Thursday, June 11, 2009

O'Connor Clinic - Day Five

So - today began with our usual, big red bull machine. I guess my personal problem was that I was never really taught how to properly jump a down-bank - but I learned for sure how to do so today =) The bull is an excellent simulator of actually going XC... I know they told us that a long time ago, but it really hit home today.

First - I would like to start with a quote that pretty much sums up my day:
"Put on your big girl panties and get over it!" 

We then went straight to XC jumping due to afternoon storm threat where we broke the courses down into three sections: ditches, banks, and water. The three groups rotated between these three sections. We did banks first - which was a really good thing for me as it taught me proper body positioning for up and down banks so the rest of the stations were easy. 

Karen showed me how if I gripped with my knees more, let my reins slide through my hands, and tipped just a little bit forward upon jumping the down-bank, I would stay out of the saddle and it would be a much smoother ride. And guess what? She was right! So glad to figure out my body positioning...

Moving on to the ditches, we started by doing a shoulder-in around the perimeter of a coffin about two times, then turning left and jumping it. Karen says this method works every time and it it did for our horses.We then did a coup to a vertical to a  coffin to a vertical out...all downhill.

Great. favorite. It was interesting. First I didn't even get the NUMBER ONE part of the rider's responsibilities correct. I know, I know. Yes. I was not going in the right direction. So after some stern words from Karen, I came again. 

This time, my direction was better, but I was worried about the speed the whole time, which was blatantly obvious to spectators... "Do you sleep with a nightlight?" Karen asked me. Okay - not going to use my voice this time. One more try.

This approach, my direction was good, I found a decent speed [although faster than what I really wanted, it felt better than he other rides]. The coup was not hard, the vertical came easily, as did the coffin, and the last vertical was a bit short. I probably could have sat and balanced more in between the coffin and the vertical to improve my distance, but I was pleased with that trip the best. 

Moving on, we headed for the water jump.
Water. Something that my old horse thought would eat his pretty little toes alive. 
But not Simba. We splished and splashed and jumped both little lines that Karen set up. First was a small jump into the water, which I rode like a marshmallow to the first time. Whoops. Come again.

The second time when we actually got over it, into the water, made the five strides to the out jump well. Then coming around a left tern, we were to use our galloping position, then our preparation position and balance, then ride forward to a little brush drop into the water. I rode like Karen had told me: "Load the gun early, then shoot it." 

So, I came around the corner, balanced up n preparation position, then rode to a forward distance and nailed it! Simba jumped in pretty big over the brush, then we dropped into the water. Thanks to my stellar instruction earlier at the down-bank exercise, I had good body position over the fence and it felt great. My first drop into water! I fell so accomplished. Plus, it is always good when all the spectators clap and upon galloping through the water away from that fence Karen said, "Look at you go!" Now that is truly the best feeling in the world.

The XC jumping today was fabulous and the footing was great. It was a bit wet on top with a softer ground underneath from a recent rain the day before. We also learned that the slipperiest ground is hard footing with dry or dewy grass. The reason being that the ground will not give to your horses hooves and having a bit of wet ground aids in traction. 

The one thing we had to be careful about was using our OUTSIDE rein to turn because the horse uses his head and neck as a counter balance. Too much inside rein could cause your horse to loose his balance, slip, and fall because he does not have his neck to use if he did get in trouble. 

We had a stellar Succeed Representative, come and explain the uses of her product at lunch to promote proper hind gut health in horses. Karen commented on how ALL of their horses are on this product and the positive effectives it has had on her horses' overall health. 

The Marvelous Ms Max then narrated a slideshow of the Hong Kong Equestrian Olympic Games, which she accompanied along side Karen and Mandiba in 2008. She explained all about the quarantine period that they spent in England, the barns in Hong Kong, the riding, the monitoring of horse's health and the different locations as the eventers traveled such as downtown to the cross country course. Max and Karen also explained how detailed the horse shipping was prepared: there would be two air-ride horse trailers full of horses, then one empty horse trailer, and a horse rescue unit behind that. And repeat. They traveled in a caravan fashion and the roads were closed. All the horses arrived an orderly fashion to their destination.

So in conclusion, we had another Ms Max lecture on braiding, tail pulling, and correct show maintenance for the eventing world. Again, with the big white wonder horse, Smarty, as her model, she demonstrated proper braiding technique and helped us all learn by giving us campers a try. So, we compared braids.... then I realized why she is Head Groom. =)

Karen closed the Olympic slideshow with a realization for us to take note of: Olympics mean a great deal to her because no matter a person's race, religion, gender, language, or even ethnicity everyone has a belief in the Olympic Games. Fellow and former Olympians alike know the high degree of excellence it takes to compete. She expressed how proud she was to have been able to take part in FOUR* Olympic games in her career [*correction], and making the awards podium was an ultimate achievement.

It was a weird feeling to sit in the room with Karen and David and look at pictures of Karen jumping these huge show jumping fences in Hong Kong, pictures that you have seen before in magazines. Today these pictures are not in a book. You watched Karen school her Olympic mount this morning. You have pet that horse. You have been taking lessons with that rider. They are in the room with you, maybe sitting at your table, maybe even sitting in the chair next to you. That is who they are. They are horse trainers, cross country riders, dressage perfectionists, jeopardy enthusiasts, motor bike junkies, clinicians, head honchos, dog and horse lovers...and then they are David and Karen O'Connor: Olympic Medalists sharing their experience and knowledge you. 

Last day is tomorrow. I am a bit saddened. Show Jumping 'competition' type-thing in the morning and then a lunch-eon. More on how that goes later...

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