Okay it’s not really fair to call Texas winter “Winter”, especially when some of y’all are knee deep in snow. I’ve ridden in a sunshirt 3 times in the past week, and once in a t-shirt. But winter does mean off season for us, in that we don’t have any recognized shows between December and February. That tends to be the time of year when we all buckle down and get to work, gearing up for the show season to come. I’ve noticed that I tend to take more lessons and school XC more in that time of year than probably the entire rest of the year combined. This year is no exception, with a pretty full calendar for the next couple months.
This fall and winter being a lot wetter than normal has put a damper on that a bit, but we still manage to find ways around it much of the time. This past weekend we loaded up early to head down to Pine Hill for our 2nd XC schooling in as many weeks, which feels like a fantastic luxury. The weather was nice, but Pine Hill has continued to get pummeled with rain, so most of the facility was too muddy to use. No problem though. Instead we headed up the highest, driest part of the course and worked on uphill and downhill bank combinations.
This is the kind of stuff I’m really craving right now. The major difference between Training and Prelim (aside from the extra 4″ of height and 9-12″ of width) is the technicality. Combinations are a lot harder, the jumps come up way faster, and there’s significantly less room for error. Technicality is what we really need to work on, so I can start reacting faster, which helps Henry think and move faster too.
After we warmed up, Trainer set up a little vertical at the bottom of the hill, 3 strides to a bank, 2 slightly bent strides to a rolltop. We rode it both ways, up and down. If you rode in passively, or rode in forward but then became a passenger, it didn’t work. Each element required you to keep riding forward in order for the next part to work out. Adding the terrain element made controlling your upper body especially important. I loved all of it, because these are the things that have shown to be so crucial as we’ve started testing the waters at Prelim. When they’re that big, you have GOT to keep coming forward. When they’re that big, you have GOT to be good with your body. I love exercises that make it very obvious when you’ve accomplished those things or not.
It wasn’t a long school, or one where we were jumping a lot of bigger fences, but that’s not what we need right now anyway. We know that we can gallop up to the big wide tables just fine. What we lack is some education and finesse at the technical aspects, so this kind of stuff is perfect for us. We’re knee deep in details, in every part of what we’re working on right now. It’s no longer about getting through the dressage while holding Henry’s brain together as best we can, or getting from one side of the fence to the other smoothly. Now we’re getting down into the nitty gritty, the fun stuff, the hard stuff. The bar has been raised in more ways than one.
It’s not easy, but it’s also really exciting. For the first time in my life I’m in a place with a horse where I really get to concentrate on myself. It’s uncharted territory. Sometimes I’m lost and wandering, other times it feels like a grand adventure. Either way, I love it. Hopefully the weather holds this week, because I’d really like to take Presto out next weekend and let him scope things out, put his feet in the water, and investigate the ditches/bank. He’s overdue for a field trip, I think!
Oh, and Bobby rode Cannavaro for the first time this weekend, just a quick and easy poke around to get acquainted.
He was perfect, of course. Would you expect anything less?