On Saturday we headed up to Fresno County Horse Park (formerly Ram Tap) for an XC school. We're doing the HT there at the end of the month.
The weather was perfect, which is highly unusual for Fresno. Our group was: myself on Hemie, TK on George, our trainer Laurie, and her friend Deb (who graciously took photos).
This facility has a lot of personality. It has a giant electrical processing plant with huge power lines and towers. There's also a gun shooting range at the property - with gunshots echoing throughout the trailer parking area. Plus there's a railroad track running along the fence, with trains passing by regularly.
None of that bothered Hemie. He was calm as a cucumber. Until...a limping dog waddled into view.
It took us a few moments to figure out what Hemie was looking at, getting all nervous and snorty. Finally we realized it was an older Labrador cruising around the trailer parking area who was clearly lame - it's uneven gait bothered Hemie, which is very interesting (he's great with dogs otherwise). This is only the 2nd thing we've been able to identify that Hemie finds spooky (the first one being infants - which I agree can be scary).
For warm up Laurie had us cruise around the whole cross country area, trotting and cantering, checking things out. Hemie and George were good trotting out together, then going their separate ways, then regrouping, then leaving each other. So glad my horse isn't herd-bound, and enjoys going off to explore.
Then we met up at the start box to do our first set of fences together.
|Heading to our first jump: Intro coop.|
For non-eventers, these photos are a great visual of jump size differences by level. From easiest to most difficult, the levels shown here are:
- Intro (not a recognized level by USEA)
- Beginner Novice
|Jump levels from Left to Right:|
Training, Beginner Novice, Intro, Novice, Prelim.
You can see that the jumps get bigger and wider with each level. The first few jumps out of the start box tend to be straightforward jumps on flat terrain (such as these) but generally speaking what makes each level more challenging is not so much the height or spread of the jumps - it's "the question" you're being asked to tackle, which generally relates to how the jump is situated. Is it after a sharp turn after a long gallop stretch? Is it on top of a hill? Or on the hillside itself? Is it just a few strides after another jump? Is it located in the middle of a pond? All of these elements make a jump more or less of a challenging question.
|Now the BN|
We encountered a problem at the 2nd row of jumps: coming to the BN jump, Hemie refused and dodged right.
We corrected it immediately, but it was a wake up call that I needed to:
- Be more present
- Give a more positive ride by channeling "we are doing this!" vibes
- Have a stronger, more forward canter
- Add leg when I feel him back off
I'm proud to report that I worked on all those things throughout the schooling, and overall feel good about my riding. We had a few hiccups, but I was able to identify the issue and correct them right away. I'm very proud of Hemie - he was completely game and a good boy. He really, really, really enjoys XC. And riding a horse doing the thing that he really loves is a wonderful feeling.
We also did the green N house in the background.
These next 3 photos really expose my lower leg issue:
|Leg is ON, good placement.|
|Uh...leg? Why did you go back there?|
|Leg okay now.|
|I'm going over Novice house, with TK and George looking on.|
We started off doing mostly Intro and BN height jumps, but then graduated to larger stuff too. At the end of the day we did all of the BN and Novice jumps, with a handful of the Intro, and a handful of Training jumps too!
It's important to note that the Training jumps I did were very approachable jumps on flat terrain where the only challenge was the increased height.
We did water a few times, but unfortunately there were no banks or ditches! Luckily we have those at home to school (and Hemie has never had issues with them).
Overall it was a fabulous outing. Successful enough to be a real confidence boost, but educational enough that I think I'm a better rider after that experience.