Okay. NOw that the letter "O" is taken care Of... So we started Off Our day with the bull master again, but this time with a saddle! So this was a definate change for us as now we had to wOrry abOut jumping pOsition, gallOping pOsitiOn, preparatiOn pOsitiOn, and drOp jumping pOsitiOn. These, by the way, are the types of crOss cOunty jumping pOsitiOns. We wOrked on the bull for quite sometime and had a lecture all about cross country jumping with David and Karen. They explained how the 5 major rider responsibilities we learned previously [direction, speed, rhythm, balance, and timing] play a huge factor in keeping cross country riding safe.
Karen worked with Group 1, as the other instructors worked with the other two groups respectively, and we worked on our galloping positions as well as how to increase and decrease speed in this position and how to jump as well as gallop down hill. Honestly, it was not as scary as I thought it would be and we were told that instead of the "Man from Snowy River," that we were the "Women from the Maury River." Very funny....haha. But at the end of our ride, Karen dubbed our group with a name, as we were needing to decide on one soon anyways: The Future of the Sport. Coming from someone who pretty much IS the sport of American Eventing at this time, we were a bit stand-off-ish about this idea. Then again, he statement holds validity. Eventing needs its followers - whether Novice, Intermediate, and even CCI**** riders [ahem* Hannah*] to be able for us all to continue to compete in recognized competition.
ALSO - I must mention that Cathy, being the very generous woman that she is, lent me her homebred chestnut gelding for the rest of the camp. As we will be finishing with lots of jumping exercises, she wanted me to be able to work on myself and not have to worry about my horse, Nick, who we determined needed more canter flatwork to strengthen his hind end on the flat before proceeding with anymore jumping. So a BIG thanks goes to Cathy for allowing me to rider her fabulous 6 year old horse, Simba, who is doing Preliminary level eventing...barefoot. =)
So Simba and I tackled the XC galloping with Karen, the galloping downhill, and then we let him rest up for more Show Jumping which was to occur later that afternoon. There was a lecture by the Pennfield feed representatives, who have been sponsoring the O'Connors for YEARS, during our lunch time when David told us of his loyalty to them. The threat of a storm rolling in from west Virginia, we all met for some Show Jumping shortly after.
Well, Mr. Simba was a ROCKSTAR. David had us jumping around a very technical course, changing both the direction and speed throughout to sharpen our abilities. Simba never batted an eyelash at the height, but we did have an interesting line near to the beginning...who knew that jump two fences straight meant "go really really fast" in my little brain. Oh well. It was pretty amazing - we rode a very forward 5 in a 72 foot line [made for 6 strides] and then David made us try to fit in seven or eight strides. Always challenging us. So as David is standing in the middle of the arena i spot 3 half-full bottles of Diet Coke. He is addicted I tell you, addicted to Diet Coke just like Smarty is addicted to cribbing on his stall guard like a chain smoker and just like Karen is addicted to the rubber band on her xc whip. Don't question it, just go with the flow.
So as I am having the time of my life jumping Mr. Simba around this course of five jumps every which direction, and resting in line while another camper's wonderpony does the exercise. I then realize that David says very few words. "LOOK!" "GO GET IT!" "COME AGAIN." As short and simple as these phrases might sound, each has a definite purpose and aids an active rider in making better decisions on course. It is hard to believe that I am here, riding with the man who brought home the first US gold eventing medal in more than 25 years as well as having the highest scoring round in eventing, to date, at an Olympic Games. He is watching intently, sipping his Diet Coke, occosionally crossing his arms or putting his hands on his hips, but never says a discouraging word. How did I ever get so lucky to be present in this ring, in this lesson, with this eventing superstar?!
A fabulous dinner was provided by Brian and Penny Ross where we all ate, drank and were merry [to say the least]. The bubble wands were a huge hit, even with the big kids =) We also played a thoroughly entertaining round of Jeopardy in our groups and go figure, the group two lived up to their name, "That's Smart," and won by a landslide. Even though, Karen did have some interesting body language at times directed the way of the parents and auditors group. And our group is still working on living up to their name....because we lost terribly.
Yet, I just still can't believe it sometimes. We are all sitting around eating and talking and visiting, and its just Karen and David. They are like the neighbors that always return your cup of sugar they borrowed: truly blue, down-to-Earth, positive attitude-type-of people that never stop making you smile. I can only hope that their staff and all the members of OCET know how honestly lucky they are to be able to be a part of this family-oriented eventing team. Superstars to the young riders who wish to emulate them and fierce competitors in the face of 3-day eventing, David and Karen O'Connor seem more and more normal then any pop-singing-head-shaving-Paris Hilton-type celebrity.
Well, in closing, I had a blast today - more XC tomorrow! I look forward to waking up every morning just so I may learn. I just want to be a big, fat, yellow sponge and soak up all the knowledge that I possibly can in these six days. It sure is a good time to hang with the "top dogs..."