Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Steepleview Schooling Day

Minnesota and Royal always keep life interesting.

When Royal stayed sound with his boot off, you'd think I'd be able to quickly get back into riding and doing other fun things, right? Wrong. The weather took a turn for the insane, with temperatures in the high 90s and ridiculously high humidity. So, any sort of barely strenuous activity was completely out of the question. It would be mid-to-high 80s and humid at 7:00am, and I would feel completely crummy going out. I got some new fans for the barn, which the boys enjoyed immensely. My cat, on the other hand, enjoyed the weather and spent a lot of time lounging on the porch.

The heat wave broke on Thursday and I did some riding/jumping on Friday. It was still quite warm and humid, so I decided to take it easy. Royal was a bundle of excitement, and even tried to take off with me after a jump. A one-rein stop put an end to that nonsense rather quickly and we jumped some more before ending on a nice fluid jump over the purple vertical.

Saturday say thunderstorms for most of the morning, so I mainly focused on cleaning up Royal's mane and ears. He was okay with the mane, but not so crazy about the ears. Which I understood and let him have all the time he needed to get used to it. I didn't clip the whole inside of his ears, just the tufts sticking out, and was able to do it at liberty. I also packed my trailer with most of the stuff I needed, as it started to look full.

My lesson started at 1:00pm on Sunday, so I was able to kind of sleep in and leisurely get out to the farm. I hooked up the truck and trailer on the first try (go me!) and was able to get Royal brushed off before loading him and heading to Steepleview. Royal loaded and traveled well, taking in his surroundings easily.

Royal says "Are we there yet?"

We got there in plenty of time and mostly hung around until we had to meet in the warm-up area, where I made a bunch of big mistakes.

Mistake #1: Not getting to the warm-up area early enough to let Royal get used to the surroundings. There were horses everywhere on the various parts of the cross-country course around the arena, and Royal being who he is, wanted to keep track of them all. Which was impossible and he started to freak out.

Mistake #2: Doing big circles and "going places" before Royal was ready. I had been assigned to be in a group of three other horses and riders at the same level (green bean) and an instructor. The instructor asked us to move our horses out so he could see how the horses were. Which meant big circles around the big warm-up area at a solid trot and canter, which got Royal REALLY revved up. To the point where he could. not. stand. still. And was sweating all over, including around his eyes.

Had I been thinking, I would have explained to the instructor that warming up with frequent transitions and small circles/figure-8s has worked the best for us, and I could do that and stay out the other riders' way. Again, stupid mistake and I had to live with the consequences. Warming up over fences went okay, as the instructor realized asking me to get Royal to boogie might be a bad idea. A single cross-rail, a cross-rail to a vertical, and then a pile of logs all went fairly well. Then we headed to a different part of the course, all of which was beautiful.

The next exercise was a downhill roll-top, which then morphed into the roll-top to a right-hand turn over a bridge, and then into the roll-top to another roll-top a ways away. Royal drifted left to run-out at the second jump, which was my fault. There was another jump there, and I didn't focus enough on the jump I wanted. He got confused and split the difference by going between the jumps. I tried again, focusing hard on the jump I wanted, and he popped over it no problem.

Next was the ditch, which became Royal's nemesis. We've had our conversations about ditches before, and he did okay over the ditch at the Derby Day, but this was a different story. Two of the other horses went before him and they both had cows. Like, prize-winning-bull-at-the-Iowa-State-Fair cows. So when it was our turn, Royal was convinced that there had to be demons in the ditch, and being invisible made them worse. He LAUNCHED over the ditch and I nearly fell off when he bolted and nearly wiped out an innocent bystander. The second attempt had a lot more dithering in front of the ditch, and another gargantuan leap. But this time I was ready for it and threw in another one-rein stop before he got out of hand. The third time was a lot better, although he still over-jumped it.

Then it was on to the banks, which Royal tackled like he's done them all his life. We started with the little 6" bank, then went on the the bigger ones. By now, Royal was starting to settle in and be calmer. After that, we tackled a mini-course of a small log to the bank to a curvy ramp. Royal cantered around that like nothing, soaring over the ramp like he had wings. Then another mini-course of the ramp to a small tiger trap and up the bank. We stuttered up the bank, but escaped unscathed.

And finally, the WATER! Royal hesitated a bit at the entry, but splashed straight through, having a great time. Then we cantered through, splashing everywhere. Next it was time to try banks into water. He was a little suspicious, but dived in. The lesson ended with us jumping off the bank to the water, canter through and out, and over a coop. Fluidly and harmoniously.

We walked back to the trailer, I unsaddled Royal, loaded him up, and we went home. Tired and happy.

It was a good day.

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