Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Jumping Competition
Time for our final camp activity - the jumping competition.
At 11:00, Phillip walked the courses with us and we each decided which course we wanted to do for XC - Novice, Training or Prelim. Phillip said he would adjust the show jumping course to whatever height we each wanted. The show jumping course had some solid questions, but if we could manage to remember everything we had learned over the week, it should ride well. We had a simple verticle on a bending line to an oxer. Out of the corner we had a verticle to oxer one-stride combination then onto a bending line to a swedish oxer. Around another corner to planks and then down the line 5 strides to an oxer-liverpool. We would then take a short break to re-group and head straight out to the XC course. I chose to do the Training course which had 13 jumps mostly composed of jumps we had done earlier in the week - with a few new obstacles and varied lines. It's funny how you can know that you've already done almost everything on the course, but when you slap numbers on the jumps and call it a "competition" the show nerves can still start to kick in!
Phillip had us all head back up to the barns and tack up so we could hang out in the shade and watch each other. By this point, I think the horses were all quite sure that we were nuts! It was definitely a long week both mentally and physically for them, and Phillip had a few riders back off a little and do an easier final jumping course to be sure the horses left thinking how easy it all was. He also told a few other riders to take what they had done over the week - go home and back off a bit to let both horse and rider absorb everything. Give it a few weeks, then push on! Really great advice to recognize how much we challenged the horses not just physically but also with their mental game.
As each rider's turn came-up, we headed into the arena where Phillip warmed us up over a fence that he changed from a verticle, bigger verticle, oxer, bigger oxer, verticle, then "pretend this is your first fence" verticle. He worked with me on a new warm-up technique - very tight figure-eights and making Katchi begin his turn in the air. One thing I've really struggled with in show jumping is the turns - I've struggled with Katchi's canter balance and engagement since I bought him and it's only been in the last month or so that he's really started to develop a decent canter (I just about dropped my jaw when I cantered for Sylva on Monday and she said "nice canter" especially because Jimmy has described Katchi as having "an unfortunate canter"!!). Anyhow, on the drive home Friday night, I was thinking about the things Phillip had me do in the jumping warm-up, and it really struck me. I tend to jump my warm-up jumps and either do a quick halt to get Katchi listening to me - which is very effective for that purpose, but it isn't what Katchi needs the most (he halts real good - remember my first lesson with Phillip?). Katchi needs to be made soft and flexible in the warm-up, before I go into the arena and ask him to do tight turns, stay balanced and engaged, and jump fences very quick one after the other. He needs a different warm-up than I've been giving him. He needs Phillip's warm-up. And I know Phillip is right, because I had a GREAT jumping round! The last thing Phillip said to me before I hit the course was that if things started to go wrong, to make the change - (in my words) don't just sit there fat, dumb and happy! Do something! Our second jump was a bit icky, but I said to myself "what's wrong, what does he need?" - I fixed it and the other 5 fences couldn't have been better. wow. Loving that! Phillip was really pleased too, which was a great way to end the week!
My XC run was great - with one little bobble at the water. Phillip had us doing a line Katchi hadn't done before - log on bank in, one stride, bank out. I really never even got to the water, because I couldn't get Katchi to lock onto the jump. I kept hearning Phillip say "Don't pull back, Don't pull back!" But everytime I'd try to give the reins, Katchi would focus on some other jump! AGH! And then he stopped. When we came back around, he jumped it - but when I talked to Phillip afterwards, he said that Katchi only jumped it the second time because he's a nice guy, not because he was especially committed to it. So, Phillip took me back over to the water for a little extra work. Frustrating, but was SO glad Phillip had me do it, because he was right - Katchi really wasn't comfortable with the question yet. By the time we finished, he was good to go. Now, I just have to remember at our show next weekend to let go of the reins, ride strong and have the bat ready! Doesn't it sound so simple?!
Bottom line is that I don't have a whole lot to report, because, seriously, everyone was awesome! "Come Again Charlie" got through his course (and the water jump) and had quite a smile on his face at the end! The horse who came to camp with a "serious ditch issue" didn't even blink at the ditch! A horse who arrived with a little confidence trouble at Prelim, jumped around the Prelim course like he was an old pro! It really was amazing to see the transformation of the horses and riders over 5 short days. Phillip said several times that 5 days isn't nearly enough, but it is enough to move us a bit down a good road - now the challenge is up to us to stay on that road!