Olympic dreams: Cross-country! Phase 4

Back to the plan- we watched cross-country out in the Deodoro area, which seemed like quite the trek out but after learning how far boxing was? I was counting my blessings it was only subway + train ride away! (and a long walk).

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RIO!!

The cross-country course was extremely technical and thrilling. There were quite a few falls by horse and rider but no serious injuries and everyone was up and walking immediately. This is important because the eventing community has come under fire the past few months and years due to a number of serious falls at a series of events, some resulting in the deaths of horse or rider. It is very frightening, and I was soooo glad that while the course was very challenging, it was not a killer.

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The course (it was hard to decipher)

That aside, I was in AWE of the skill, bravery and sheer balls these gutsy horse and rider combos had. WOW. Just WOW. Go you guys! It was stunning to watch and just so amazing. I loved watching so much I was super sad to leave and wanted to come back the next day…

Just amazing.

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So much power!

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Spooky? Huge? No problems!

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Keyholes…no biggie

Wow!!!

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Just love it.

These guys are consummate professionals!

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Into the other water like no prob.

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I loved this, it is a churrascuria picnic table en rodizio!

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Making it at the MANE EVENT!!

Finally, it was the weekend. We left fairly early on Friday to catch the Jim Wofford clinic at Chilliwack’s Mane Event and boy, he did not disappoint!

And they're off!

And they’re off!

Fresh off my lesson Thurs- quick recap, I can’t quite remember exactly what we did, but we did have a 2’3” oxer and it kind of scared me, we jumped it very nicely once, then I under-rode to a gentle stop by Oats, and then rode it well again…And a small bounce exercise, a green box skinny, and an x-rail on a circle that rode very nicely – historically a struggle point for me and Oats. Overall, quite nice, but I did have some nerves…

So, I was primed to learn something from the famous Jim Wofford himself. And what did I learn, from his gymnastic exercises with the upper-level group?

Rubbing shoulders with Jim Wofford- the man has a great sense of humour!

Rubbing shoulders with Jim Wofford- the man has a great sense of humour!

  • Look at the top rail of the fence until it disappears under you. This includes parallel oxers too!
  • For bounce exercises, ignore the placing rail. Focus on the top rail of the first jump.
  • Don’t start looking ‘through’ the exercises. One jump at a time! Riders and horses get into trouble when they start ignoring the first jump and stare through the exercises.
  • Let the horse make the mistake, you don’t need to make it for them.
  • Hitting a rail generally punishes the horse, you don’t need to punish. Reward them for a good effort on the next go-around, you will find they have fixed it! (sidenote- I’m bad for rewarding in the moment, need to get better about this).
  • He had a lot of riders riding with fairly loose contact, some with driving rein hands to correct hand use/placement. Let the horse be independent, thinking.
  • For drifters- take off your left leg if he drifts right. Then make your right leg stronger. Doesn’t work? You can add in guide poles.
  • The key is usually less is more. Ie- don’t use a martingale at home, fix what is wrong at home first. Don’t be the first to rush to more aids, artificial aids.
  • Only the elbows move for bounces.
  • Shoulders back, sitting up, no ‘posting’ at the canter.
  • Hands lower.

We watched a lot of his sessions, and I came away slightly intimidated – these were seriously good riders- and inspired as well. I want to try some of those exercises with Oats, the corner jump (we have done this before and he was fine with it), the ‘squeeze’ jump- now that looks interesting, and maybe a mini triple-bar or hogsback? So many good options to make jumping exciting and challenging.

I also took the opportunity to do some shopping…Too much shopping! Highlights included getting Grand Prix Vegas breeches for $50, Spooks stretch jacket for $150, Tailored Sportsman ‘Anaconda’ belt for $5, and a Toggi Equestrian long-sleeved t-shirt for $5 too. A steal!

I also got a lot of samples for Oats for treats- nutritional supplements, alfalfa cubes, treats, and some hay for Buster Bunny in a freezer ziploc bag. Score!

We also enjoyed a dressage session taught by Kristen Wysocki, and the Trainer’s Challenge featuring Sonny Gargulio, David Simons, and Glen Stewart. Glen Stewart in particular was a real class act, lovely to watch and a true horseman. Not sure who ended up winning- we were at the Jim Wofford Q&A session- but it was a real treat to watch.

The ‘equine experience’ at night was stunning as always, with fabulous performances by the Coastal Cowgirls on Vancouver Island – maybe I am a bit biased but I think their drill team performances were the slickest! They even had spins, and everything! One accident happened- not like last year when horses collided, but this time a horse spooked, the rider fell off and dislodged the flag she was carrying. It got caught in the horse’s breastplate! We  all gasped and held our breath…But it was ok, it got removed and the horse/rider were fine to mount and continue.

Guess it’s not the genuine experience if there isn’t at least one hair-raising moment! On that note there were these young girls- the ‘Young Gunz’ and their performances were genuinely terrifying but very well done. My heart was in my throat!

As always, Mane Event is something we look forward to every year. I’m inspired to go try some new fun things with Oats and I can’t wait to show off my new awesome riding gear!

Mr. Oats tries cross-country. Recaps on recaps…Starting with Avalon on Friday.

So, silence a few days but for a good reason- I was busy enjoying my horse, life, etc.

From our first outing. So much better this time around...

From our first outing. So much better this time around…

I’d taken a few days off this fall to enjoy myself and boy, did I!

This post is all about Oats and my redemption at…Avalon. I’d gone there in the past to do a small x-c clinic, and it turned into a huge disaster. The other riders were snobby and unwelcoming, the trainer coaching the clinic was a too-intense person and kind of mean (ok, seemed really mean at the time), Oats was losing his shit. He couldn’t keep his four-feet on the ground. He was up in the air, jumping around, being a nut.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

Oh and I had an unpleasant run in with ‘someone’ associated with the day and he was a total psycho to me. Yeah, way to rub it in eh?

So to add it all up- I was supposed to be at a low-level clinic designed as an ‘intro to x-c’ day for fun, because hey we’re not going to the Olympics people- and the clinic participants were rude, my horse was losing his mind, I got yelled at for some reason by ‘that person’ and the trainer was kind of mean and too intense for the low level group.

A recipe for success? Not so much. I packed it up and left early, in tears, vowing never to try x-c again.

Until last Friday…!

Since I was taking some time off showing, I thought maybe I could try again. And this time, all I wanted was a new experience with my horse, one-on-one with my trainer. No clinic pressure, no crazy other people, nothing. Relaxed, low-key.

And it was GREAT! Redemption!

We hauled out on Friday and Oats went with my trainer and her horse, Query. I was so nervous. So anxious. I just wanted it to go well, and see what happened. We walked the length of both courses and I felt worried but Oats was holding it together. He was a little bit looky and ‘up’ but I mean, compared with how he could have been? He was golden!

My trainer’s horse wasn’t feeling well- just out of character and ulcery. She noticed this after she longed her in the main ring and she just didn’t settle. Oats on the other hand, was having a blast! We cruised up and down the ring, jumped the dressage ring markers (shhh…) and had a fun time! We headed back out to the x-c field to work out a bit more and I spent a lot of time cantering at the top of a hill, quite a funny feeling.

We wrapped up with my trainer unfortunately hopping off Query and hand-walking her, while she supervised my-and-Oats’ log-jumping. He was ON FIRE! It was crazy. I have never ridden him with him so eager, so focused, so intense. It was kind of fast for me, I have to admit…Haha. We even did a little hop up and down a bank and he like, charged it haha.

He was jumping really well and was just so great. Ah…redemption feels good. I was so proud of my brave little pony. Good work Oats and I left feeling super about the whole thing. Maybe we can do this, try new things, enjoy our partnership together.

A long weekend worthy of BC day

A good weekend- didn’t feel overly busy but was packed full of fun!

At the birthday party

At the birthday party

First I rode on Friday in the outdoor, trying to stay mindful of what I’ve been learning about Oats and my relationship when we’re working through his sticky situations (spooky at the far side of the ring) and we warmed up well and the BLAM! He spooked – hard – at the same spot again! ARGH! It wasn’t quite as dirty as the other spook so I stayed on, and he didn’t get to look left again until we started cantering and jumping.

Sorry Oats, if you do that, you lose your ‘looking left’ privileges, because all you seem to do is search for monsters…

Our jumping was over tiny little things (I was on my own, this is for safety) but quite fun! I did quite a few loopy turns, cut-ins and such. He was very good for this.

Saturday Ian and I headed up-island for his grandmother’s 90th birthday. I know, crazy eh? She is doing very well and is quite spry. Aside from a few hilarious encounters with his more, umm…unique relatives..I was bored silly! It was kind of a long event for me, who isn’t really familiar with any of the 100+ relatives that descended in Nanaimo.

Sunday– I had promised a friend I would go watch her eventing at Avalon. Got there in time to catch her cross-country round and she rocked it! It was a great weekend for the girls from the barn, their horses performed perfectly and they did super well, all placing in their respective divisions. A good day to watch!

Go for it Oats!

Go for it Oats!

Then back to Ian’s parents for another birthday- his aunt’s 60th birthday. Definitely toned-down, more my style…

And then, the fun never stops does it? We were off to Koksilah river! That’s right another swim day. The weather was AMAZING (unlike today, cold, windy, grey) and the water was great. The dogs came, and his brother, sister and dad also came. Loved it!

We then packed up our stuff and drove straight to the barn, where I took Oats for a gallop in the field. He had pretty much no ‘go’ so our gallop was a bit…slow but he tried and was a good boy alone in the field. Ian was able to take some photos, which was so nice!

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Monday, ended up having plans in the evening so my day consisted of a run to the beach, and then I returned to the beach to do some hard-core sunbathing (hey you only get a few chances in life to enjoy yourself in the sun…) and then Ian and I took Gidget blackberry picking. Got a ton of blackberries! Oats got the day off so he would have a bit “more” to give me during my dressage lesson…Back to work for both of us, unfortunately.

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Tuesday– and he did! I warmed Oats up indoors because I’ve been very unhappy with the negative vibes we’ve been getting together warming up in the outdoor, so I figured- just don’t go there! So I didn’t. And he warmed up great!

Calm

Calm

Hm….

He did fuss and fight a little bit, but overall his attitude towards dressage seems to be improving? It has been a long and hard road, for sure. We worked on getting them responsive and connected over their back through transitions and boy, did we struggle with the trot- canter transition…He hollowed and threw his head up. Well, I guess Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it?