September 14, 2009

Assimilation Complete Or Course Changing Pt. III

Someone asked in the comments yesterday about my pictures -- all the pictures of my riding are taken by my erstwhile and wonderful SO, who we discovered has a natural eye for timing. Don't forget it was 110 degrees this entire weekend and my Tahoe did not have functioning air conditioning. And central SC is not exactly heavily forested. SO carried our water, took pictures, and generally rose above and beyond the call of duty at every possible moment -- you know who you are, darlin', and we couldn't have done it without you!

During day 2, the heat had hammered me terribly. Midway through our stadium phase, I became quite dizzy and felt as if I was fading away. My (some might say smarter) subconscious said, Hey, this is dangerous, perhaps you should get off. My (dumber but more adventurous) conscious said, No way in hell. So after every turn jumping, I poured a bottle of ice cold water over my head. Literally. It kept me going enough to finish.

So coming into day 3, the much-anticipated cross country day, Solo and I were both already quite hot and tired and neither of us had ANY idea what would happen that day.

The sum total of what I knew about my horse's past experience: (1) track pony (2) a little foxhunting (3) trail riding. So when we rode out onto the course and Ian asked what Solo knew, I promptly answered, "Nothing, as far as I know. He'll jump a log and is not afraid of water."

We started simple, just hopping over a Beginner Novice, then a Novice log. No problems there, sweet, I can totally be an eventer! For the second jump -- OHMYGOD ARE YOU KIDDING ME, THAT IS A GREEN WALL OF DEATH! Oh it may look innocent, but riding at it, all you see is the massive, upright green impenetrable wall waiting to engulf you and your horse.


Second time's the charm. And yes, my entire body IS in a mortal death grip on Solo going I'm gonna die I'm gonna die I'm gonna die...
But we lived!! Next was a bank complex that we climbed up, jumped on, jumped off...Solo never hesitated as Ian hollered, "Now, don't let me down, show us how it's done!" Thence began my love affair with banks (That's another person in our group on the left, showing the bank. The drop on the other side was the same height). Then off to the ditch and suddenly, we were being asked to give the green horses leads over it -- in what parallel universe had we been sucked into where my horse was a pro???


By the time we got to the water complex, I was completely incapable of keeping the big stupid grin off my face. Even the spectators were chuckling at me, saying, "Um, I think we have an eventing convert..." YES, YES YOU DO! I discovered new gears that I didn't even know Solo had, including a very impressive trot:

Yeah, like he'll ever do THAT in an arena!

By the time we were done, my goals had taken on a whole new direction: we were going to be eventers! Not only was it A FREAKING BLAST, but I knew I had found the sport my horse was destined to do -- he had just galloped and jumped that XC course like he was born for it and all I did was hang on and catch bugs in my teeth.

I stopped and asked Ian a few final questions and thanked him profusely. Never before had I encountered such a gifted and patient teacher. He has a true talent for challenging the horse and rider in a way that sets them up to succeed and to grow in confidence with every step. Besides being a beautiful rider, he has a fantastic sense of humour and is imminently approachable and down to earth. He didn't care that me and my backyard horse showed up in a rattly stock trailer -- he "quite liked" Solo and ended up impressed with the courage and heart of my reject trail horse. Ian earned every penny from that clinic out there in 110 degree southern heat all day long for three days, hopping on horses who were stuck, and encouraging many very hot and tired riders through the tough spots. He is the best kind of horseman, the kind that not only do we aspire to be, but we just love to be around.

As we packed up the trailer and got on the long highway home, I knew there was no going back now...



  1. AH! Look at that grin! Cross country was what converted me to eventing as well. Nothing like the thrill of galloping over massive, scary jumps!

    P.S. Tell Ian that he needs to come to Utah, thanks!

  2. Wow! You and Solo look great. Compliments to your SO on the pictures. Good job! You are brave.

  3. This blog entry could have been titled "Solo Finds His Calling." Lol, you guys look great!
    Dammit, the more I read about cross-country, the more I want to give it a go...

  4. Look at that trot!!!!! Wowzers! I so desperately want to try cross country once I'm done with grad school. It looks like so much fun. We've got a lot of stuff to learn first, but it's a goal! Is Solo naturally pretty bold? My TB is a thinker; he will not naturally approach pretty much anything, but after having a chance to understand it, he's fine with it for pretty much forever. My gut tells me he'd love cross country though :)

  5. Oh yes, once you have tasted XC, you cannot go back -- I am obsessed now!

    Jen, Solo is a very laid back kinda guy. I think that since he used to be a track pony, he has been exposed to a lot of crazy stuff, so he is relatively bold. HOWEVER, I still have to be 100% mentally committed, if I hesitate, he will listen to that hesitation and falter. We absolutely must work as a team, another part of eventing I fell in love with -- you can't do it unless you really cement your partnership with your horse.

  6. "like he'll ever trot like that in an arena!" haha!! I discovered your blog off of CANTER's blog, and I have gone to the beginning and have been reading it from the start. This is only as far as I've gotten so far (busy law school student) but I love reading it; its addicting like a book, you're a very talented rider! But I love your story. :) I got to do my first real cross country schooling a few months ago and I started out kind of timid (I had a bad fall from a run away horse like you and, five years later, big open fields galloping still kind of scare me, which is sad because that use to be my all time favorite thing) but I ended up with jumping training level jumps and had a huge grin on my face the entire time, my trainer was super surprised she kept saying "now where did my timid hunter go!? that was great!" haha! (I, again, like you, spent too much time doing IHSA in college and acquiring plenty of horrible hunter habits; don't get me wrong, IHSA is great, but I started with an coach and IHSA just kind of stripped all that away eventingand taught me a lot of bad defensive riding habits...)

    I currently am horseless to and its horrible :( I had a wonder-horse who I luckily got to buy when I was 11 (he was abandoned at a farm and everyone thought he couldn't jump, pff!! we beat all the jumpers all the time haha) and I kept him until we had to put him down about two years ago when I was 21; and I don't have the money to get a horse until I get out of college. I went in and out of lessons on him, and didn't get to show as much as I'd like to because of money. Right now I'm working lessons off by feeding at a barn. So I definitely appreciate that you're working from the ground up.

    I think a lot of people can relate to this story, and I love reading it. It gives me hope that when I get out of school, I can pursue my dream just like you. There's a fabulous three year-old thoroughbred colt that my ex boss (I worked at a thoroughbred farm for a year before law school) offered to give me once I graduate, so hopefully that'll work out. But he knows nothing, except for the little longing I've taught him, but everyone has got to start somewhere!

    Anyway, horse people can prattle on about the horses in their lives forever. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your blog and how I'll be hooked from now on!