|Blyth and I!|
Cross country day - my favourite day, always. I was less anxious on day 2 because I mildly knew what to expect from Blyth and I definitely feel my strongest on cross. At the same time, Penny and I are still figuring each other out so I was a little bit wondering how she would be and what the day would bring. We started with a quick walk trot warm up. After that we went straight into cantering in our cross country positions around a big field. Blyth immediately looked over at me and said "Tori, you look like you are just out for a relaxing stroll on this horse...GET moving!" He wanted a nice steady canter but much more impulsion and power coming from behind. Impulsion = contained energy. You must be able to create impulsion and control it.
We were told to canter over a nice little hogs back and a small tire jump both directions. Jumping the jumps out of stride, allowing the fence to come to us. Blyth explained that on cross country you should never try and find a distance, you must arrange the appropriate canter and the correct distance will appear to the horse so long as you don't screw it up. Penny jumped nicely out of stride over the warm up fences.
After our warm up we started with a simple exercise. Pick up a nice canter, sweep along the bottom of a hill and allow the horses stride to slightly lengthen at the final strides before the fence (a small oxer) but the rhythm was to remain the same. After the small oxer we were to make a left sweeping turn up a hill to a nice big skinny Prelim oxer. Penny comfortably soared over the smaller oxer but ran out at the Prelim one. He told me to halt in front of the fence and then come around again. We could not get the proper canter going and she ran out another time. Blyth said we would try one more time but if she didn't jump it we would move on so as not to stress her and start the lesson on a bad note. My nerves were a bit shot and I wasn't totally committed to the fence, and I couldn't get enough canter and she stopped a third time.
Blyth told me this was not a big deal. What he is seeing is not a horse being naughty, but a horse that has the tools and is comfortable jumping the 3'3 range but once the fences are a little bigger her canter is not strong enough to give her the confidence to jump a fence that size. He told me not to worry and that I was doing a great job. He said with more flat work and time this fence will not be an issue. I wasn't really worried after our little talk and considering we are only going to be showing Pre Training this year I was not going to start stressing over the only issue we had. A few of the other horses also has a run out at that fence but eventually everyone was over it and we moved on to the next exercise.
|over the skinny|
There was a vertical set up on top of a hill and at the bottom was a skinny show jump 4 strides down. Our job was to get 4 even strides in between and give the horses a confident ride. We agreed we would need a more sneaking around with impulsion type canter. Penny jumped in and we drifted right passed the skinny. I halted her and he told me to bring her around again. He explained to the group that this was not the end of the world. What he was seeing was simply a horse being a bit suspicious and once she has a few more miles this will sort itself out. I came around and jumped the skinny on its own. We went a second time and Penny jumped through the exercise nicely. This one was harder than it looked because the hill was quite steep and you could not see the line until you were over the first fence.
Next we moved onto corners. We had a show jump corner set up in the field. Blyth explained that he always teaches corners with show jumps to start because if an issue creeps up you can modify them to allow the horse to gain confidence. If you start with solid fences you have no way in helping the horse get over the fence should there be a problem. He showed another group a method he uses for young horses, where he lowers the ends of the poles where they normally sit on jump cups, so that the tip of the V is elevated and the ends are on the ground. This way, a green horse is more likely to go towards the centre of the corner rather than run out.
|the schooling corner.|
|over the mini trekehner.|
From there we schooled a coffin at the bottom of a big hill. We had to have quite a coffin canter to get down the hill and then allow the horse to lengthen its stride over the ditch and follow the flow out over the third element. I took back a bit too much canter coming down the hill but Penny jumped the coffin amazingly and took the 1 stride instead of the 2 on the way out. She is so fun! After the coffin we jumped two palisades. Blyth said he would watch us jump the first then decide if we were allowed to jump the bigger one after LOL Luckily we all had our game faces on and were allowed to jump the big one too. For the palisade fence he said to imagine he tacked on some boards and built a ramp down the front - "See, now it's just a boring ramp fence". This fence requires bold riding and a nice forward canter, again allowing yourself to lengthen the horses stride before the fence but not change the rhythm.
|love this shot! Coming down to the coffin.|
|streeeetching over the ditch|
|the small palisade|
|over the larger palisade|
We schooled a double of corners on a bending line next. I was a little worried about these because they were very upright and extremely narrow with no flags. My success rate with bending lines seems to be limited these days. To my surprise I rode the first corner near perfect and we jumped it well. Sadly, I landed in a bit of a heap again and couldn't get it together by the time we were a few strides out from the second corner. I felt she would have jumped but we were not in a good spot so I pulled her by. She jumped it easily upon re-approach and I was really happy with that. That was a very tough question, definitely beyond Training level!
|the first skinny corner|
|out over the second - love this shot.|
Next we did a set of stairs up and then back down. He said to ride the banks up like they are an upright fence and to GET YOUR BUM OUT OF THE SADDLE! He wanted one nice canter stride after the first step. Not two, not three, not none. One. Same for the way down, no trot steps allowed. He showed us how to sit back and slip our reins so that it was barely noticeable. He said it doesn't have to be this elaborate show that everyone can see when you sit back and slip your rein. You need to make sure you land with your weight in your heel to remain secure. Penny jumped these really well and it was a super fun fence.
We finished with the water. We walked the horses through, then trotted, then cantered. We were to maintain the same pace throughout, not letting the water slow us down. Blyth said we must always instil confidence in our horses, especially with water. He said your horse should jump off a cliff into a bottomless pit if you asked them, but remember they will only do it once before learning not to trust you, so don't ever ask them to do something that might breach that trust.
Our last exercise was a small course of a log pile, hogs back, two strides bank down into water, through the water and two steps out. Penny went flying over the jumps and into the water on our first go and I couldn't get my reins back in time to make up the second step so we went flying by. If anything this horse will teach me to "gather my knitting" appropriately after a fence or I am in trouble! Our second time through we sailed over everything easily. It was a really fun exercise and I can't remember the last time I was able to ride something so technical. Penny was a superstar, couldn't ask for a better horse to learn on. There is a lot of potential there, we just have to take the time to develop it.
|getting our feet wet|
|the first in our course|
|flying over the second|
|a little to much GOING somewhere lol|
|into the water!|
|out the water up the stairs|
Major takeaways from the clinic;
- The most important thing if you had to point one out would be the adjustability in the canter. You need three canters; the sneaking around canter, ordinary canter, and GOING places canter.
- Take your horses current level of training into consideration when approaching fences and competing. If you know your horse only has one canter, don't be upset when it takes a long spot or chips in. Sometimes that is all they are able to do at that stage of training.
- Bum out of the tack, shoulders back.
- Allow the horse to find the distance on cross country, your job is only to control the rhythm and maintain straightness.
- Always remain positive and give praise when your horse has done something successfully.
- In related distances, take your time between the fences to regroup so as not to disturb the rhythm, don't grab your horse and get all fussy to get the canter back. Do a little each stride.
I can easily say this was the best clinic I have ever attended. I learned a lot from riding and I think just as much if not more from watching the other groups go. Blyth exceeded my expectations on instruction, but he was also fun, encouraging, effective, and hilarious. There is rumour he will be coming back to Canada next year to do it again. I will be there with bells on, here's hoping!
The video of Penny and I;
The video of Penny and I;
***Many thanks for the use of some of the photos from Lauren Cude who was also riding in the clinic. She has a blog too!