Our very first cross-county schooling adventure was a blast! Also an eye-opener about what it’ll take to successfully complete the Starter level next month.
I’ve added a video of our outing, but before that… image this:
There we were, at the cross-country schooling grounds, on a blazingly hot, windless Saturday. Me, in my brand new riding tights with the belly rolls hanging out below the protective vest, and Levi looking majestic in his non-color coordinated boots and lime green saddle pad.
I naively thought that there’d be a lot more shade and a lot less… hot.
I’ve now had 3 whole lessons on cross country portion of eventing. This has emboldened me to the point where I registered for my first “Derby”.
A Derby, I learned, is basically a crash course in eventing. Smash every phase into an afternoon and the survivor wins.
The Derby I’ve sign up for is in 4 weeks. God help us.
Tomorrow is our first XC schooling at a real eventing course. This is where we’ll see if Levi and I have the stomach to actually do this for real.
I’m beginning to freak about all the things I don’t know I don’t know. How much fitter does Levi need to be? How do i get him fitter? Do they give us the course before the event? If the Derby has stadium and CC combined then what is the attire regulations?!?! Sooooo many questions!!
Also.. How do you eventers keep it all in your head?! Dressage test, stadium course, and XC course! I go off course just doing 1 dressage test. 😒
I really hope tomorrow is a confidence booster for us. I feel so unsure about whether we (both green beans at jumping/eventing) are capable of this.
Levi and I had our first eventing lesson last month.
My expectations for the lesson were rock bottom low considering he nearly face plants when cantering on flat ground sometimes.
I also haven’t exactly made the greatest progress on his canter over the summer. Plus, he’s not the most agile horse I’ve ridden. And sometimes he still refuses to go forward AT ALL. Add in that I wasn’t sure he’d steer (this being a rather new skill for him).
Oh, and I’ve NEVER jumped him over ANYTHING!
Not even a baby cross rail.
I assumed the lesson would be ground poles and trotting around a bit. I didn’t dare hope for much more than that.
Boy did he exceed my expectations!
Actually, to be honest, it wasn’t really the horse that was the scaredy chicken that had issues. 🙂
So, without further ado, here’s Levi’s debut as an event horse!
I find that understanding “connection” in dressage is the hardest part. Like, I know that we should have communication with the horse through the reins, that the horse should seek the contact, that the horse should happily follow wherever i want to put the bit…
But that doesn’t really encompass what connection means. That’s just a small part of the mechanics of it.
You also have to be straight. But that means supple enough that you can get the horse honestly straight, and that’s hard.
And then you need forward, but not TOO forward. It has to be balanced, sharp off a light aid (but not too sharp), and listening to your seat.
Calm, yet loaded with energy.
And the horse needs to be strong enough to stay straight and forward consistently, which always seems to take a while.
And once you have all those pieces in place, then you can somehow mix it all together to get varying degrees of connection.
The “connection” I mean right now is the one where the horse is powered up and forward, balanced, supple, straight, and you can *feel* the power and balance in your hands and your core. It’s spring loaded and yet easy to wait. You can go any direction, at any speed, or halt, with just a thought.
This is the second horse I’ve gotten to this level of “connection” with any type of consistency. And yet, here I am, struggling to teach it to a 3rd horse. It always feels like dumb luck that anything remotely correct happens.
I always feel so ridiculous when i have to get after a horse. Here I am, swatting at their knees (because that’s as high as I can reach) while this big oaf is desperately attempting to avoid my ineffectual slap.
A tree fell on the fence a bit ago and squashed the 4 strands of wire straight to the ground. Levi made his escape and I found him happily munching the (definitely much greener) grass on the other side of the fence.
This is my first “escapee” since owning this property, so of course my heart is pounding through my chest with fear. What if runs off?? What if he runs in the road?? What if…???
Joy never even tried to leave the pasture. I called for her and she came running up to the barn.
A moment later, Levi comes galloping down the fence line (quite majestically) and comes to a halt right in front of me.
We clear the tree, fix the fence, put the horses back in the pasture.
Next day, while working from home and on a meeting, I peer out my window. There’s Levi, munching grass, right off our back steps.
It takes me a moment to process this… and then rip my headphones off and sprint out the door to catch Levi.
He was unconcerned about the whole ordeal and let me slip a halter on without issues.
Another tree on fence line. But this time, it didn’t squash the fence much. Fence was still a good 3 foot high even where the tree lay on it. I was perplexed about how he escaped.
Cleaned up tree, went to tighten up fencing and realize the second from top strand had snapped. Was that how he got out? Did he just shimmy his fat bod through this narrow gap?!?!
We fixed the fencing again and I turned the horses back out on the pasture. We had just sat down on the back deck, and suddenly here comes Levi!! Trotting up the fence line – OUTSIDE THE PASTURE.
I’ve had mares on this property for 5 years, with the same fencing, and not once had any of them escaped. Not once. Even when trees fell on the fence.
I get ONE (1) gelding and he’s gallivanting around like some kind of escape artist. smh
I caught him trying to rip the chain off the gate yesterday. Grabbed it with his teeth and pulled with all his might. He is too smart for his own good.
So now we have to string up a line of electric around the fencing to hopefully keep Mr. Dora the Explorer in his home. Hubby says I have control issue. I’m okay with that.
Unfortunately, we ordered the electric fence charger online and it’s lost in shipping currently. In the meantime, I’m giving Levi supervised pasture time like some kind of convict.
Levi’s steering has greatly improved. He’s beginning to understand the outside rein/leg aid. Now he’s finding new ways to evade being straight. lol
I started teaching Levi shoulder-in and haunches-in about a month and a half ago. At the walk, I can get about half the arena length of SI both ways. To the right is more difficult. He has more difficulty with HI to the left. I assume right hind is weaker. Which jives with what I see when he’s loose in the pasture. His left hind tends to be center mass.
Levi’s leg yields are coming along, but going from right side of arena to the left is still crooked. He wants to lead with his shoulder’s and I struggle to get him straight. I’ve been working on a few strides of leg yield as straight as possible, and then forward, to try to get him more straight. Seems to be working, but it’s a slow slog of progress.
Yesterday, I tried our first SI in trot. I was able to get a few strides of shoulder-fore to the right. Yay! Considering I couldn’t even turn 6 months ago, I’m pretty happy with this.
We’re struggling currently with bend in trot. Either I have a miscommunication about canter aids, or cantering crooked is easier than trotting with body bend, but he keeps popping into canter every time I ask for bend at trot. I felt like the shoulder-fore at trot for a few strides was a huge win yesterday.
Levi’s still hit or miss on canter leads. If i set him up absolutely perfectly I can usually catch the correct lead on the first strike off. If i miss that correct lead on strike off, i have to go back and set him up perfectly again. He gets anxious and tense if I try to force the correct lead. Since the issue is balance and strength, I don’t mind the issue right now. It’ll correct itself over time as long as I make sure my aids are clear and he understands them.
He’s also beginning to slowly accept the bit and contact. I can now get brief moments at the trot where he starts to lower his head and neck and seems happy with my hand. Brief moments. Walk is better and he’ll allow me to follow him down and pick him up without over reaction.
Joy’s lateral work is coming along. Our half-pass trot is getting easier and can hold it for longer. She feels more even under me as we half-pass and I can adjust the trot more.
Our canter is not great. Same issues. Either barreling around on forehand, or too collected and we stall out. I really think I need to just take her to the field and gallop her around for a few weeks until she’s really thinking forward, then work on collection again.
I’m also struggling right now with Joy, because I can feel she’s not quite straight, but I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if it’s a left or right issue. I feel like she’s not weighting the right shoulder as much as the left, but when i push her over on to it, she pops it slightly and I can’t seem to recapture it.
We need a lot more work on counter canter and a better quality canter. And I want to start half-pass canter soon. We also need a TON more work on medium trot and canter. There’s a LOT of work to do before 2nd/3rd, and all of it requires the rider be fit and precise… and lately, i just want to be a sloth that slouches around. *sigh*
The neighbor’s new horse, Yogi, has settled in well.
Levi was not happy about the new gentleman intruder hanging around Joy. I had to separate Joy from them. Which was fine, because she really shouldn’t be on spring grass anyway. Last year I made her wear the muzzle and she hated every second of it. 😂
For the longest time, the two geldings just picked at each other. No real blow ups. Levi was big man and would push Yogi off the hay.
And then recently, Yogi realized he’s quicker and more athletic, and he decided to put Levi in his place.
Yogi’s kick to Levi’s ribs was so loud I though someone broke something! As soon as I could, I raced over to Levi to check him over. He had a very visible hoof print at the girth area and I touched it (gently). As I’m focused on the side of him, Levi reached over and bit me in the butt!! Little turd. So I half-heartedly smacked him and sent him off to go be a brat with Yogi again.
I think that incident was all it took though. The boy’s are finally getting along now (for the most part).
Levi’s fine now. Tiny spot of hair missing. Sore for a day. And Yogi was no worse for wear. Whew!
With the whole pandemic closures up in the air, I’m struggling to know how to plan out the rest of the spring. Do i try to reintegrate Joy into the herd? If it’s only another two weeks, then why bother? Or will we be quarantined until middle of summer? How much hay will I need to buy?