Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Baby Dax Goes XC Schooling...

Baby Dax only just started figuring out where to put his body and go over fences.  He actually looks like a horse that knows how to jump, now!

So, at the very last second, I decided to take him to the cross-country schooling!

Baby Dax is a young 4 years old, so I don't want to overwork him.  On the other hand, I want him to get out and see the world!  To that end, I planned to ride around with the crew, but only jump if he felt confident.

He started out quiet under saddle and attentive to his surroundings.  However, once he realized all these other horses were galloping and jumping in the warm up area, he started to lose his cool!!
I tried to keep him relaxed, but heaven forbid one of the horses leave our group!

All of a sudden, the warm up area emptied, so I made an executive decision to visit the lunge line.
Baby Dax ran around like a crazy beast for about 3 laps each direction, then settled into a confident strong trot.  He went where I put him, and even followed me as I moved our lunge circle around to different locations.

Since he seemed to have gotten his brain together, I moved our circle to the still-empty warm up jumps and put him over the little logs.  He jumped short the first time, and almost stepped on the far side of the log jump.  I was concerned about that, but he proved to me in the next couple jumps that he was a sharp cookie and a quick study.  He continued jumping over and out each time I presented him to the fence!  A couple time, he even took it at an angle!

I was already very proud of how well Baby Dax was accepting the new challenges, so I headed back to the trailer to let him catch his breath and relax before we went out to do it for real...

Go time!!
I hopped on the baby horse (who is much bigger than the Fancy Pony, I might add!!), and he settled down to business.  We started with trot and canter warm up with the group.  Then, as everyone else was headed for the first cross country jump, I decided we just needed to go over that one baby warm-up fence together...
Baby Dax left the group for me, went where I pointed him, sighted in on the jump, and trotted right over it!  He cantered out the other side, turned right when I asked him to, and we cantered back to the group.
It was a quiet, relaxed, ground-covering canter!  He wasn't hurrying back to the group.  I asked for some "come back" and got it!  I asked for a little more "go forward", and I got it!!

When it came time to take the first jump, I let him go investigate it.  He barely glanced at it, and chested right up to the log.  Hmmm...
Well, away we go and we trotted on up.  He sighted in, lined up for me...  and stopped.

Not one to take a solid jump from a standstill, I trotted a tiny circle and reapproached.  Our second approach was accompanied by a sound smack on the butt with my bat.  And he hopped akwardly over the fence.
Take 2, and he actually trotted with more confidence.
I asked for it one more time, and he cantered out the other side!
Yay, Baby Dax!  (that was going to be a recurring cry throughout the day)

The second jump was a coop in the trees set slightly downhill.  Baby Dax wanted no part of it.
Coach reminded me, "Jump it uphill, first!"
Baby Dax happily hopped over it up the hill, then came right back and accepted it down the hill, as well!
Yay, Baby Dax!

We headed to fence 3, a little baby roll-top thingy.  Our track record so far was not looking all that great...  I waited for our turn to approach, and I commited us!  Baby Dax never hesitated, but we arrived in an funky spot.  I bumped him in the last stride, and he hopped it a little vertically.  I was happy with that, and let him walk and watch.  We stood by for someone else's schooling.
And Baby Dax had a Baby Meltdown!
He started  extending and slamming one leg into the ground over and over, then the other.  It became like a rhythmic dance:
Right - Right - Right - Right - Right - Right - Right - Stand
Left - Left - Left - Left - Left - Left - Left - Stand
Right - Right - Right - Right - Right - Right - Right - Stand
Left - Left - Left - Left - Left - Left - Left - Stand
Think of it like a spanish walk...  In place...

Finally, we moved on.  While coached schooled some Beginner Novice and Novice fences, we stood again, trying to catch our breath.  Baby Dax was finally happy to stand still next to a pasture mate.  After a few minutes, I realized and said to the group, "I bet it's the sweat under the boots that has him upset!"
Then, he just laid down right there in the middle of the cross country course!  Baby Dax wanted to roll his sweaty body in the grass!!
I stepped off (not wanting to get crushed if the baby horse rolled anyway) and smacked that butt with my bat over and over and over until he finally stood up again.  Holy Cow!  Do I need this much excitement??
Baby Dax is comfortable on the ground

I mounted up and continued on.  As long as we were walking, we had no problems.  Trotting was even more fun!
We came to the baby bench, and Dax went "Nope" right before saying, "Ok, maybe so."
Have I mentioned how much I hate jumping from a standstill?  At least the stop was momentary this time.  We went around the trees and came at it again.  He jumped it rather lazily.  That wasn't going to get any better with one more approach, so I called it good and headed for the half-roll.  It's red.  It's set on a decline.  It looks big!
And Baby Dax ATE IT UP!

Then, he took a tiny upbank!  Then he struggled with the idea of a baby down bank...  And finally he trotted down the bank like he owned it!
Yay, Baby Dax!!

Standing around had him stomping again, so we pulled his boots (he'd shown us he could get over stuff, so he's likely be just fine without them).  We headed across the field to another set of jump that Coach told CG (Remember Cricket's Girl?) was a maxed out started fence...
It looked like a coop from my vantage point, so I approached as well...  Only to find out 3 strides out (about the same time Coach hollered at me) that it was a table!  A Beginnner Novice table!
Coach was hollering, "He's probably not ready for that one, Jacq!"
NOW you tell me!  Luckily we had plenty of room to change direction, and Baby Dax listened right up.

Next up came the related logs and the baby barn.  Standing and waiting, we had more stomping.  I guess taking the boots off didn't help.  When we started moving again, Baby Dax went right back to work and started looking for the jumps.  He trotted right into the line, cantered out of the line, and I went for the barn!
I had a canter, but I peeked at the barn, and he stopped.  Short circle and a trot approach got us over it, but his hind end came down early.  Because I pulled on his mouth in the air.  Oops!  Argh.
One last approach, and he sailed over the barn as I reached forward to give him the freedom he needed for his job!
Yay, Baby Dax!

The final fence on course looks like a huge log wall, but Dax trotted on over it like it was nothing!
Then, we headed to the water complex for more new experiences!

At the water complex, a yellow hose rane across the tan-grey gravel and into the muddy water.  I'm not sure which concerned Dax more.  The color changes were obviously an issue!
Since he wasn't sure about entering the water on that side of the pond, we went around to the other side, where I could take advantage of a rounded entry point.  Dax stepped gingerly into the water and walked all the way through.  I trotted around and did it again.  This time, he considered dropping and rolling in the middle!

Coach always says better to carry a crop and not need one than to need it and not have it...

After our second exit, I turned him around and he marched right back in!
Yay, Baby Dax!

We worked on trotting into the water, maintaining the trot *in* the water, and steering through that great resistance that is water.  Then, just for kicks, we hopped the little fence right out of the water!
Well, that's not exactly how it happened the first time...  He kind of just scrambled/slid over it the first time...
But, he found his bravery quickly and took the water and jump with confidence!  I was perfectly happy with that!

On our way back to the trailer, I decided to take one last hop over that log-wall...  I certainly had plenty of horse!!
As we approached in the trot, he saw the fence 5 strides out and asked if he could canter it.  I obliged.  He stepped into that ground eating canter that is so easy to ride and devoured the distance with ease.  He sailed over that fence and landed in the same quiet, confident canter.  The brakes worked with ease.  (He hasn't figured out that we can gallop the entire XC course, yet!).  He walked back to the trailer on a loose rein.
Baby Dax put in a hard day's work and looks pretty content with himself.

I offered him the chance to roll once I got his tack off, but apparently the urge had passed since he wasn't so sweaty anymore...
Silly Baby Dax...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Region 11 Off-Site Hunter/Jumper Championships - Sport Horse Extravaganza - 2015 Day 3 - Sunday

Hunter Hack ATR
I was still “in denial” that I was competing at a regional championship.  I rode into my class as if I owned it, and actually had a nice and uneventful flat ride.
We all lined up to take out jump line, and I ended up last.  I usually prefer to be closer to first…  I studied each ride.  I had understood the pattern to be: jump the line on the right lead, ride around the short end of the arena, and halt in front of the judge’s booth.
I started panicking when I watched rider after rider back several steps after the halt.  I confirmed with my neighbor that there was, in fact, no back after the halt.  OK. Mental melt-down averted.  Regardless, every horse backed up after the halt!  I was still a little confused, but I intended to own my halt.

One of these days, I will start to equitate...
Despite my best efforts, we landed out of our line on the left (WRONG) lead, and I tried to quietly convey to the Fancy Pony that I required a lead change.  Getting her down and back up was going to take a major discussion based on her responses to my subtle aids.  By this time, we were halfway around the short end, so I decided to save my amazing halt by not picking the fight over the wrong lead.  I know many would disagree with this choice, and I’m fine with that.  I knew which points I wanted to show off.  I didn’t want to lose my awesome halt because of a “discussion” after we had already blown the canter lead.  So, I finished my line (on the wrong lead) and halted within 2 steps from transitioning down from the canter.  Our halt was RIGHT in front of the judges booth. Moreover, we had ZERO back steps!

I took my place back in line and we all waited for the top 5 announcements… Much to my surprise and delight, we were called into the middle of the pack of Top 5 horses!!!
Alas, we did not earn Champion or Reserve.  However, I would have been disappointed if we had with that blown lead.  I was elated with our result, and we wandered back to the stalls to give the Fancy Pony a well-deserved rest break before our next Championship class…..

Regional Top 5 - Hunter Hack ATR

Working Hunter 14.2 and Under
I knew we had moved the competition to the next level when I looked at the hunter course.  We had a new question.  Instead of the traditional semi-figure-8 course, we had a tight turn off od the long side to a bending line in both courses…
Our first course required us to make the turn and ride it as our second line!!
The Fancy Pony was so caught off guard, she rubbed the fence.  In fact, we discussed the turn as we made it:
Yo, Pony, we need to keep this dialed in tight so you have a straight approach to the next fence.
This is obviously a hunter course, and tight turns don’t exist. This is where we make a swooping turn to the diagonal line.
Seriously.  We’re supposed to go over this vertical here.
What are you talking about?  Whatever.  I don’t know why you think this tight turn can get me to the next fence.
Thank you for working with me.  There’s our next fence!  Stay awake, because we have to bend to that other one on the far side.
Holy cow! What the heck is this fence doing here???**BOING**

We finished out course A, then later went in for course B.  She was willing to work with me this time!
We landed all of our leads, and the jumps felt beautiful! I was in control of all of our distances!

After everyone had completed both courses, we untacked and jogged for the judge.  Then we hastily tacked up again for the flat portion of the class!  I don’t recall anything particularly exciting about the flatting.  They called us into the top 5, then announced the Reserve Champion.  I was so busy congratulating her, I almost didn’t hear them announce the Champion.  That’s my number!!  That’s the horse I’m riding!!  OMG!!  We just won a Regional Championship!!!!
I cried.  Right there in the ring.  I stayed for the photo shoot, and I jumped the fence with my ribbons!  Who knows if I’ll ever get this opportunity again?
I’m still over the moon!
Covered in satin...

Green Working Hunter
This class doesn’t require qualifications, even at the National level.  This year, we declared ourselves “working hunter” by entering this class (which can be set 2’6”-2’9”).  Fancy Pony was getting rather lackadaisical in her approach to the fences and not bothering to pick her legs up any higher than necessary.  To remedy this, I moved one of the warm-up fences up to 2’9”.  No filler.  I asked for our tight turn from the other fence and landing on the lead I determined.  I made sure we could do this both directions before heading into the ring for real.
I only had one competitor in this class.  She was tough.  They were solid.  Top notch.
We were both set to go, so our rounds went quickly.  The Fancy Pony was solid in both rounds.  I felt like they were our best rounds, yet!  We missed one of our leads.
Based on the jog, I bested our competition on course A, but she bested me on course B.
We headed back to the ring for our flat class, and I pushed the Pony for the best she had to offer!
Again, we were all (2) called back for Top 5, and they announced the Champion first.  I assure you, they earned it!  We still walked away with a Reserve Championship, and I feel like we earned that, as well!  We went in and put down our best performances!
The experience I gained at this show will help us grow.  We can only get better from here.
Stall Bragging
The obligatory 'truck dash' photo...



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