We will start off with a brief recap of the KOC clinic. This was my first time auditing a clinic from KOC, and while I have definitely heard some brutal stories about her in clinics, everyone walked away from this clinic without any tears. Karen definitely is very up front about her opinions of you, your horse, and well, basically everything. She will tell you if you are royally screwing up, and she won't let you forget it. I ended up jump crewing for her practically the whole weekend, along with a few other friends who were auditing as well. It was kind of nerve-wracking, because she never really told you the exact height or spread she wanted, she would just say "raise that jump" or "widen that oxer", and we would all just kind of have to guess what was the most appropriate height for the class.
The one thing that I definitely took away from Karen's clinic is that, if you are brave enough to clinic with her, you need to be ready for her to uncover every single one of your flaws in your riding. She is blunt and honest. If that is not the style of riding that works for you, then she is not the clinician for you. When she finds what you need help with though, she gives some really incredible pointers on how to improve. I saw at least 75% of the pairs that rode that weekend increase drastically in at least one area of their riding.
I did however, see the brutality that I have long heard about KOC. Being a part of the jump crew on the ground, I was almost never more than 20ft away from Karen, and I heard everything. She definitely will mutter some choice phrases about your riding under her breath if you are really doing things wrong. I also watched one horse and rider fall due to her pushing a concept that the horse was not quite ready for (in my opinion). Also, if you are claiming to be able to ride at training/prelim level, and you do not have an established flying change, she will ding you hard on that. She got after nearly every rider in that group for the fact that they did not have a lead change.
I also witnessed another horse rear straight up because of the way in which Karen was pushing the rider and horse to do something that the horse legitimately could not understand. For every rider/horse pairing that worked with Karen's ideas, it was an incredibly fruitful clinic, but she does have a teaching style that may not work for everyone. I think a clinic with her might really benefit Charmer and I down the line, but I would have to have a healthy dose of bravery to enter my first clinic with her.
Now to move on to Charmer's show with one of his trainers! The barn that Charmer and I are trained at puts on several schooling shows every year. When one of them rolled around in April, during Charmer's month of pro training, I jumped at the opportunity to have one of his trainers ride him. Trainer CP offered to pop him around some courses for me, and I was thrilled.
Charmer has really been learning a lot of manners during his time with these trainers, and it was facinating watching them go around. It also helps that apparently CP really enjoys jumping him, as she told me after their first round.
They first started in the 2'6", and I could really notice the difference in how Charmer goes. He was much more controlled and thoughtful, instead of just "RUN AND JUMP AND BE WILD". He pulled a rail with a lazy leg, but overall the course was calm, quiet and beautiful.
Then they entered a 2'9" round, and that is where I really noticed how much Charmer's confidence has improved. He was not backed off, or strung out coming into any of the fences. There was no wild, scared look in his eye when he was faced with a line or a fence that was new or different to him. He took every jump in stride and came back to CP after every jump. He had two lazy rails in that class, but that will get better with more practice and time.
The day after the show, I ended up having a lesson on him. It was the first time I had ridden him since he first went into pro training. And I was shocked. I basically looked like one of those little kids that is on one of those fair ride ponies with just this stupid look of glee and excitement on their face. I just walked and trotted and cantered around, and it was incredible. He was so light in the bridle and so quietly forward.
I basically just let him run around with his head wherever he wanted because I was just so thrilled to have this nice forward horse on my hands. SG told me that I needed to actually get his head down and ride and things, but even she understood just how excited I was about how he felt.
We did a little course, and I have never felt so confident. It was also easily the most fun I have had in years. We nailed our distances, and only had like two little run away moments (which were SO much more mild than they used to be), and just had a grand old time.
Also for the first time in years, I actually left a stride out. Yes. That's right folks. I did a 6 stride in 5 strides. I am pretty much infamous (especially on Charmer) for putting in more strides than I should, but after I put 7 strides in the 6 stride once, SG told me to actually let him go. So I really let him go. And basically every stride had a lead change and it was huge and fast, but we did a 6 stride in 5 strides, and even though SG made me actually do it again, correctly, in 6 strides, it was kind of a miracle for me to have actually left a stride out.
After my lesson, I went on vacation for 10 days (DisneyWorld. It was a blast.) and Charmer continued his training. When I came back, I really wanted to take Charmer over his first XC jumps. I have had this horse for almost two years and I want him to be an eventer, and yet I have never taken him over any XC jumps. So I decided that Sunday was the day. I got him ready, tacked him up and we went out to the XC field.
We did our first ever solid fences, and he rocked them! Then we graduated to attempting our first banks (both up and down), and our first ditch.
And we might make an eventer out of this horse yet. He is a complete superstar with banks. Up is no big deal whatsoever, and down is also no big deal. He has decided that he is basically the best with banks. Which I totally love, because banks are one of my favorite things to do on cross country, especially with a horse that does them well.
Ditches were a bit of a scarier question for him, and he was not thrilled about going over it, but after a lot of patience and coaxing, we did it 3 times, and I think it will only get better with practice!
Gotta end with an awesome bank picture because banks are apparently what we do best.
Well if you made it through that whole long monster of a post, I applaud you. It has been a big month for Charmer and I and I cannot wait to see where the new few months will take us!