|Weeeee!! A training course map!
The first three were pretty normal - #1 was a yellow house that is a slightly larger version of the one on the novice course. Nice gallop from that to #2. The trailer parking was off to the left, so JT warned they can sometimes get drawn off to that, kinda lolly gagging along.
|#2 - get his attention back to this jump early if he's off in lala land
|#3 - straight forward coop, I wasn't sure how spooky he was going to be to this though
The first combination came up at #4 - two coops with a bending line of 5 strides between them. Tricky part was they were placed RIGHT next to the tree line. And I knew Ben was going to spook at the tree line. JT told me to keep my eye on the jump no matter what. Even if we were shooting sideways, my eye was on A, riding to it.
#5 was a bench through the tree line, and then #6 was a half coffin. It was down a slight downhill, but not much of one compared to what we have done at Magnolia Sands. Same as the ditch on the novice course, I was told to get his ears up and repeatedly go "Do you see THAT? We are JUMPING that!"
Then it was a right hand turn to the water combo. We have schooled a very similar line at the horse park with a larger roll top, one stride to the water, through the water, then out over a chevron. Because he had done that so well in the past, this one didn't really give me any concerns.
|Whole line through
|To part C
#8 was an oxer, then #9 was a brush that I didn't get too close to on the ground.
|Hello there from a distance... I will canter you, jump you, and not do anything (too) weird
#10 was another combo, roll top to wedge. Again the part that I thought might be tricky for Ben was the spooking at the other jumps on the left. Modified had a WHOLE ditch and wall right by the roll top that was really quite scary looking.
|Our part B off to the right
Then there was a much friendlier looking brush and then a nice stretch to a small log, right hand turn up a hill to a tiny log on top of a hill. Again, at Magnolia Sands we have jumped a BN sized train at the top of a hill, so this didn't seem too shocking. Almost like JT has a plan to make us well prepared when we move up!!
|Jump this log at a little angle to let him know we are doing something pretty soon after, not just galloping away again
|To turn right and head up the hill to catch this one
#14 and 15 were canter, jump them, don't do anything weird. #16 was another combo - a house to a legit corner. We are still at the point though where the corners can be jumped straight on to their ground line. We walked a few different angles of the coop to the corner, they all walked out as 7 strides.
|White house there in the distance
|Part B corner in some funky lighting there
Then #17 was a table shared with novice and #18 finished with a log on box shared with modified.
It was the first time they offered modified at Rocking Horse, and it looked to my ignorant eyes like they had done a really good job. It definitely seemed more challenging than training, but looked more doable than prelim, which is what my understanding of modified is.
It was really, really nice to go out and know that we had done more challenging versions of all of these combinations before at Magnolia Sands. We'd done a roll top to wedge, but the one we'd schooled was down a hill to the wedge. We'd done a full coffin set on a large hill. We'd done bending lines and corners and basically all the things. The jumps did look BIG to me though, but I don't walk up to what I jump on foot much... which I might need to start doing. And novice looked small, so I knew I was signed up for the right level. I borrowed Ms. GY's bike to go around the course once more after we did stadium. And even the few inches of height the bike added made the bigger jumps look less intimidating. I still didn't get too close to the first brush though.
Then Ben and I drove home and he got dinner and then got turned out. The next morning I woke up at 1:30, convinced myself to fall back asleep, then woke up at 5:30. That time I got up. It was probably good I did because Ben took forever to eat, continually staring out the back window of his stall. I spook him with my head lamp, but I also don't have another way to see pre-dawn, so he's gotta get a little bit used to it lol.
We loaded up and got there around 8. Training cross country ran training first then they back tracked to intermediate, prelim, and modified after the ground was a bit drier and the sun was a bit higher. We were sitting in 6th, we'd been tied for 3rd after dressage, but our rail dropped us down a few places. I was trying not to pay any attention to that though because I just wanted to finish without refusals in stadium and without cross country jump penalties.
I did finally figure out how to use my Garmin watch to count down for cross country - I can program a time and distance into it and then when I start it will tell me if I'm on track for that time or too fast or too slow. I was pretty certain it could do something like that, but since I only use it to log mileage and time for my runs, I had to play with it a bit to get there. But I was also solidly refusing to buy an optimum time watch.
When we arrived Ben got a little walk around. He took in the cross country course in the distance and definitely knew what was up. We tacked up about 30 minutes before hand and headed over to warm up. I was going to walk him for 10 minutes, but he got jazzed up about horses galloping around warm up. His "jazzed up" is pretty adorable - he starts tossing his head and shaking it a little bit, mostly down, not up into my space, and sometimes he'll add a little squeal. He also starts jigging. None of it is that much or really anything other than endearing to me, but he also won't particularly walk and it isn't worth the fight. So we trotted and then cantered with some back and forth to the gallop, then tried walking again in the quieter area of warm up.
Our jumps were not particularly inspiring, we were getting to a tight spot almost every time. But he was jumping honestly and jumping athletically from that spot, so we took it. We did end on the triple bar to a wedge to a skinny roll top and he jumped the wedge and roll top GREAT.
As we headed over to the box I looked at JT and said "Mine are the black sign with white writing, right?" She hid any horror and just answered, YEP! Then she told me to have fun out there with my friend and no matter what to keep believing in it. Then off we went! As opposed to last time, Ben came out of the box and knew his job from start to finish. It was just so much FUN!!
One, two and three jumped great. We did skid sideways a small amount as we headed to four, but JT's advice worked and he jumped A great and did no spooking in between to jump B great as well.
He did seem a bit surprised by the ditch, but I was stretching up with spurs in so he went still. He made up for it at the water combo though. I am not quite sure what happened, but suddenly we were halfway through the fairly small water and I wasn't pointing him at C yet, so it was a kind of sharp, surprising turn to C and he was very honest and game to it.
|For part C
We jumped the brush just fine, proving I hadn't needed to avoid looking it in the eye when I was walking it. He did spook a bit at the jumps near 10, but was game to it.
Somewhere around 11, I noticed that I was not actually half halting and then releasing hands to the jump as we were going, so I added that back in and he started jumping much better.
|And over the triple bar!
He did squeeze in an extra 8th stride between the house and the corner, but again I never doubted we were DOING IT! From there the two to the finish were straight forward and then we were done!!! We were 19 seconds under optimum time and clear!! I am not a crying of happiness kinda person, but I had tears in my eyes hugging him afterwards. JT gave me a huge hug and was just as happy as I was. It was just so much fun to be out there galloping around with a horse that I trust and love.
|Getting his post-XC hose - I found this green sun shirt on sale at Smart Pak when I was buying a fluffy thin line... I am very pleased with it... now I just need to get a green belt and I will be fully green...
I iced him then loaded up to go home to the GY's this time.
|His BFF who doesn't bite him is the first one in line there. Ben walked straight up to him and they sniffed noses. I of course missed that moment and got this one where his friend doesn't look thrilled, but it was really adorable.
He did some fancy prancing around his field, and he is looking really great right now. We've made some feed changes recently that have really made him fill out and look fantastic. It's great to have him so close again, Monday morning I popped right over and did some massage and some stretches with him.