Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adventures in Jumper-Land

Pictured above, the main arena at Culpepper. Where we stood, for I have no idea how long, waiting for our classes on Wednesday :)
Video of Morris in the rain having a good round at the Level 4s at the bottom.

Early, and I mean EARLY, Wednesday morning Lara, Morris, Gunsmoke and I were up and out of Kaleidescape heading down to the last show on the HITS circuit at Culpepper, VA for 2010. I planned this field trip as an opportunity to do several jumping rounds with Morris and help him get over some of the excitement that we face on our final day at big events. I must say, we really did a good job! The arena itself was large, lined with tents, banners, and bleachers. There were bright, spooky, airy jumps pretty much everywhere, with a hunter ring occupied right on the backside and warm-up happening all around. It certainly was enough to get Morris some exposure to atmosphere!
It was a little odd, being a professional and accomplished eventer and finding myself at a competition feeling like I really had no idea what was going on nor what to expect. I pulled into the show grounds not even knowing where to park! It is hardly possible to be incognito with a giant striped 4 horse head-to-head and logos on the truck that state plain and simple "Blue Clover Eventing." The office was staffed with a crew of really helpful, non-intimidating people and before I knew it Morris and I were officially entered. Too bad the class list for the day looked nothing like the one that I found online. And thus we began a game of hurry up and wait.
Totally worth it, however; Morris got to stand around the arena and be completely bored and unimpressed with the entire ordeal. I got to jump the same course twice, the second round being a couple of inches higher. Not really sure the height of the fences as they were in metric; but it looked like a pretty big intermediate track so I was pleased. I had a rail at fence 3 down in the first course. It was a very vertical vertical and the way the planks and poles were configured it was airy and a touch of an optical illusion. Morris was surprisingly soft and adjustable and I came through a turn easier and on a bigger step than I had anticipated. The distance I saw was a bit forward still and I chickened out! I came here to be quiet and calm and the last thing I wanted to do was boogie on down to a gap early on in my first course. So I tug tug tugged myself right into having a rail and a time fault. Oh well, he jumped the rest of the course really well, springing over his fences. He did build a little thru the course, although it was much better than what we usually get at an event. I think the main difference in what I was feeling was due to a lack of cross country the day before! Cross country doesn't make Morris tired, I've yet to find anything that makes Morris tired. It does make him a little tight, and really excited, and then this carries over into our jumping rounds.
I was going to take advantage of getting to do multiple rounds, and having Morris as rideable as possible. We went back down to the large warm-up arena. And actually, that is worth mentioning. Unlike our rules, the jumping warm-up arena is more or less a free for all. You can jump any jump, any direction. You can make it an oxer, a vertical, a combination. You can cut people off and nearly run people over. For a groom's point of view of this, you should read Lara's blog (and make sure to comment next time you see us on how white our boots are...let me tell you by the time we left the rain was pouring down and everything, I mean EVERYTHING, was covered in at least 2 inches of black/grey goo) because poor Lara was nearly run over I don't know how many times defending my jump (not letting anybody else's jump crew change the heights or configuration). I jumped more before my round than I usually do at an event and I think I will try this strategy this weekend at our next event, Morven Park.
Our second round was even better than the first, even though we still had a rail we were well within the time. This round our approach to the third fence was spot on and Morris really soared over the entire thing. I was practicing hard a landing technique that Jimmy grilled me on in my last lesson, and it seemed to work well, with Morris really finishing his jump and clearing the rails by a good couple of inches behind. We had the rail down this time at fence 7, I negotiated with Morris and let him cut a turn to keep him softer, and when we got there we weren't totally straight and down it went. Easily preventable, I just have to find the right balance between keeping him soft and making sure I get the job done.
Let's hope I find that balance this weekend at Morven, in two weeks at Fair Hill, and then for the rest of our lives!

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