It has been getting hot fast here in the central valley. Temps this week were up in the hundreds (although we had one super weird summer storm Tuesday/Wednesday) and my weather app said something absurd like “Actual Temperature: 93. Feels like: 98” which I super do not understand. But it was correct. That meant, of course, that in order to beat the heat we left to school Camelot at 5:15.
No time like the present, right?
Anyway, we of course left a little late (horse people problems) but still got to Camelot in good time. I was fortunately riding in the first group and tacked up Murray supah fast (new ground manners work is going excellently!) and we were all on and ready to go in about fifteen minutes.
Murray marched right towards the cross country course as soon as I got on him, which I thought was pretty funny because a) he totally remembers Camelot and why we even go there and b) he walked into a blocked off section between the concessions trailer and a giant wood pile because he thought he knew the way. Silly pony. He was super fab when we got out there — quiet for warming up (no theatrics), into the water, cantering around, all of it. Very good.
I’m a bit more of an aggressive XC schooler than some of my friends, which really means that I just really don’t appreciate sitting around. I like a good walk break as much as the next girl, but I don’t think there’s any reason to be sitting around in our horses shooting the shit when we could be JUMPING ALL THE THINGS. I know who I inherited this from (Mr. Impatience himself!) but I also feel that it’s fairly functional — don’t use up your horse any more than you need to be sitting around shooting the shit. So I was a bit frustrated because it was a little windy so people were having a hard time hearing Alana about which fences to go to, and there was some confusion on course about which fences we should be schooling and what direction some of the symmetrical ones rode. No matter. We jumped all the shit anyway.
I also managed to achieve all of my goals for this XC school too. I hit up every possible scary BN element on course, as well as several novice elements, and it was very confidence-building.
Murray looked hard at the guillotine above — it was a training & prelim fence with lots of scary decorations sandwiched between the BN and Novice benches — but he just skittered sideways and I managed to get his attention back on me in time to re-direct him to the bench and ride it at an angle. I don’t think that move would, technically, count as a refusal, as we never pointed away from the fence and I was pleased that Murray was willing to take on the bench (that I think he’s never jumped?) from essentially a standstill just a few strides away.
Murray is so game out on XC it’s almost ridiculous. In fact, it does get him into a bit of trouble on occasion. He’s barreling down at a fence — with a completely huge, open stride that I never ever see in stadium — and will listen to my half halts to balance up a little when he realises there’s a fence coming. But he’s still strong and forward until, on occasion, he realises the fence has a huge shadow or is neon blue or something, and then I really feel him suck back. When I’m riding in a more forward, open-hipped XC stance this can get in me in trouble as the combination of momentum change and hesitation often leads me to jumping ahead. So I really tried to work on keeping my weight back and up, and doing what Denny Emerson describes as the “light sitting canter” before the fence to get my heels down and keep my leg on Murray. I found that really worked well to keep him bold to some fences where he might otherwise have been a little looky.
However, I also need to commit to a distance and ride it, because letting Murray choose to add or takeoff early is not always the solution.
We jumped our first trakehner — first for each of us!! — and it was as awesome as I hoped. I’ve been waiting to jump trakehners for like four years. I’ve always thought they looked awesome.
After a few perfect runs at the BN trakehner we moved up to the Novice one, which evidently presented us with a little more difficulty.
Our last three fences were a galloping line of three that went up and over a hill. We couldn’t see the fences on the other side, but Alana assured us that there were options for everyone (BN for me, Novice for three others, Training/Prelim for one) and so we jumped them without looking. After the first horse galloped off I pushed Murray forward and over a little bit so our line to the first fence would be a bit more reasonable. Evidently, Murray thought he’d been completely and utterly abandoned on cross country and started pitching a fit. In all his leaping and kicking around he managed to unseat me over his shoulder, and I thought, well, I could save this, buuuut that will be hard so I just popped off and landed on my feet holding the reins. This also upset Mr. Horse and he was like “what? NO NO NO NO NO” and started to back away from me as I stood there and tried to soothingly (will admit it probably was more like exasperated yelling) say “Murray, I’m not hurting you. Murray, I’m not doing anything to you.” Eventually he realised nothing was actually attacking him, I wasn’t going to hit him, and settled down. I patted him and walked him over to a training corner to get back on, which he was quite polite for, and we headed back towards our “starting” point for the last few fences. Alas, there is no media of this as everyone on foot was headed over to the other side of the hill to see the ending line.
Sweneyway. I jumped a little roll top with some brush on it — which is actually where I would have incurred a jump penalty earlier as Murray was like “WTF BRUSH NOOO WAYYYYYY” and I had to let him investigate it before he would jump it (but then he was very game). We then galloped down the hill to a cutout-table that we have jumped many times before, and then over to a very friendly BN house by what I can only assume is the finish line.
I’m not going to lie: the fact that Murray handily clears the BN fences with plenty of room to spare is extremely comforting to me. He really doesn’t feel like he’s expending much effort on these fences, so hopefully moving up in the future will not be an epic challenge. At home though, some days it feels like he’s got springs in his feet and some days he’s like “meh, minimum effort” so I can never tell. Photographic evidence is good that way.
We finished off the ride by going to investigate some of the KRAZY stadium standards that Camelot has built. In addition to a castle with dragons on it they have a shark, a pool table (complete with a panel with all kinds of pool balls on it), and these MAJIKAL SPARKLY UNICORN STANDARDS. Obviously I had to take a picture with them. I stupidly didn’t think to open my vest and reveal that I was wearing a unicorn tee at the time. Ah well — in the future.
Ah yes, and this is the head of the aforementioned dragon wall. Her wings aren’t quite as scary as I had thought, and her name is Camille. Which is really not that comforting at all.