Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cross Country and the Learning Curve

As opposed to the last time I was here, the Cross Country day dawned beautiful, sunny, and breezy. We gathered at the start box (did I mention that David and Laura have made a really wonderful set of jumps, from pre-BN through Intermediate? Well, they have!), and we started out once again by showing Jimmy our galloping positions (only this time, he said "do not 'post' the canter, or you will not like what I will do!" guess is that we'd be sans stirrups, so I'm glad none of us did!). One woman was leaning quite a bit to the right, so Jimmy motioned her over and took away her right stirrup, leather and all, then asked her to jump three times over a small tire jump. She got the point. Apparently, this was something she'd been working on.

Several folks were nervous, and to one Jimmy shouted "You're so worried he's not going to be perfect that you're not letting him do his job! You're making it worse!"

He commented that riders needed to be "relaxed and through" in all three phases. If I could understand/achieve that, I think I'd be in nirvana!

He reminded to make sure they put their weight into the turn to help the horse balance.

We started out with a single jump, but soon were jumping a small, three jump combination. Jimmy was watching to see if we balanced the horse before the jump, and then kept that balance over the jump clear through to the landing.

"Before you do the exercise, run it through in your mind!"

When it was my group's turn, I once again got to be "lead off hitter". That's pretty exciting, but scary, too. I got one direction wrong in our opening canter (I trotted on the wrong side of a clump of trees), and he chided me for it when I returned. "Are you nervous? You're not allowed to be nervous! You be nervous when I tell you to!"

We jumped over all the jumps in the first field well, including a related difference (three short strides) roll top combo. I was feeling pretty good, and then he had us do a small then medium ditch, cantering over the small then the medium. We had a stutter step over the larger one because I looked down (ARRRGGGHH), but it was all right. One participant had real trouble over it, and I got to give her a lead until we did it perfectly. :)

We did some up/down banks, and I got a little unbalanced; I love what Kathleen Zins taught me to do ("scruntch" into the saddle, then follow), but Jimmy asked us to let our hips go forward. Ultimately, I think they were saying the same thing, but of course I started thinking about my hips, and everything else sort of got lost, which wasn't good. Still, we weren't bad...just not as good as I would have liked.

Then, however, I found that David had some new jumps--including a lovely, Greenwood-clone ditch and brush.

I wasn't quite expecting that, and I was caught off guard. That's the only fence that scares me. Kathleen and I worked out our issues at Greenwood, until we thought it was a blast...but I really didn't expect to see one like this UNTIL Greenwood.

My heart raced, and of course, I started thinking bad thoughts. It was right after a down hill approach, and then about four bending strides to a three plank smallish jump.

I was first to go.

I don't know exactly what happened (well, on the approach there was a big chunk of ground missing, so we had to alter our stride, and then my mind wasn't in the game so I'm sure I stopped my hips/took my leg off), but we stopped. It wasn't pretty, but I stayed on. I got to try it again (Jimmy said we all get three tries, then we go on, because we can't waste other peoples' time). I admit to one more faulty try, and then I took his advice from yesterday: I hit his lazy Irish ass. :)

It worked!

I tried to explain that we had a bad experience over a jump like that, and he brushed me off, saying I was in a "no whining zone". Jim said "Think about it: He got behind your leg yesterday, you whacked him, and he got better. He was being an idiot today, you whacked him, he got better. YOU do the math!"

Towards then end of the XC schooling, Paddy once again got ticked off with the stop/start business (he started doing little Irish bucks between the various water exercises). I knew he was fed up, but it's nice to know he can be a "model" for Jimmy Wofford when need be.

I learned that when things aren't going right, and I'm feeling frustrated, I need to change something. If changing one thing isn't working, I need to go through a list, and that list might well include giving Paddy a little "tap of encouragement". I remember watching WEG and Rolex, amazed that everyone seemed to be using their whips quite effectively, and I realized I don't know how/when to use it. I'm learning how to use spurs, but I need to include the whip into my arsenal of tools!

A couple other "gems" from the man himself:

"If you think you can't, you're right."

"Panic, and you produce bad jumping. I'll tell you when to panic, goddamn it!"

"Yeah, he was crappy. But you rode him."

I'm depending on the kindness of, friends from the finish this blog. I had to stop taking notes and leave so that I could be back by midnight (actually, 12:30), so I didn't get to watch the final group go.

Still, what a wonderful clinic! Thanks, David and Laura, and THANK YOU to James C. Wofford for sharing his experience, his wit, and his wisdom with us. Here's to a third coming!

Special thanks to Linda Earley for the fine photos!


  1. Hey, someone had to be the fearless leader of the group. And someone had to follow along and pick up all the pieces. LOL! Great clinic blog. I think we all had a blast and learned tons. Main tip I picked up was to look at the jump till it passes under my horse's ears and then look on towards the next thing. That way Spanky and I were looking at the same spot and got to the same distances. Oh...... and ride more off my leg and less off my eye. =)

  2. I enjoyed taking pics of your lovely boy. It is easy to see the bond that you have with each other. Have lots more shots. I will post them to your Facebook page.

  3. Can we get pictures?? I would love to get some of the pics of Obie!