She leases a gorgeous facility nestled at the base of some lovely mountains.
This is just a view down the aisle of the barn. So pretty.
Most of the visiting horses lived outside in panels, but Cuna is super sensitive to bugs. Because at least in his mind, there are more and nastier bugs up there than there are at home, he scored a spot in the pretty barn.
He felt completely at home. Of course, despite wearing bug gear day and night and being drenched in the best fly spray money can buy, he still got hives. Poor guy. He just isn't designed to live anywhere with grass.
|Tessa shows how to jump the big ones|
We started out the first morning by watching a super cool lady getting ready to go advanced do a jump lesson on her horse.
All y'all rescue people: mare was picked up at a kill auction for $800 and is freaking amazing. Her rider is equally cool and it was super fun to spend some time around the pair. Of course, we gave Tessa (the mare) a pretty wide berth because she has a kicking problem, but she sure is fun to watch.
On to lessons! Tessa, of course, got to jump alone because she's on a whole different program, but the rest of us were divided into three groups: 2' jumpers, 3' jumpers, 3'6" jumpers. Guess what? Cuna and I made the 3' group. YAY!!! I feel like we're finally making concrete progress both physically and mentally, and I was excited to be in that group.
|Jim and Zida demo the coop|
Unfortunately, there are no pictures of us on day one. Steph set a GIANT course (jumps between 2'9" and 3'3", complete with oxers) and we jumped through it. I don't generally brag, but I rode really well and Cuna was his usual awesome self and it was lovely.
See this jump? Yeah. Cuna and I totally jumped it like bosses. I just have to point out that I did it on my first try without losing my mind and grabbing him and he didn't even peak at it even though he is sometimes a little chicken about funny looking fences.
|For Gingham. Distances approximated.|
Yeah... not so easy at all. Cuna had no idea that we were supposed to be jumping the barrels, so when I pointed him at them and then ceased steering, he took a detour around. Hm. I tried again. This time I gave him a stronger ride, but sort of lost all forward thought, and he stopped at the barrel. He was trying, but wtf did I want?
|Now we are locked on to the tiny barrels|
Finally, I got him on a nice collected cantered, steered to the base of the first barrel, and softened enough that he realized I wanted to go OVER the barrel. Oh. Super easy. We had a similar discussion about the next barrel, but then we were rocking.
The cool part about the weekend is that we have officially passed the point where I can just jump Cuna at our max height every day if I want to. Since we are actually jumping over things now, I have to be much more careful with him. Let's face it: jumping a giant horse over 2'3" fences was in no way shape or form a pounding. 3' can be. The less cool part? These pictures are all from a non-max-height day. Sorry. I wish there were pics of our giant jumps, too.
|Cuna looks snappy though.|
Anyways. We did some cool courses, including some pretty tight turns and lots of bending lines. The focus was on riding positively instead of constantly reacting and making each ride as smooth as possible.
For some reason, I rode rather stupidly--too handsy and I kept losing my lower leg back. This shot isn't terrible, but my leg is just not where it needs to be.
|The hunky body builder horse|
Regardless, Cuna was super and we had a great time. Shots like this make me so proud of all the hill work we do. Look at all his shiny muscles!!
Don't look at my lower leg sliding back as I jump slightly ahead.
|I think he's starting to like the camera|
A challenging exercise from that day was a little two stride combination. The jumps weren't overly high, but it was set as a forward two. No problem, especially if you are riding a super giant long striding horse except one thing: the first jump was maybe two strides off the rail, meaning you couldn't see your line in the two stride until you were literally taking off for the first jump. Yikes!
Because Cuna is giant and a rocking jumper, we nailed the two strides pretty much every time, but it took me several attempts so that I could actually see what I was doing and not just blindly point and trust him to solve the exercise for me. He will, but that's not the point.
|Point and shoot, baby|
On the last day, we re-did the barrel exercise, which was super easy since Cuna now knew exactly what it was about. Jump in for the one stride, tight left hand turn for a two stride. Yes, the big man can compress if need be.
Then we moved on to an exercise that I actually love: THE CIRCLE OF DEATH!!!!!!!!
I'm pretty sure every eventer knows what I'm talking about: four jumps spaced evenly apart on a circle. Riding pretty much exclusively from your outside aids, you must get the same (or a different, yikes!!) number of strides between each fence.
Cuna and I were rocking our way through that. After looking at the pictures from the day before, I knew I needed to work on my lower leg, so I really focused on keeping my feet forward. That, of course, stabilized my entire body, and the ride went much better. Then we did this crazy figure 8 exercise. Two jumps from the circle, then one set diagonally in the middle, then two jump from the circle going the other way.
Oh, and did I mention that the second to last jump was like 3'3" and going uphill? It was. I focused on the pattern, my outside aids, and my feet and Cuna jumped the whole thing like nothing.
Then we went for a hack in the hills and Cuna saved his equine companion from a barking dog and a scary bike.