What a day! I still can't believe my good fortune to be here right now. Today was sunny- mid-80s without a cloud in the sky, with just enough breeze to keep it from getting too hot. For someone like me who literally had not been outside without a coat on in over three months, this in itself would have been enough to make me count the day as a HUGE success. And yet, it only got better from there! Buckle up, because this post is going to be action packed! (Read: long =D).
I woke up early to finish off my last paper (completing it meant that I officially produced 147 typed double-spaced pages of papers this past term - crazy!!) and then Pa and I headed over to Three Runs Plantation to watch the USET Training Sessions with the US Chef d'Equipe and coach, Captain Mark Phillips.
We got there in time to watch Phillip Dutton finish a jumping lesson on a really cool bay mare, who was probably my favorite jumper of the day. That man is such a badass, and made some very difficult and technical lines look like a cake walk. They did some interesting striding exercises, with the Captain moving a vertical in and out to make a line longer or shorter. It was cool to watch how the preparatory canter changed to respond to the distance within the line.
(Seriously cool jumper - also, this picture is straight out of my camera, not cropped at all; pretty proud of it!)
Next up was Kim Severson, who jumped three horses in a row. The first horse, an ADORABLE little bay, started out drifting quite hard to the right over a single oxer. As Ringo and I deal with the same issue, I definitely sat up a bit and tried to pay extra attention to how they solved this problem. They ended up canting the oxer a bit (making it higher on the side he was drifting to) and then Kim did a fairly aggressive opening left rein over the fence with a straight halt afterward. It worked really well, and by the end the horse was jumping straight as a pin. Cool.
The next horse, a fiery little chestnut, was a bit biddy to the fences, which required some serious last-minute corrections from Kim a few times. He was a seriously extravagant jumper, though, and when he actually held himself off the fences he gave the jumps a ton of room.
(... and a good jumper, too!)
Kim rode her 4* horse, "Paddy," last, and did gymnastics. I admit that I spent a good deal of this lesson catching up with a friend I'd just seen for the first time since last summer, and so didn't pay super close attention. The main issue seemed to be keeping him sharp while still forward. Like the other horses, he jumped better and better as the lesson went on, and ended out by clearing a heart-stoppingly large oxer in fine style.
(Heading into the line)
There was a break after that, so we jetted over to Suzi's to check in. Suzi had been cross country schooling that morning and wasn't back yet when we arrived, so we said hi to Ringo and Kiki (who both looked incredibly fabulous!!) and left a note saying we'd be back later that afternoon. We then grabbed a little lunch and headed back to Three Runs for the last few lessons of the day.
We came back for the very tail end of a jumping lesson that I really can't say much about, except that the horse was wicked cute and jumped very enthusiastically and well. It seems obvious to say, but it's incredible how talented these horses are!!
(horses. are. AWESOME.)
After that, it was all dressage for the rest of the afternoon. The two lessons we watched both dealt a lot with test movements. I really liked some of the terminology Mark Phillips used ("get more horse in front of the saddle" as a way of trying to get a more uphill balance was a particular favorite) and it was interesting to watch the horses begin to understand the exercises and really get start clicking. Both riders we watched had a few issues but ended positively. Very inspiring!!
After that, it was back to Suzi's for the best part of the day: RIDING!! I got on Ringo first and did around 20 minutes of walk-trot transitions. I had to concentrate hard not to get choked up during those first few jog steps - this was, after all, our first time trotting in over NINE AND A HALF MONTHS! Suzi has done a fabulous job with him and he felt as relaxed as I've ever felt him. Best of all, he felt sound and straight right from the start. Magical!!
Then it was Piggy's turn. We just did a little walk-trot-canter around the edge of the big field and WOW she felt good. Again, Suzi has done a great job with her and her balance and strength has never felt better. Her trot was big and swinging and her canter was only a tiny fraction of the pogo-stick I know it can be. Plus, she was relaxed and accepting of the aids, and even put up with my extreme rustiness and constant losing of balance--something that used to send her over the edge faster than you could blink! She's really growing up into a special little horse. I couldn't stop smiling!! Plus, she's looking BIG - I think she grew a little bit, or has at least filled out very nicely. She's feeling maybe almost Dually-sized!
(So adorable - I wish I wasn't looking so chunky, though! Damn British candy)
Tomorrow we're off to Pine Top to watch and give Suzi a hand at the event there, and then are coming back to ride. Plus, I've got two three mile runs to do over the weekend to close out the training week (my six mile run on Wednesday morning before I left Oxford having gone WONDERFULLY - YAY!), so it's going to be another busy one! I'll have my camera with me, as always =)
(Suzi and Ryan lookin fly in their last jump school before Pine Top this weekend)