Penny Oaks HT: XC

The short version of XC is that our well-executed plan worked until I was too tired to execute it anymore, and then things got interesting.

The even shorter version that says absolutely nothing about how the ride went is that we went double clear.

(All photos taken by Connor's breeder, Lisa, unless otherwise noted.)


The "how much leg Connor actually needs" epiphany extends to fences too - remember the lesson a month ago in which I really put my leg on and put him together when he was strung out for the first time?  So today's trainer tip was LEG - approaching the fence, at the base of the fence, and over the fence as well, so he's never even a millisecond without support from me.

The plan worked great in warmup - they actually had Starter and BN XC fences there (usually they just have stadium fences in warmup) and with my leg on him, he wasn't squirrely at all and took them well.  I felt good going into the course.


The first few fences rode really nicely, for us.  They weren't fluid, but he didn't scramble and weave before the fences, and he never thought about running out of anything the entire course.  I thought, "PROGRESS!"


Fence 3
By the middle of the course, I was starting to get tired from using that much leg.  It was a long course for our first one of the season too - 2,000m.

Fence 8 - always a good boy about water.

Photo used with permission from Xpress Photography.


At fence 9, immediately after the water, my leg started to really go.  He gave this brand new fence a hard stop/look, then leaped it.

Photo used with permission from Xpress Photography.

The next fence, 10, was an option.  Ditch or trakehner.  I chose the trakehner because we're not ready to do ditches in rated competition yet, but my trainer told me not to overestimate it, because "That log never rides nicely for people."

She proved right like that so many times on this course!  He totally, completely stopped in front of it for a full second, and then jumped it from an actual standstill.  He's jumped from a standstill before, but never like that.  I ended up on his neck without stirrups, and had to pull him up to a walk to get them back.

11...
Photo used with permission from Xpress Photography.

Immediate left turn to 12...
Photo used with permission from Xpress Photography.

13 and 14 rode pretty sticky, and then there was 15:

It was actually our smoothest jump of the day - notice he didn't put his nose down to it on approach.

Not bad, all things considered.

Fairly normal landing here...

...and then this happened.
To be honest, I really could not tell you what happened with the stumble.  I know he was tired after 15 attempts over a mile to that point, and "a tired horse is a lame horse." (Dr. Marks).  He fell and got back up so quickly, I could feel that he was as bewildered as I was.

The ground was really strange that weekend - it rained a lot two weeks prior, then not at all in the week leading up to the event, so the ground was firm under people feet, but the horses' feet were making massive divots, so maybe got a hoof half in a divot or something.

One way or another, I was so proud of him for righting us that quickly and, as shaken up as we were, the next fence was truly abominable:
There should be a cartoon sound of pots and pans clanging out of a cabinet accompanying this picture!


But we recovered nicely for the B element of the combination.  (For the record, I am so not a fan of combinations on XC.  I am also not a fan of combinations on XC at the end of a long course for the first event of the year.  But we deal, we deal.)

Tired pony is tired.

Photo used with permission from Xpress Photography.



After that fence, I swear I heard (pseudo-resident clinician we ride with a couple times a year) CJF's voice come out of the heavens and say that I was in danger of not making time.  *Noted after Britt's comment: I didn't actually hear her, because she was still in the warmup area, and even if she was on course, she didn't have a watch on me and wouldn't have known my time.  It was definitely all in my very tired head, which is why I said 'I swear I heard', but one way or another, the thought made me pick up my pace.*

I asked Connor for one more big canter, where we sprinted to fence 18 and then the finish line.  We ended up being 3 seconds under optimum time, which is perfect.


So the major takeaway from XC is that we both need to be more fit.  When we were still both feeling good, the fences were actually better than they've ever been, which is not saying he's a cross-country machine yet - far from it- but there was tangible improvement there.

Since it was the first show of the season for almost everyone, we were not the only ones that were feeling the effects of XC.  Time for conditioning for Connor, and more CrossFit for me!

I would like to end this post by encouraging everyone to admire how perfectly shaped JenJ's (handmade) dragon patch is on my saddle pad, and how perfectly it aligns to the saddle I didn't even have when she made it as my Blogger Secret Santa present.  Slow clap for JenJ!

31 comments:

  1. Awe, what a good boy for figuring things out even when tired! I'm exhausted just looking at all those fences. Congrats!

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    1. It was tiring, for sure! Thanks!

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  2. It sounds like your pony is really starting to come into his own as a scrappy XC machine! Congrats on getting it done!

    Just a word of caution, some people (not myself) get super bent out of shape about being talked to on course- so if someone is yelling to you about your time, it could be considered outside help and (I think the rules say?) be cause for elimination.

    Last year I laughed at people scurrying out of my path on XC and jokingly yelled to them that I didn't want them to be roadkill, and got the same lecture that talking is talking, apparently. Just passing it along!

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    1. Thanks - I clarified my statement a little better. I originally said "I swear I heard" because I know that she wasn't out there, she was in warmup, and didn't have a watch on me even if she was. It was all in my head, but that's what made me make time.

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    2. A ha! Well- no penalties for imagining voices then :)

      Also, I understand there are no penalties for talking to your horse on course. Thank goodness :D

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  3. You two make the cutest pair! Congrats!

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  4. Maybe a bit of a rough go but way to kick on and get it done!

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  5. I'm glad you guys made it through clear! I think the recovery from the few mishaps you had is really a testament to your partnership together. He tries his best to take care of you despite not being an xc machine quite yet!

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  6. Wow, great job! Lovely riding and sounds like you learned a lot

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  7. Slow claps for all Jens involved! I love his welsh outfit. How awesome was the saddle out there?

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  8. Way to keep it together and finish strong!

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  9. Progress is progress! :-) Next time will be better.

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  10. You made it through, you two are a great team! His pad and bonnet combo are fantastic! They look perfect on him!

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  11. A) outfit is awesome. B) getting over impressive-looking jumps (especially BN first show/early in the season!) is awesome. C) recovering from stumble in the middle of a combination is AWESOME. D) you are just freakin' awesome.

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  12. Makes me tired just looking at that course of jumps! Super job both of you!

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  13. woo hoo - congrats on getting it done and keeping the horse solidly between you and the ground! sounds like he really is making a ton of progress, and with a bit more fitness he'll be unstoppable!

    i'm not sure if this is a thing at BN or just prelim/training, but at the jump judge orientation i did for an event this weekend the organizers and TD were very clear that a full stop at a fence with height (ie anything but ditches, down banks and water, etc) followed by jumping from a stand still should be considered a refusal. their reasoning was that they didn't want horses to climb/scramble over the big fences.

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    1. ^thats interesting and I totally want some rule book clarification now! I thought that as long as the horse doesn't step backwards then it isn't counted and a refusal. I've had a couple full stops myself! It wouldake sense that those rules might be different for the different levels though...obviously jumping a prelim fence from a standstill isn't a very good idea for anyone...

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    2. Every recognized event I've judged for clarified a full stop and then jump = clear. Any smidgen of a step back = refusal. Sometimes its tough to judge if the horse is a scrambler.

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    3. At jumps over 1' in height, it is considered a refusal at the point when the horse comes to a complete stop, regardless of whether it jumps or steps backward. This can obviously get sketchy, since it's at the jump judge's discretion. However, IMO it's very dangerous to jump a solid fence from a stand still. As a jump judge I've noted that situation as a refusal, with the comment of "jumped from a standstill, dangerous" in the notes.

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    4. It's obviously not ideal and not the way I intended to ride the fence. They didn't post scores until the next morning, and I was truly not sure whether I went clear or not based on that fence - I would have taken the penalties. I am not proud of it, of course. There's a lot I would have changed about that XC round.

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    5. Not meaning to bash you in any way, Jen! Just explaining what the actual rule is since some seemed confused, and what the point behind the rule is (to encourage people to circle and reapproach instead of trying to jump from a standstill). It seems like a lot of jump judges don't understand this, despite it being pretty clearly written out on the jump judge information sheet. I see it quite regularly.

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    6. I know you're not! I appreciate the clarification, and just wanted to get across that there is a lot about this round I am not proud of! Haha. We made it...but I don't always want to be the person that jump judges gasp over. Work in progress. Thanks for the clarification, I haven't jump judged before, so that's interesting to me.

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    7. Interesting! The last time I jump judged it was the super lower level divisions, so maybe that's why they emphasized the step back? I think just Starter and BN. There are a lot of horses at that level that make jump judges gasp. I think the lower levels are scarier to watch than the upper ones most of the time!

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    8. How long ago was it, Austen? The rule used to say step back, but now it doesn't. The rule applies all the way down divisions, as long as the fence is over 1' in height (so bank downs, water crossings and ditches at any level would not count) and as long as the HT is following USEA rules.

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    9. Here is a link to the jump judge's guide. Refusals are addressed on page 3. http://useventing.com/sites/default/files/2009_guidelines_for_xc_judges.pdf

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    10. That was in 2012, I think? Maybe 2013? Recently, but not in the last 2 years.

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  14. Way to go!! Holy smokes, if YOU need to be more fit then I feel like there's no hope for he rest of us lol. Also, you've got quite he scopey pony on your hands there!

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  15. Hmm...all of your doubts and worries about XC just scream to me, "I NEED TO TRAIL RIDE ALL SUMMER WITH CARLA AND FOXHUNT ALL FALL."

    That might just be me though ;)

    Don't beat yourself up...it was still a good learning experience even if it didn't go as planned! Also Connor is super cute in his "outfit"

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  16. Woohoo! Huge congrats on such a successful cross country round. You guys look amazing and even I, not being a jumper, can see the improvement :)

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