I’m also seeing that they’re moving people right along and maybe even running a little early, and it’s starting to occur to me that I might not really know the course.

Lower warmup:  one canter around and over the oxer.  He feels great.  In we go.

Blue stands quietly in the middle while we wait for the whistle.  Really, he couldn’t be calmer.  The horse who showed up to today’s event is a pro. 

Luckily, he gave this away before dressage.  Which is how I knew I didn’t have to worry about the land and root act.  Because this is the canter I have in the ring:

He absolutely knows that he lands from one thing and looks for the next.  He doesn’t stare at the ground, he pricks his ears and waits for directions.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still riding the same Blue, the one who wants to be in charge.  Watch his thinking unfold at fence 1…lol:

He doesn’t mind telling me, even in the air, how he feels about my participation.  He’s occupied enough with trying to inform me in no uncertain terms that I should Just Sit There, please and thank you, that we blow by a couple of distances.  He’s failed to register that these are Beginner Novice fences, though (or he’s just asking to be moved back up already), so there is no danger of rails being involved.  He powers over 8A and B such that I almost can’t get around the turn to 9 and seriously wonder if I adjusted my curb chain sufficiently, but we make it through the flags clean.

It was strange and fun to know that I could more or less completely screw up and fail to put my leg on at all, and we were probably still going to get to the other side.  The challenge with Blue is walking the fine line between establishing the appropriate engine and balance, and also staying the hell out of his way.  The tune up this week was really helpful for that.  I sat on his back and drove him to something like I was on the pony. 

Didn’t make that mistake twice.  He shot over the fence and nearly out from under me. 

A few more, just for fun.

On to xc.  The ground is slightly more giving here than it was in stadium, probably because there’s more grass cushion.  Still, I plan my warmup to be almost no jumping, and several small trot circles to check in with him about his feet.

I have walked the BN at three of the last four events KO has held.  This one is by a considerable margin the toughest of the three.  It’s still inviting and pretty straightforward, but this time they have decided to include the water – it is always easy to have a glance-off when the water is passthrough there – and the biggest surprise is that they have put a decent sized drop on course as fence #5.

It’s shared with Novice, but for N it’s something like fence 11.  For BN, the course is downhill hanging log, little log pile, turn and up the big hill, steer around a N log to another more sizeable log, steer off the path and maneuver around a tree to a palisade, then steeply down the hill straight to the drop.

I’m a little concerned about the downhill – mostly that if we get into it about whose pace we’re picking, he may see the drop too late.  I decide to trot down the hill.  He’s not that strong and he’s on his forehand anyway, so let’s not tempt fate. 

In fact, my overriding plan for the course is to save my horse and take it slow.  I may have mentioned the ground was hard?  Once or twice…

After the drop, we run along the side of the field to a ramp, cross the road to our combination (gratefully, this time it is 3 strides), choose a track through the T/P combinations, across the field to a bench, across the rest of the field, down the swale, up the swale, 180-degree turn to a red table, then back all the way across the field to the water.

It looks like a complete blast.

After the water, we are headed home.  One more fence in the field and then this fun wall, which I jumped the other way on the pony last year:

Our course follows the path, with another small bench (or a coop?), a little log in the woods, then back into the front field, hairpin turn to the last fence which heads right at the warmup.  This doesn’t seem to be jumping very well – I see some horses just not picking up their feet.  I resolve to not have last-fenceitis, although I don’t think I can remember Blue touching anything solid for any reason…ever.

15 efforts altogether, and I mentally subtract one for the water since it’s not a jump.  14 more fences.  I think he can do that, if he wants to, as long as we take it nice and easy.

He gives me no worries in the warmup.  After determining he feels good, I jump two fences and head to the starter. 

He’s such a good boy out of the box.  Relaxed, rhythmic, and confident.  It feels amazing to sit on top of.

I think fence 2 is more of a canter stride than an actual jump.  Tee hee.

Here’s where you get some video

He’s a little bit weak in places, and tends to trot when I ask for rebalance.  I let him keep a long frame…I want to stress him as little as possible.  I know my horse will keep us safe unless I do something really stupid (and maybe even then).  I just try to reorganize, give a little reassurance, and wait while he sizes up whatever’s next – he brings himself to canter and sets up to everything when he’s ready.  I bridge, stay in the middle, and verbally whoa at one point when he decides he wants a gallop across the field back to the water.  I’m so glad he’s having a little fun.

I hear Joan Davis yell when we come across that field.  I’m so happy I don’t think you could knock the grin off my face with a sledgehammer.  I’m just glad to be out there with him.  Truth – I would have been glad to take him to King Oak and walk him around on a lead.  It’s just good to be out together…really good.  It’s icing that a few people recognize him, come up and say hello.  Let alone a professional photographer cheering for us while we’re on course! 

I let him talk me into a flyer or two on the back half.  He’s looking at this little log, and flicking his ears back to me as if to say, “it’s just a log.  Don’t worry so much!  Sit there, would you?” 

I have to work to tell him we’ve gone through the finish flags and can stop now.  I think he is ready for about 15 more.  The gallop pic I opened yesterday’s entry with is a still from the approach to the very last fence on course.  If it isn’t the picture of a horse who loves what he’s doing, I don’t know what is.

Here he is at the end of the course. 

It turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking about the footing.  Of our 20 starters, there were only 4 rounds xc with no (slow) time penalties – at Beginner Novice.

Somewhere along the line, we moved up to 5th.  But my greatest reward was watching my horse eating hay at the end of the day, looking like the happiest horse on earth.

He got a lot of carrots, a good long cold hosing, some bute, overnight turnout, and woke up on Sunday with the legs of a 4-year-old.  Eyeing me from the cross ties, giving me his best, most Blue-like line:  I told you so.

I hope he keeps telling me so for a long time.



  1. Awesome! I love the pictures, he looks very happy and dialed in. I LOVE the last picture of the stadium #1 sequence, you can just just see those wheels turning and can tell that he is asking, “what’s next???”

  2. What a wonderful story; I’m so glad you decided to take Blue Blue! Grandma will have to bring extra treats on her next visit :-)

  3. I’m so glad you decided to take Blue. What a GOOD boy – Grandma will have to bring extra treats on her next visit :-)

  4. Glad to see “Old Faithful” came through for both of you – congratulations!

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