Sunday, June 13, 2010

We're talking again!

I think Katchi knows he disappointed me last weekend, and that breaks my heart more than the fact he let me down at Rubicon's bank. He has tried his heart out for me all week at home - he's been on his best behavior and working so hard - just begging for my approval. And he was just fabulous at Seneca Valley yesterday! He skipped around the XC course for a clear round - even with 2 banks on course!

But, lets back up to last weekend again. GRC took some fantastic photos at Rubicon, and they really helped me figure out what went wrong at that bank complex. They took something like a series of 20 photos over the 3 elements (and during our "discussion" at the top of the bank). In looking through them, I realy am convinced that I did my job, and Katchi just wasn't there for me. He simply was not having a conversation with me. Of course, as riders, we can ALWAYS do our job better, but I just cannot blame that stop on me. The photos showed my reins soft, spurs in, clucking, and generally working way too hard to get down that bank! Meanwhile, Katchi jumped the first element beautifully, and his eyes said it all - he jumped boldly over the first and mid-air he thought something was on the other side but wasn't sure what yet; realized it was a bank and his eyes got real big; and upon landing, his eyes and attention totally shifted - he decided he had a better route in mind. Forget the driver, he chose his own path. It happened in a flash, but his eyes said exactly what happened. Of course, this is yet another part of eventing that makes it so amazingly hard - the fact is, we're sitting on top a flight animal with a mind of its own that is perfectly capable of making decisions. And we want them thinking - because that keeps us safe! We don't want them totally reliant on our direction every step. But, they must be engaged in the conversation and allow themselves to be guided by our lead - because, HELLO STUPID! I'M THE ONE WHO WALKED THE COURSE & I HAVE SOMETHING TO CONTRIBUTE!!! Katchi forgot that on top of that bank, and I think my lack of excitement (deafening silence) at the end of the course told him that he was not fabulous that day.
I decided not to post anything pre-Seneca, because I really didn't think I should be posting my assessment of a course if I couldn't get around one clear in 2010! But, we got around clear yesterday, so now I have some things to say!

Besides the two drop combinations, half-coffin, and log/bank into water (all of which I am well aware I rode like a bit of a cowboy. Yes, I was the one smacking a going-horse, but I wasn't taking any chances!)... the real question of the course seemed to be 2 tables about 1/2 way around the course. I'm not sure how many faults they caused, but they sure caused some icky rides! They were set with a (darn near) 90 degree angle between the two. I watched several people walk all sorts of lines trying to figure it out - then walk a different line - then another. It was clearly puzzling a lot of people - me, included. At the course design training a couple of weeks ago, there was a very similar question on course, and we spent a long time watching it ride... horribly. People picked away at the horses, tried to make a turn, and oh, it was bad. I saw the same thing in the few rides I watched yesterday before my ride. Tremaine Cooper had told us that as course designers, at least for Training Level and below, you cannot expect a horse to start turning before it's 2 strides away on the landing side of a jump. I need a diagram to explain it (I've tried putting it in words, and it's not working). But, here's the point for the combination at Seneca. If you walked out 2 strides from jumping the first element and turned in place to the left - you were facing the middle of the second element. So, if you started turning your horse then, there would be no way you could avoid having gone past the second element so that you were forced to be coming back at it (confusing the horse, disrupting your stride, etc.). I was sure that was not what the designer had in mind. But every rider I saw come through it yesterday tried to do just that - and it was ugly.

But, here's the magic in course design - there was a perfect line in there, you just had to find it. The jump construction was divided into 3 parts - if you jumped on a right-to-left angle over the left "seam" in the top logs, and went straight for the exact same point on the second element (this time jumping the "seam" on a left-to-right angle) - there was a perfect 4 stride line. Sharon White said to me a few weeks ago - "it's 4 strides. Know it. Believe it. Do it." I must have said that in my head 1,001 times Friday night and Saturday morning. I just knew I was right - right?! Know it. Believe it. Do it. HOLD THE LINE. And that's exactly what we did! Out of sheer force of will, I did not let myself pick at Katchi coming to the combination - I was determined to jump the first fence just like a single galloping table, because that's what the line asked for. Katchi was perfect. And I counted out loud (okay, maybe I screamed) 1-2-3-4... OMG! He jumped it perfect again! And I went nuts! I told Katchi he was the best horse in the world - and I meant it! I won't forget how perfect that line felt for a long time. wow, it was stellar. All you had to do was find the line. Can you see it in the photos below?


  1. Hooray for you and Katchi, Cherie! You guys deserved this ride! And I am glad you got to analyze last weeks ride through photos. How helpful! I took my horse to our 3rd HT today (our previous two had been spectacular!), and we got eliminated. Mostly my fault, and I was upset at first. But I realized in a big way that I have not been riding assertively, and now I am pumped to make the needed changes. Thanks for always blogging about your reflections and plans; it's inspiring! Congrats, again!

  2. Shane - I'm so sorry to hear of your frustration!!! Did the 'E' happen at one jump? Can't wait to hear about your new plan to get through this and back on track! Eventing is nothing but humbling. Thanks for the compliment on the blog! :)