A spot opened up in the David O'Connor clinic last week so I jumped at the chance to join the Training Level Cross Country section. I was pretty intimidated being with some eventing veterans but was looking forward to taking a formal cross country lesson.
Just so I wasn't out of the loop, I watched the Intermediate section of the stadium jumping and part of the Training group's stadium lesson. It was interesting to hear him say basically all the same things I've learned over the years about keeping the horse straight to the jumps and working on adjustability and ridability.
He spent quite a bit of time discussing spooky horses. Most upper level horses are a bit spooky which is what makes them careful. He talked about picking a very specific point (like a light pole or fence post) and riding the horses directly towards that marker. He said that the horse is welcome to look all they want, but they cannot leave the line. It's definitely a trick I plan on using with my spooky ones.
For the cross country lesson, I introduced myself as a slowly converting jumper rider who still has some confidence issues on the cross country course. He chuckled and we had a nice, brief discussion about the differences between jumpers and eventers.
The lesson was very helpful. He went over different positions and how to correctly ride different types of fences. He had us work on dropping our reins four strides away from the training drop into the water (this obstacle made me sick to my stomach in March).
And then he told us to hop over the Prelim drop into the water. At first I thought he was joking and when I saw Gina pick up the reins to go do it, I got pretty nervous. David assured me that it was just a jump. Well yes, the front is just a jump - it's the four and a half foot drop into a lake on the backside that's concerning!
But when David says jump, you ask how high...or rather, how far down.
I might have squeaked a little the first time but my super dragon mare jumped it without much thought. He smirked and said "see, it's just a jump." Mhmm...
I would have been completely content ending the lesson on that but we were not so lucky. We moved over to the sunken road and practiced jumping combinations up and down the banks with stadium jumps.
All-in-all it was an excellent and positive experience. I'm so glad that I was able to take the dropped spot in the clinic and learn more about how to properly ride the jumps in the field.
It amazes me how much confidence my horse and I have gained in just a few short months. It's a true testament to the value of a good partnership and solid training. I love having a partner who is so game to go and do whatever I ask her to do.
My other favorite thing David said was "I've never seen a horse go cross country with its ears back before." Well, I haven't met too many horses quite like Kiva either.