Tuesday, September 17, 2013

XC Clinic Wrapup (super long)

I started the clinic day with two goals: 1) I wanted Courage to have a positive experience and 2) I wanted to ride proactively and make good decisions.

We loaded about a half hour after we meant to, which meant that we literally pulled in to the clinic facility as our group was supposed to start. As we threw tack on, a horse got loose from another trailer and RACED past us. Redheadlins and I breathed a sigh of relief as our horses watched boredly, but then it came around for another pass. Seriously? Of course this happens when it is your OTTB's first ever clinic/xc experience.

Who's afraid of loose horses?
Fortunately, the horse was eventually corralled and Courage seemed to find the whole experience quite uneventful. That's when I realized that neither of us threw in a mounting block, so we were getting on from a 5 gallon bucket. Despite the fact that I quite gracefully fell off the bucket next to Courage, he gave me a second shot at it and stood like a statue. As soon as I was on, I realized that I didn't have my whip and all the spectators were off watching the beginning of my group, so I got back off, and had to utilize the bucket again.

Getting acquainted
Whatever. Courage was having a positive experience, and if I miss the first five minutes of the ground poles group, well, we'll all survive.

We rode over and joined the group. Courage had his head up and was looking, but as we talked with the instructor (and signed releases from horseback, OTTB win), he started to settled in. It was a goup of four and we walked and trotted in a big circle and talked about techniques for riding in large groups safely, from position to etiquette. Courage spent his time figuring out how to balance and stretch. He didn't care at all that the steering of the group members perhaps wasn't what it could be and that the other horses occasionally buzzed him. 

Trotting in a group lesson

The instructor did break us into two groups to canter. I'm pretty sure she thought two green riders on broke horses combined with two recent racehorses was just a bit much to all be running around at once.

Looking like an event horse

Lil' Courage picked up both leads correctly on the first try, and let me practice all three seats at the canter. He wasn't even concerned about the other horse or the changing footing. What a star.

Next we started trotting through some poles, working on our straightness and direction. New poles in a new place? No big. He set the standard for straight lines and I managed not to make a complete ass out of myself, despite the instructor threatening some old-fashioned vigilante justice if I used an indirect inside rein one more time (oops).

Only the cutest horse in the group
The poles went up to a little crossrail. The first rider in our group nearly fell off, then got run off with, none of which Courage really thought was even interesting enough to watch. When it was our turn, he hopped right over and landed in canter. Yeah! I brought him back down to walk to discuss our ride, and accidentally aimed him at a very narrow gap between a jump and the rail. He pricked up his ears and went right through. Impressive.

Heading into the great unknown!
He was one of only two in our group who were sent out to put a course of cross rails together. At this point, the people for the next group had started showing up and unloading their horses. We stopped in the vicinity of the first jump because Courage was so interested in what was going on. Per the instructor, I walked him over the first few crossrails just to get him focused, then was able to trot the last one and canter away. Awesome.

Hello eventing world
Then it was time to head out to the big XC field. Courage boldly led the way past the dressage arena, through the decorations, and beside the canal without so much as blinking. Then we encountered a problem. The ground disappeared right out of in front of him and he was expected to levitate across a dry dip in the ground. I tried to convince him that instead of levitating, we could just walk through on the bottom of the dip.

He thought no. Also, he hasn't been keeping up on yoga and he was embarrassed to try levitating in front of his new friends if he didn't think he could be the best at it. Oh Courage. He finally made it through the little dip with the instructor leading him, but then the other two horses were well ahead of us and Diva had no intention of rushing through a similar meditation.

Trotting by our onsies
Off we went. As we reached the far corner of the field, I realized that my little man was starting to lose it. The bugs were bad, his attention span was used up, and it was hard work for him to keep it together this long. I called out to the two ahead of us to come back and focused on telling him to do something, or "make his world smaller" as the instructor put it.

The horses helped a little bit, but he was still feeling like he wanted to freak out and explode in every direction. I decided that I would help us both out by choosing a direction. I trotted him forward. We half halted just enough to stay in balance, but I wanted that energy to go in a positive direction. We serpentined around and he started to settle even in the big field.

We finished off the lesson by leaving the group and walking over a series of natural obstacles. Courage was awesome once he got the idea. Had it been earlier in the lesson, I would have tried trotting them, but at that point, I thought it was wise to keep things simple.

Baby xc rockstars
When we were done, we hacked back to the trailer (and through the dip of death!) without so much as a tiny baby disobedience.

Diva took exception to loading, so Courage and I had a nice time hanging out with the other members of our group while he ate grass and was generally admired.

All things considered, we definitely achieved our objections. Courage had a very good experience and exceeded my expectations with his good behavior. I am very happy with the decisions I made to keep his feet on the ground.

On a loose rein
That said, it sounds like our next outing needs to be on the trails so we can learn about variations in terrain. Haha. I can live with that.


  1. Very cute :) Babies and changes in terrain are so funny! I mean, they live in a field and can gallop all over it, but put a person on their back- whole different story! Courage is adorable though!

  2. Courage is coming along so fast!

  3. Yay! What a good boy. I truly believe that OTTBs have an expiration for their attention especially soon after the track. My friend who runs a business retraining them swears by this theory and usually keeps sessions short so as not to fry their brains. The nice thing about trail riding is that they don't feel like it's work! You'll get to school things in a fun environment! Sounds like you guys are gaining so much ground in your relationship together!

  4. What a good boy! You guys look totes adorbs, and I love the background scenery.

  5. yay for good learning experiences. He's lucky to have a patient owner willing to do it slow and right.

  6. Sounds like you guys learned a lot together!

  7. You are doing so much with him already and it's SO cool to see :) Love love love the relationship you have with this horse already.

  8. Great job to you both! Keep those good experiences coming!

  9. YEAHHH!!!!!!!!! I even giggled at his baby brain explosion. What a fun, fun outing, congratulations!

  10. What a great experience for the both of you. Sounds as if you had an excellent instructor who knew well not to overface the two of you. Courage lived up to his name on nearly all counts. The little "ditch?" That's a challenge to an OTTB. There would not be anything like that around a racetrack. So glad to hear he crossed it so well on the way back.

    Superstars, the both of you!

  11. Yay! Sounds like lots of fun and I'm sure he learned so much! Hahaha, I remember getting similar threats about the indirect rein when first starting Hemie on his non-racing career.

  12. What a wonderful experience for both of you, Courage is such a rockstar you guys are achieving so much!
    Love the photos!

  13. Sounds awesome! I can't wait to take Alex for another field-trip :-)

  14. He sounds like such a super horse :) He seems to take everything in his stride.


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