Mexican Fiesta P Dutty!
I'm not quite sure where to start in writing today's camp report. I've probably already forgotten half of what I've learned from Phillip. He knows that much. But, let me tell you one lesson I'll never forget - lesson #647 of this week: always come ready for XC when you have a "show jumping" lesson scheduled with Phillip Dutton, especially on Day 4 of camp - all rules are off, and you have surrendered all control to P Dutty!
Day 4 of camp is pretty special. Phillip opened tonight's farewell dinner by saying - "In order to improve, sometimes you have to push yourself to the next level, and I really hope everyone understands that from today." I stopped counting after the third rider came back to the barn, announcing they had fallen off today! But, it was all in the best possible way, and as Phillip said, it is a fact of our sport. Trust me, the falls weren't about being overfaced - they were about developing the determination to do the things you're fully capable of doing! Secretly, I think no-one wanted Jodi to walk away with all the glory for being the "hardest" camper for falling off twice! Anyhow, today's riding was about taking us all to the next level, and it was amazing!
Day 4 is also pretty special, because it's the day we all start to realize the bond we've developed over 4 days of being P Dutty Cadets together. I guess it's like being on one of those Outward Bound trips. Together, we've survived the PD rope ladder across the ravine; we've bungee jumped off a PD cliff; and we've swung across the PD river on a rope swing. At tonight's sort-of assessment ceremony, there were more than a couple teary eyes. Phillip again commented on how inspiring it is to him to see us all come to him, to try so hard, and to want to improve - no-one comes to this week of training who doesn't desperately want to improve and he loves seeing that. He promised that they would keep offering camp week, no matter how many people sign up! We all cheered very loudly to that announcement!
So, my XC school yesterday went quite well, and at the end, Phillip asked what we wanted to do today. I asked if there was any way I could have another show jumping lesson instead of schooling XC a second day. Alyssa (fellow camper from 2009) also wanted another go at show jumping. So, at 11:30, Alyssa and I met Phillip in the jumping ring - no studs, no vests, no XC boots. Phillip started us off straight away at the canter - 6 strides lengthening, 6 strides collecting, 6 strides lengthening, 6 strides collecting. Repeated until we really got our horses cantering in front of our legs - light in front, and powerful behind. And then Phillip took the gloves off and started drilling us over fences. I got a good talking to about the importance of not riding Katchi past his distance. Phillip said that if I've got the canter right, and I come around the turn, looking at the fence, and see nothing... make Katchi's hind legs jump under me until I see the distance. He said that for me to move to the upper levels, it's no longer going to work to just come around and hope it all works out. The key is in the canter. For those who know Katchi and my infamous show jumping rounds, I think this video of today's ride says it all...
We'd been working for almost 45 minutes, and as I pulled up from the corner to angled vertical line in the last clip of the above film - I saw Phillip walking away. My first though was, jeeze, I thought that was okay! Was it that bad??? And then I thought, well, I guess we're finished here. And then I noticed Alyssa following him - and I said, "what's up?" - and she said, "um, well, I guess we're doing XC now". No one really understands that I am actually a really big wus and a seriously low-risk person in this high-risk sport! HELLO?!?! I have no studs or a jumping vest on! WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?! But, by then, Phillip had already sent Alyssa off jumping, so what was I going to do? Let me just say that we jumped some crazy ass XC shit today. (At the end, Alyssa and I had a great hack around the track screaming and laughing about how we each kept waiting for the other one to tell Phillip this was insanity, but neither one of us had the guts to do it, so we suckered each other into his cunning little plan!) Phillip did for me today just what no-one has been able to do for me since I was about 15. He made me throw caution to the wind and jump the damn jumps. I needed it more than he can even imagine - and I know he knows that. He pushed me to the next level. Unfortunately, I made one big mistake today, and Katchi suffered (he'll be fine, but he's a bit scratched up and I'm hoping he's not too puffed up from it tomorrow) - I let a stupid little argument draw out way too long, and poor Katchi never even saw the chevron I slammed him into. I give my students the exact same lecture I got today - rip his teeth out for 1 second and then get back to work. Letting a half-assed argument go on for stride-after stride-after stride, right into the base of the jump is nothing short of dangerous. Stupid, I know. Luckily, I learned my lesson and we finished up really well. Check out the video clip below. Phillip said it was "brilliant" - and later tonight, he said it was the best he's seen me ride. Wow.
Tonight was the Mexican Fiesta Farewell Dinner - totally heartbreaking to say goodbye! Phillip opened the night by reading us a list of the book titles he came up for each of us, if we were writing a book! Here are a few samples...
"How To Fall Off In Pennsylvania"
"How To Keep My Horse's Head Down"
"How To Fall Off on My Back"
"Now I Can Jump Ditches"
"How to Fall Off"
And mine?? "Have Mom, Will Travel!"
Phillip took a few minutes to speak about each individual camper - the rider they arrived as, their progress over the week, the things to address in the future, and his assessment of their future. Bits were funny, bits were encouraging - but above all, his assessments were honest and helpful. Two years ago, Phillip's comments to me were mostly about areas for improvement. This year, they were mostly about - get 'er done! He said things are really coming together for Katchi and me and that great things will happen this next year. It's an amazing feeling to have that kind of input and encouragement from someone whose opinion you respect so much. And, as Phillip said to me tonight, "I wouldn't say it, if I didn't believe it."
At the end of the dinner, the kids went after the pinata with a crop. A 4 year old broke the crop while beating the pinata. John Nunn from Bit of Britain (who sponsored the dinner) declared that the crop was NOT purchased at Bit of Britain. A broom replaced the crop, and then things started getting a little crazy!
Tomorrow is combined test day. Katchi and I will be doing Prelim Test A, but we'll have to wait to receive Phillip's verdict tomorrow about what jumps we'll be doing. Which pretty much will also determine whether Loch Moy II is on or a scratch! Judgement Day.
P.S. Alex, stay Gorgeous - at least until you're legal! :)