I am not, apparently, the same age I was 10 years ago. It's the Morning After our 5 hour XC schooling endurance ride, and dang, I'm tired and sore! Fortunately I did some stretches last night before bed and popped two Ibuprofen (vitamin I, as a friend likes to call it) before bed, so it's probably not as bad as it could have been.
Back to the tale of yesterday's schooling. After our WTC warmup, we moved on to the first log on the course. We did the GAG, BN, and N first fence. As usual, he took a giant leap over the first teeny log, and I got left behind (this seems to be a thing for us over the first fence of the day). The second fence was a coop, and we jumped the BN and N fences there. Because the group of folks schooling was large and going all different levels, we ended up waiting around several different times for folks to jump the GAG fences... but then, they waited for us too, so it was all good. There was a N table that I declined to jump, since it just looked big (yeah, yeah, I know), but there was a smaller narrow N fence between two trees that we did nicely. We moved on to the water complex, and Saga was good into the water for the second time ever. We ended up doing a Training level bank up out of the water, and he was super good for that although I really had to sit back to keep him balanced down the hill into the water and then through the water.
After that we headed back into the woods for a few fences. I skipped a BN fence that we'd jumped in our previous schooling (a big log) to save him for later. We popped over the N ditch (he didn't even look at it, although I have a hard time figuring out where to take off for ditches since there is no spread) and then went about 15 strides to a small N log pile. He was great and I was able to keep him together between the fences. We declined to jump a maxed-out N table with Virginia Creeper growing up out of it, but did a handy little BN combination that was very nice. We hopped over a BN log pile that Saga was very surprised to see when we came around a corner, and although it wasn't pretty, he never thought about stopping. We finished the first ride of the day with a line of two fairly large BN fences, and he was actually a total snot about the second fence, since he was cantering sideways up to it. But at that point we'd been out for about 3 hours, the barn was in sight, and there were two other people cantering past, so I really can't blame him. I did manage to get him straight for the fence and we got over it, no problem, but I had visions of riding Cash on the approach.
We took an hour break for lunch (and BOY did we all need that time to recover), then tacked back up again. Saga sucked down a bucket and a half of water and munched some hay, and when I came to tack him back up, he looked at me like, "AGAIN??? Are you KIDDING???" Everyone was very tired after the morning ride, so we had a short warm-up (that included none of the theatrics of our morning warm-up) and did the last BN fence on the course as our warm-up fence (we would have done the last N fence, but it was a maxed-out table). We headed to the back section of the course and I jumped a BN log with a really short uphill approach, and then headed over a maxed Novice roll-top. I'm pretty sure Saga thought it was a Prelim roll-top, because we had some major hang-time and I about lost it on the landing. My helmet actually slipped forward over my eyes (do I need a different helmet??) and I ended in a rather inglorious heap on his neck. He was a sweetie though and waited till I got myself back together before moving on. We skipped a Training log fence at the top of a hill, because he was tired and it had a short, steep downhill after it. I know we could have made the fence, but we would have gone ass-over-teakettle on the downhill after. Maybe next time!
Next up was a maxed BN triple bar, a nice new fence that was very inviting. After that, we did a combination of a N log to a N drop, and Saga never even thought about looking at the drop, which was awesome! Next up was a 3-stride N combination, which I declined to do because I was trying to save Saga for other fences, but we did two nice BN fences in a row. He stayed very balanced for both and I was happy about that, given how tired he was. I opted not to do the N trakhener (but it was SOOO tempting!) because I was waiting for... the stair steps. Pine Hill has a 3 step up 1 stride combo for Training and a 2 step down bounce combo for Prelim. But on one side of the complex, there are only 2 steps up or down - they were unflagged but I've seen them used in the past. The last time I'd ridden stair steps was on a Training course in Fall 1999 with Cash, and I remembered how much gas you needed to get to the top. I set Saga up for it, and he popped up the first bank and went "OMG there's ANOTHER ONE???" then sort of scrambled up the second bank. I didn't give him a good ride in the middle, just sort of sat there and stayed forward, but he carried me through. I gave him lots of praise as we cantered away and except for one last teeny log, that was our day. I am so very proud of him!!!
Based on yesterday's ride, we are definitely going BN at the Pine Hill show in October. I dropped off my entry while I was there yesterday, so it's a done deal. I think that, with some work, we could go Novice next spring. Our biggest issue was having him listen to my half-halts to balance him, and frankly, that wasn't working very well, and I've got the blisters to prove it. Part of it was, I think, that an eggbutt snaffle is just not enough for him. I think a loose ring sanffle would be fine, perhaps with a flash or figure 8 noseband. Basically I want enough bit so I can get in there, do the job, and get out... none of this hanging or leaning back in the saddle to rebalance. My shoulders are telling me this morning that they worked hard yesterday, so I can only imagine how Saga's face must feel. Poor guy.
The Novice fences we declined to jump were due to me trying to save my horse or because I thought they looked big. Obviously, I need more experience jumping at a 3' height so that those will start looking "normal." But, there will be time for that later. We really need more work on gymnastics to improve our balance and transitions. I think that that will go a huge way toward getting us to work more as a team.
I did feel like I did a better job waiting for fences, most of the time. They certainly weren't all perfect, especially as the day wore on, but I really tried and I feel like he listened and waited most of the time. Also as the day wore on, my position got worse and worse - my leg kept sliding back really badly. So some strengthening exercises for me would not go amiss either.
Time to bring this post to a close... I need to go out and take Saga on a hack to stretch out this morning. Visiting Cash is on my to-do list today as well, so hopefully I'll have some pictures of the Spotted Pony to share.