The Return of Short & Quick: XC Day Clinic Recap
You see my dilemma.
I had to take a lot of deep breaths on the ride over to the farm, reminding myself that this was just a lesson, and if bad things happened, there was a really good trainer there to help me through it.
Dino, true to form, was completely nonplussed by the entire thing and behaved like his usual rockstar self. What a guy.
Andrea spent the first few minutes of the lesson getting a feel for everyone's experience level on cross country, and I was relieved to see that two out of the other three riders in my group were also pretty green on XC. I was honest in telling Andrea that I had only been eventing for about a year, and neither I nor my pony were very experienced!
Our warm-up was very similar to what we did on the first day - riding together in a line around the perimeter of the field in trot and canter, making large circles every so often. Dino was nicely forward, and even broke up into the canter at times, which was a welcome change from the day before! After we had made a few circuits around the field, we got started jumping! The first task set for us was to jump a single BN-ish-sized log going uphill. Andrea had placed a bunch of fake flowers on the center of the log, and we were to jump right over them - changing our line as she moved the flowers to different points along the log.
The first few times I approached the log, Dino slipped a little in the turn, making me feel like I had to chase him to the jump and resulting in a flyer of a distance every time. Andrea wanted me to ride a canter with more power, but a shorter stride length. Short & Quick is back! Once I started asking Dino to wait - but with impulsion! - we nailed the closer distance several times.
The next exercise was to ride around the perimeter of the field, jumping a series of about 6 or 7 small logs along the path. My mission was to make the Short & Quick canter and closer, waiting distance happen at all of them, which I actually succeeded at! My 'course' was supposed to end with two downhill fences - one plain log set at the top of the hill, then down a steep hill to a decently-sized log oxer at the base.
The log at the top of the hill freaked me the heck out. Not only were the approach and landing sloping downward, the left side of the jump also sat on a steep downward incline, giving me the feeling that if I were to ride closer to the left, I would fall off a cliff and plummet to my doom.
So, naturally, I performed my patented Panic Drive-By, and pulled Dino away from the jump to the right.
At this point, I was REALLY upset with myself for bailing like that, and also just plain scared of jumping that stupid log on that stupid sideways hill. We're talking near-tears upset about it. But this is eventing, and there is no crying in eventing! At least, that's what I'm told. Andrea worked me through it, having me trot the offending Sloping Log of Doom after a few more drive-bys, and then working up to riding the fence before, and then the Log of Doom in sequence. We were successful eventually, and then did the whole loop another time or two, but I wasn't happy with it! Dino was REALLY sucked behind my leg and the whole thing felt awkward and like more work than it should have been.
After that episode, Andrea started putting together some legit courses for us. In the first course, we had to jump a small rolltop going uphill, ride up to a skinny, taller, pointier rolltop also going uphill, turn right and jump a stacked log jump going down, continue down to jump the first rolltop in the opposite direction, bend to jump another stacked log fence, then jump the log oxer uphill.
I had a bit of a tough time getting Dino going to the first fence, but I was determined to ride the ever-loving snot out of each one of those jumps! Once we got moving, things went pretty well! I didn't have any issues at the two downhill fences, and I managed to get the closer distance until the very last jump, where I saw a flyer to the log oxer and went for it. But, overall, I was pretty pleased with our effort! No mental meltdowns on my part, and Dino was moving reasonably forward off my leg and jumping honestly.
|Cannot stop staring at the TOTAL PERFECTION that is this photo! Swoon.|
My confidence had definitely started to improve, and while the first two fences were a little sticky, I got it done. I opted to trot the Log of Doom, and the turn down the hill to the bank really caught me off guard the first time. I was not expecting it to be quite as sharp as it was, so I drifted off my line a bit, but got straight in plenty of time to trot quietly off the bank. I landed a bit discombobulated, but re-organized myself and totally nailed the last three fences.
Andrea had us jump this course one more time to finish up the lesson, and I'm SO glad she did, because it was awesome! Every jump was spot-on, I felt like I had a much better feel for a good rhythm, and the Short & Quick canter was coming together. I trotted the Log of Doom again, but landed cantering, made a much better left turn down the hill, and CANTERED OFF THE DOWN BANK! It was awesome and not even a little bit scary! We nailed the last three jumps again, and I couldn't have been happier with our last course. What a way to end the clinic!
My take-aways from XC day included:
-Give your horse one option - to get to the other side of the jump. 9 times out of 10, he'll figure out a way to do it if that's the only choice you give him. Dino's stopping problem is really MY stopping problem - I give him the option to stop or run out, and he takes it. I need to start making a successful jump from one side to the other the only choice.
-Put more power in a shorter canter stride, aka, use the Short & Quick canter. In this cross country lesson, I got a REALLY excellent feel for how to create and use this type of jumping canter. It's not an active holding or picking to a close distance, it's not all "go" and no balance, it's a quiet "wait for it" spoken with just my seat and upper body while my leg remains supportive and pressing the gas pedal.
-Trust your horse going downhill. Hips forward, hands down and quiet, and just let him take care of it. He will take care of it.
-Ride more upright in galloping position: if I tuck my butt underneath me, Dino's butt will tuck, too. If my butt is way out behind me, his will be also!
-My equitation is damn impressive.
-Cantering down banks is a thing we do now!
While group lessons aren't usually my thing, I had a really wonderful weekend at the Andrea Davidson clinic. She is a gifted teacher with an incredible eye, and an amazing ability to tailor her lessons to each individual horse and rider in the group. While we all worked on essentially the same exercises, she made the goal different for each pair depending on what they needed. For a green, unconfident young horse, it was about giving him time to read each fence and get to the other side confidently and in a good, quiet rhythm. For a young rider on her trusty pony, it was about finding a good position and riding straight to the jumps. For a more experienced pair, Andrea focused on finessing the rider's position and maintaining a good canter. For us, she helped Dino and I find our Short & Quick canter, and build my confidence in situations that scared me.
If you get the chance, I would absolutely recommend riding with Andrea Davidson. This clinic was a great compliment to my regular training routine, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again!