Day 1 came much too early. The campsites at the clinic venue were lovely, open grassy fields mixed with scattered pine trees. The stabling was in the form of pole paddocks mixed in small groups throughout the campsite area. There was a gorgeous view out over the river valley and the overall impression was of a peaceful, rustic ranch getaway. Nice, right? The reality was, horses are LOUD and maybe not the best campsite friends. Particularly when there are about 100 of them in a new location calling to each other, not to mention randomly discovering escape routes from their paddocks throughout the night! The horse party went on all night, so I doubt I was alone in speeding a sleepless first night.
|Happy in her all inclusive party hotel|
Friday morning finally came, and since my ride time wasn't until 10, I ventured out to check out the xc field. Initial impressions were that the place is huge, I'm guessing we were using about 100 acres of mixed rolling grasslands and forests, and all of it was set up for XC. Super cool! My coach spotted me and asked why I wasn't ready for the pace clinic at 9:00. Being too embarrassed to admit I had no idea what a pace clinic was or why I should be doing it, or even where I was supposed to sign up, I just spent the next 15 min frantically tacking Bridget up.
|Part of the XC fields|
Bridget was on FIRE, apparently still well into horse party mode. I managed to make it over to the meeting point still in the saddle, which was a win in itself. I then learned what a pace clinic is all about! For those who don't event or newbies like me, essentially there was a 520m course marked out and my job was to canter the pony around the course at 350m/minute, aka the speed I will be competing at for the next while. I was told we were looking for a nice big canter, like I would want for jumping. Midge had other ideas and my shoulders are still sore 4 days later from holding her back. Thank goodness for the terrain, the steep uphills at least gave me a little break! We ended up at 383. Since Midge is so rarely that forward and the name of the game was introducing her to things and keeping it fun, EC suggested we aim for 400 instead and just let her move out a little more. Game on. Apparently Bridget can really move, because we got 420 at what felt like a nice pace for her. The pony was still prancy dancy so we went again, with the focus on me getting more up out of the saddle and bridging/adjusting my reins more effectively. By the end of the hour, I was really wishing to be more fit, and also completely hooked! We don't have those wide open spaces and the ability to gallop long distances here, so it was a super treat to canter and gallop in a big open field. I also found this mini clinic super useful for getting the feel of following the flags and adjusting pace over terrain.
|Letting Midge stretch her legs Thursday night.|
Our clinician for the XC portion was a new one to me, but right away I had a great feeling about her. Super positive and kind, but also very good about getting everyone up out of their comfort zones!
We were in a group of 3, and I felt very lucky because out of the 100 or so horses there, one of our lesson buddies was Ginger mare! Beyond cool to ride Ms Bridget and watch Ginger go all at the same time. We started out in one of the arenas, just a short walk/trot/canter and little gymnastic exercise, before MD (our clinician) deemed us ready for some solid obstacles. Bridget's very first XC jump was a log at the top of a hill. I won't lie, it seemed pretty substantial for our first XC jump ever! (A later reconnaissance showed it was indeed, a solid 2'6" raised log. Not big for a lot of you, big for me and the pony!) She was a superstar, as were our lesson mates, so off we went to another corner of the property. Once there, we tackled a line of 3 smaller logs up a hill, each with 5 strides between them. No problem, said the Midge, so we switched directions and rode them down the hill. Again, no issues there, probably because downhill = away from the stabling and my mini freight train was less inclined to take the wheel. Next, we popped over a couple of larger logs on a fairly steep uphill line. These felt quite big on a small pony, but rode very well and I think we both left feeling very confident. Still, I was pretty relieved I'd signed up for the intro group, since apparently at this clinic the "intro to eventing" group can = pre-training (USEA Novice) level fences by the end of day 1:) Honestly, though, we never felt pressured to do anything we didn't want to do and the whole feel of the lesson was super positive and confidence building.
|Being a geek and posing with some of our first XC logs!|
We finished off with a walk through one of the water complexes, just to establish the horses were all good with water prior to the following morning's lesson. We've all trail ridden plenty, so that was a non event and we ended the lesson there. I ended up in the saddle for almost 4 hours, but I still don't think either the Midge or I were ready to stop! On to Day 2...