Monday, June 27, 2016

Riding Camp at Eventful Acres

Cupid and I have returned from a four day riding camp at Eventful Acres.  The camp was organized by the Pony Club, which I am a former member of.  In fact I attended this camp with my old horse sixteen years ago!

Cupid has not gone off the property since the Halloween show last October, and was reluctant getting on the trailer coming and going there so I was a little worried about how he would load.  Luckily the trailer had a ramp (the last one had a pretty big step up) and Cupid walked right up!  So we were off to a good start.  It was about a three and a half hour drive. 

The horses stayed in pipe paddocks.  I hung two water buckets and a salt lick for Cupid.  He was on the end of the row, and had an empty pen next to him, but with several horses near by.  Thankfully there were a lot of trees around, since the temperature forecast was for the upper nineties.  His pen turned out to be shaded most of the day except for the late morning.  The facility was very nice - in addition to trees everywhere it was mostly covered in grass.  The camping area was a short distance away. 
Settling into his temporary home

Day 1: Cupid had a few hours to settle in before our first scheduled ride.  I let him eat and relax in his paddock a little, then went on a walk.  He was pretty good and enjoyed the grass.  Then I tacked him up and gave him a quick lunge, during which he was good.  We had five horses and riders in our group. 
Cupid was pretty good, though a little distracted looking around.  There was definitely a lot more activity than at our barn.  I was anxious as well, since the arena did not have a fence around it and I was worried he would run out! 
We warmed up with some walk and trot.  His trot was a little quick, and I was still a little tense.  The instructor told me to work on getting him to yield his poll - she showed me from the ground at a halt and told me to work on that at a walk.  We ended with going over some poles.  The instructor asked if I wanted to canter, but I wasn't quite ready.
The instructor said my dressage saddle may be putting me in a bad position, too forwards, but I told her unfortunately I can't blame the saddle, that's just me and the more nervous I am the worst it is.

In the evening the pony clubbers went on a bareback ride around the property and invited me to join.  I decided to just hand walk Cupid.  He started off good, but when the group got bigger and people started trotting around and going in different directions he got very excited, pawing and pulling me.  I tried getting him to relax but with limited success.  Two of the girls were nice and came over with their horses to keep Cupid company, which seemed to help a little but he still had a few jumpy moments.

Day 2: We had a private dressage lesson scheduled, but not until the afternoon.  In the morning we went on a few short walks and I moved Cupid to a different pen for a few hours since his had no shade. 
I gave him a quick lunge before our lesson and spent about 10 minutes walking around the arena to warm up.  The dressage court was just laid out with poles, so again I was a little nervous that there was nothing to keep us in.
The instructor had me start by walking on a 20 meter circle, and circling my arms one at a time and rotating my ankles to help me loosen up.  Cupid was being very good and stayed on the circle.
The instructor wanted me to focus on three things: 1) bending my elbows; 2) sitting back; and 3) keeping my legs long.
For Cupid we worked mainly on straightness (not letting him throw his shoulder out) and forwardness.  Forwardness is always tricky for me when I'm anxious because I'm more comfortable with him going slower, but we worked up to it and got some nice trot - the instructor said Cupid was moving out nicely even though it felt a little quick to me.
In the evening we went out walking again when the kids rode.  Cupid was better today, though he still got a little excited.

Portable fan to help keep him cool, though luckily the heat wasn't as bad as I feared.
Day 3: Cross country!  I was in a group with four other horses and riders.  We started out in the arena, warming up with flatwork and then trotting over a few poles.  We went down a row of poles, then the trainer made the last pole into a small crossrail.  Cupid hopped over it calmly.
Then we walked out to the cross country horse.  We started out with a log - the trainer told us to just walk over it.  Cupid scrambled a little over it, but was good.  The trainer said he had good instincts and seem to enjoy the job, and told me to give him his head and just have the rein at the buckle.  We walked back and forth over two little logs, and Cupid was relaxed.  Then we trotted over the logs.  Cupid landed in a canter but was relaxed and pulled right up.  He wasn't concerned about going away from the other horses or when we were faced back towards his pen, which I was worried about. 
Then we walked over a little ditch, which the horses could just step over.  We walked across it a few times, then moved to a slightly bigger ditch.  We entered it through the side facing into the ditch, and turned ninety degrees to step out over a log.  Cupid was not concerned about the ditch.  I opted to not trot it.
Our final obstacle was a bank.  We walked both up and down it a few times, and Cupid was very good.  I decided to leave it at that and not trot it.
Overall I felt very good about our day - I wanted it to be easy and no big deal and we achieved that goal.
In the evening I walked Cupid before the kids came out, and he was good.

Day 4: I was still feeling very positive from the preceding day.  Just when we're getting into it, it is the last day.  We warmed up with some flatwork, and Cupid was being very responsive.  The trainer asked if we'd cantered yet, and I said no so she told us to go do it.  I had a touch of panic about the open arena and other horses, so I went down to a quieter end and started out on a circle.  We cantered both directions and Cupid was calm throughout.  The trainer said she knew Cupid would have a nice canter. :)
Next the trainer had us walk over small flower boxes.  Cupid is generally not bothered by this sort of thing, and had no problem here.
We started out with a line of poles.  Then the last pole became a crossrail, and Cupid was good hopping over it.  Then the trainer raised it to a vertical and I was still feeling good.  I focused on keeping my legs from swinging back and my upper body from coming too forward.  The trainer told me to focus on pushing my hips forward instead of shoulders back - "belly button to (Cupid's) ears" and somehow that seemed to work.  We did a little figure eight over the vertical and the flower box.  Then the trainer added a crossrail to the flower box. 
We did a little three jump course, then a five jump course, and it felt great.  Cupid was jumping beautifully and listening to me - he never got quick.  I finally felt relaxed and confident, and was even able to focus more on my position.  We didn't jump anything bigger than 2'3" but I was really happy.
Proud of my baby!

The camp was a great opportunity for Cupid and I to get out of our comfort zone, and helped build our partnership further.  Being at the camp where I didn't have to think about anything other than my riding helped me get through the anxiety I had been feeling.

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