Category Archives: cross country jumping

Cross Country Schooling

It’s been a year since I’ve galloped around xc. Ok, so not counting the Irish adventure. But still, a full year since Georgie and I went to Rebecca and did the T3D. And that was our last time on a xc course. So, the way things were going with Macy I figured I’d just skip xc this year, which saddened me and made me a bit panicky (would I remember how to ride xc??) but I realized it was reality.

But then one day, when Sarah asked, “Do you want to go school the local xc course on the 4th?” I blurted out “YES!” before thinking the entire thing through. I’d be riding Macy.

Eh, I can always bail or just watch others jump.

So, we went. And I was nervous, which made Macy spooky and me tense and stiff and it wasn’t a great warm up. When Sarah sent us out to do three logs we got them done and I was SO proud of myself. SO proud, in fact, that I said “I’m happy to do Beginner Novice stuff today, but maybe nothing bigger. ”

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She was so happy. And confused why I was messing with her so much

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Sarah wasn’t going to make this mare jump small logs all day.

I want to say that Macy was amazing. She was SUCH a good girl despite my inadequacies as a rider. She was so happy to be out there. Happy for the both of us, because I was still a stiff, leg off, backwards riding passenger. And while I hadn’t ridden xc in a year, she hadn’t been out in at least two years, so she had every right to be a hot mess. But she wasn’t. She stood quietly and waited our turn, and was as easygoing as I could have ever hoped for.

The beginning wasn’t pretty. But the fun group of women I was with cheered me on like I was running Rolex. I forced Macy into stopping a Novice jump. I gave her no leg, became completely unyielding in the rein and she was like “I gots nowhere to go!!” It was a kind stop that unravelled well before we got to the jump. After that I got better. But there was lots of room for improvement.

By the end though, we were actually having fun. We jumped what I would consider a Training line. Corner to corner four stride, then a little gallop to a down bank into water, through the water and 3 strides to a chevron.

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Whee!

Macy was awesome. I was ok. And together we got it done.

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Chevrons are no big deal…

I spent three years riding the same horse cross country, and it was so fun. But I didn’t learn nearly as much as I did in this one lesson with Macy. And maybe that’s not completely true. Maybe I learned a ton on Georgie which enabled me to ride a horse like Macy. She’s not easy, but she’s honest. And I love honest. It’s easy to ride honest. I just needed to learn to trust her and let her do her thing, while supporting her along the way.

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Loving her here

It was SO great to get back out there. Well, the last 30 minutes were great. The first 90 were a bit scary. For no reason. Macy is “hot” and “sensitive” but if I ignore the head tossing (which weirdly minimizes when I ride forward instead of backwards) it’s actually a ton of fun.

I’m actually adding a video. Again, remember, work in progress, it’s not like this is what I think is ideal…

It was a great way to spend the holiday and I can’t thank Sarah enough for continuing to let me ride her mare and pushing my comfort zone.

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Saying No To Your Dream Horse

I’ve hemmed and hawed about even writing this post. You see, I’ve been keeping a little secret from you all, and now that it’s all said and done I wasn’t sure I even needed to write about it. But, I will. Mostly because it will be cathartic to put it out into bloggerland and close this chapter.

When I let people know Georgie was injured and no longer competing with me, I got a lot of very sweet emails and lots of people reached out letting me know about possible horses for me.

What I didn’t expect, was for the folks in Ireland who I had ridden with, to contact me and see if it would be possible for me to purchase Buttons, the horse I had absolutely fallen in love with over there. (you can read about him here) At first I was like “yeah, right.” But the more we talked, the more I realized this could actually, amazingly, possibly, happen. They were being incredibly kind and generous and wanted Buttons in a good home, so were willing to work with me to see how we could make it happen. I started to freak out a little and imagined Buttons being here with me. OMG it would be a dream come true!!!

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Buttons. Look how happy I look!

What it all came down to was the cost of shipping him to the States. They agreed to look into it and they mentioned that without an agent, shipping costs could be drastically reduced.

I know nothing about the cost of shipping horses overseas, except that it wasn’t cheap. I decided to set a budget for myself so that I wouldn’t get carried away with getting Buttons if I really couldn’t afford it. At the top end of my budget, I could have the horse, and pay his board, but I wouldn’t have any money to compete or really take regular lessons for about a year. But, at that moment in time I didn’t care, because THIS WAS MY DREAM HORSE.

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More Buttons and I looking very happy together

So, we began working on looking into shipping costs. Unfortunately, the Shannon to Chicago route, which EN teased us with this past fall, never really took off. That would have been the far cheaper option, as Shannon was about 40 minutes from the barn Buttons was located at.  So, we’d have to haul the horse to Dublin and fly him to Chicago. Then, 3 days of quarantine. Then, I could drive 23 hours to go pick him up, and drive 23 hours home. This all sounded like it was NOT going to fit into my budget.

And it didn’t. Despite the folks at Dartfield working their pants off to get me a reasonable price, it was still far above my budget. The top end of my budget. Shipping horses can cost anywhere between $10-$20k I learned.

Yup. Let me break some of the steps down for you:

  1. Health cert, passport, blood work
  2. Transport to the airport
  3. Groom
  4. A shipping pallet is about 15k, and fits 3 horses. So, just to sit on the plane costs 5k per horse.
  5. Quarantine
  6. Transportation from airport home

Even with the most economical option we could find, and with people being incredibly generous, it would cost me $10k to get Buttons home.

I was now $7k over my stretched budget.

There was no way I could make this work, even with both the shipper and the seller offering to take payments.  I’d be paying this horse off for over a year, and literally doing nothing but paying off the horse. Like, I would be sweating every single payment and trying to make it work. Yeah. No. Can’t justify that.

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So, I called Sarah just to make sure I was making the right decision and she agreed. Goodbye Buttons.

The folks at Dartfield  were so amazingly nice and tried so hard to make this work out. I felt horrible having to tell them no, after how much work they put into it.

So, the last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From EXCITED to sad to EXCITED to sad. I almost felt a sense of relief when I sent the final “I’m sorry I can’t make it work” email. As sad as I was, I knew I could move on and not set my hopes on this horse any longer.

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Maybe one day I’ll get my dream Irish horse. Maybe not. I can’t live in the “maybe” and it’s so not my personality to dwell.

With Buttons behind me, I’m ready to move on to the next option. I’m really, really, excited about a baby I am going to check out next week. She’s not Irish, but she has a great pedigree and I think she could be a great fit for me. As I said to Sarah when I was weighing the options of Buttons or this baby horse , neither is a bad option. I’d be lucky to have either, despite how different they are. So, even though I am down to the one option, instead of two, I think this one can make me equally as happy and make it much easier for me financially. And if baby horse is the option I go with, I’m also looking into options to keep riding and even competing this season, as that has been the hardest part for me- not having something to consistently hop on.

So many options! I’ll keep you posted as they go from options to decisions.

 

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Winter Work Commences

For those of us in the frigid part of the world, winter is a time to step back and reevaluate how things are going. There are no upcoming events unless a haul to a warmer climate is happening, and so we get to take this time to work on holes in our training, and work on becoming more solid riders. I look at winter as a solid 5 months of indoor arena time. And for me that means practice, practice practice.

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This please.

You better believe that while I am trotting in endless circles in the indoor I’m dreaming of being back out on our beautiful trails. Or that when my coach tells me to gallop to a fence I pretend we are galloping on grass somewhere in Oregon, or Montana. But for now it’s a lot of dreaming. And getting my butt kicked in lessons.

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Also, still on the hunt for a new one of these. Update blog to come….

We’ve had some great jump and dressage lessons. In our dressage, we have been working on straightness in the walk to canter, or counter canter, transition. It sounds kinda boring, but it is SO fun. Seriously. Really hard work, but I love it. Georgie and I have gone from haunches out and me pulling her head one way in order to get a transition, to working on and almost always getting a transition that is straight without much use of my hands. I can pretty reliably ask for counter canter on a straight line with just my seat. Lots more homework, but its been great. The one loops in the Prelim dressage tests will seem easy compared to this work.

Our jump lessons have been fun and challenging as well. In our most recent lesson we worked on seeing our distance. I can see my distance from 3 strides out pretty consistently. But Sarah bumped it up a notch or two for this lesson.

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We started with a ground pole and would say “1” when we were a stride out. Then 1,2, then 1,2, 3 and so on. All the way to 8 strides out. Which was around a corner. I never ever thought I would get this.  And then it became a 2’3 jump. And then a 2’9 jump. And lastly a 3’3 or so jump. As the jump got bigger the strides changed a bit and I had to account for that. But all in all, it went pretty well. I learned that I had to have a good corner (duh), keep things consistent, and a couple of times I saw a different distance than Georgie may have, but I could easily and safely ask her to jump from my distance, and did! Sure, I shortened her a couple of times too, which was cheating, but all in all I was pleased with how it went and how not only could I see my distances, but could do something about them as well!

Here’s a video of what it looked like: 

The exercise was one I can easily do on my own as well, and keep practicing. I struggle to jump when I am by myself, but this one I think I would feel safe doing as the jump can really be at any height. (Am I the ony one who thinks they will die when jumping alone despite having jumped crazy ass things alone as a kid?)

I guess I’m looking forward to more winter work, but really we all know it’s so we can get out and enjoy those events!

 

 

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Year in Review

I have a habit of not setting solid goals for myself as a rider for the coming year. I feel like horses and riding are so unpredictable. Georgie could be lame tomorrow and there go all our goals for the spring. Or, I could break my elbow. Again. Or, everything could go exactly as planned. And wouldn’t that be nice. And unusual.

But, I’ve decided to set goals for the coming year. They will be put into the universe in a later post, as this one will be to review how shit went down in 2016.

Things started ok. It was a lot of indoor work due to an Idaho winter, but we worked on thinking quickly while jumping. Something I struggle with.

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This instilled some serious fear in me

Off to Utah in March for some xc schooling and my spirits brightened. Georgie felt like the horse I never thought I’d have. Adjustable, uphill and forward. It was a blast. Plus, Training felt easy. That was a nice change.

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Jumping over the rock

June was the start of our official season with our show at Inavale. Once we were able to get there- after my truck died and a kind friend let us borrow theirs. Dressage in my mind was AMAZING but the judge had a different view and gave us our worst score to date. Just made me determined to show her this wasn’t a dressage show, stupid judge.

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Amazing. Duh

Georgie ate up the xc course at Inavale. So much so that I thought I had speed faults. I didn’t. We were perfectly within optimum time. It was a great course and gave me the confidence I needed to know we could tackle the 3Day in a month. Plus, we had an awesome show jump round. Only one rail down, which is below average for us. And it was the final rail because I rode to it stupidly. So good news was if I ride well we can do well. We finished in third place, and I had a lot of fun, so really it was a great weekend.

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Does not care about 3rd place. Cares that there is a stupid ribbon on her and her tack has yet to be removed.

The following month was the Training 3 Day at Rebecca. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you have the chance to do a long format, do it. Dressage in the big arena sitting the trot and doing some movements we will be doing at Prelim. Again, judges and I disagreed. This time they thought my test was nicer than I did and gave us our best score to date. That’s cool.

Endurance day. Pretty sure I smiled the entire time. Steeplechase was SO MUCH FUN.

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Love her ears

The xc course was easy peasy and it was the first time I felt like I just let Georgie gallop and didn’t interfere three strides out. (My favorite thing to do.) Stadium was good. Two rails. But they weren’t for obvious reasons and I was pleased with our ride. Sadly we dropped from 2nd place to 6th because of the rails. Which was annoying, because there were cash prizes for riders up to 3rd place. But it is what it is.

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One of my fave pics ever.

Probably the best part was that when the 3Day was done and over with, trainer Sarah brought up the P word. As in, it was something we could start thinking about. I NEVER thought it was an option. But Georgie is such a different horse than she was 6-8 months ago, and I like to think I’m a different rider, but maybe not to such a dramatic degree. And because it would be the first time for both of us going Prelim, I decided to have Sarah take her to her first recognized event at the level.

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While schooling next door to Rebecca, in 2015 I had been too scared to do this ditch wall. This year we conquered it easily. Amazing the difference a year makes.

August was stupid. I tripped and fell (totally sober) and broke my elbow. So… Sarah took over riding Georgie after her post Rebecca break and got her ready for Prelim.

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The improvements with Sarah riding Georgie were pretty obvious early on…

September Sarah took Georgie to a schooling Jumper Show and they rocked. ZERO rails. Made everything I had said about her unable to not hit rails complete hogwash. This put me in a weird headspace. Mainly just not riding my horse, but also missing her and having someone else take over the ride for the first time in my life of horses was weird. But I knew it was for the best, and I am still enjoying all the improvements Sarah worked on. Hello responding to my leg!

And then her debut at Prelim with Sarah. Ok, let’s just skip too much writing about that. The fates just weren’t with us that day. But, you better believe this venue will also be the first Prelim I take her to in the spring. I don’t even care if I fall off (ok, I do) that course is not getting the better of that mare, or me. Stupid book jump.

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Being #13 DID NOT HELP

And then… Ireland. Trip of a lifetime. OMG. Foxhunting with the Irish. Riding Irish horses. I still have no idea why I came home.

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And then, in November, the final xc school of the season. Sarah took Georgie back down to Skyline and rocked the course with her. Had a blast. Georgie proved that she is a Prelim ready horse. Sure, the book jump was in hiding and not available to school, but that’s ok. We’ll get ‘er in the spring. Stupid book jump.

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Why hello, huge table

December has been work work work. Jump and dressage lessons. Raising expectations of what this horse is capable of.

She’s still the best damn horse I’ve ever known. I’ll never stop loving her and I cannot wait to see what 2017 brings.

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Georgie Jumps the Jumps

As you may remember, Georgie’s first attempt at Prelim didn’t go quite as planned. Fortunately, the event she was running at wasn’t very far away (by Idaho standards) and when Sarah had a group of students going back down this fall to school at the facility, she asked if I wanted to go. I did. But having just come back from Ireland, taking more time off of work wasn’t really an option. So, Sarah kindly offered to take Georgie down and hopefully school her over all the jumps she didn’t get to do at the event.

I was super sad I would miss the action but asked everyone to provide lots and lots of video. While I wasn’t exactly fretting all day yesterday, I was super anxious to see video and hear how it went. When I finally heard from Sarah, her text said ” Do you want the good news or bad news first?”

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This doesn’t look like bad news…

I opted for bad. And then heard nothing from her for 20 minutes. As images of Georgie refusing jumps, falling into the water, dumping Sarah or coming up lame ran through my mind, I tried calling and texting again.

Apparently Sarah was busy. Taking care of horses. Lame.

Anyway, the bad news was, that the dreaded jump #3, the one that Sarah fell at, had been put away for the season. So they didn’t get to jump it. My initial reaction?  “Thats the best bad news ever!! We can jump it in the spring!”

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Jump 3. We will conquer you come spring!

The good news: Georgie was amazing. She jumped all the jumps and was basically an amazing rockstar unicorn.

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Bank complex. Out of view is a corner 4 strides away 

Other than Jump 3, they jumped all the jumps on the course. And they JUMPED them. At speed, galloping around like they were in an event. Georgie didn’t put a foot out of place, and she had zero difficulty. Even with big ass tables that scare me. But not anymore!

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Mare’s got hops.

From what I saw on the videos and what Sarah told me, Georgie thinks prelim is pretty cool. And not that tough. When she is ridden well, at least.

Here’s some video of the prelim water complex and Jump 4 on course:

Sarah asked if she should ride Georgie again today, and I said no. The day had gone exactly as I had hoped. I have more confidence, Georgie can rock Prelim jumps, and Sarah had a lot of fun. Georgie can have the day off so she can come back and we can try out some dressage saddles!

Love this mare so much!!

 

 

 

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Adventures in Ireland Part 2

Ugh. Vacation hangover.

Definitely the vacation of a lifetime. It exceeded all expectations and I can’t even express in words how much fun we had.

So let me try to convey all the fun in words AND pictures…

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Guess what? I brought this saddlepad home. Yay!

We were riding at a place called Dartfield, and as I mentioned before, the owner is a renowned horse man. He breeds Connemaras and Irish Sport Horses, but also gets a lot of them as babies and he and his sons bring them up. I can’t say enough about his horses. Athletic and SO sensible.

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They stand around like this for hours. Three of them tied to one post by their bridle. And not a one pulled back

I will admit that our first day Sarah and I were a little “what have we gotten into??” They tie horses by their bridles, horses aren’t immaculately groomed, and they never asked us once our riding ability or experience. Just put us on horses and off we went. What we quickly learned though, was that they knew what they were doing and we could chill out. Willie has been tying horses by their bridles for 60 some years. The horses grow up doing this. They don’t pull back and they don’t hurt themselves. They have this thing called sense, or life preservation, which makes it so they don’t do anything stupid. Am I going to begin tying Georgie this way? Hell no. But she isn’t a sensible Irish horse who grew up with the expectation that if you are an idiot, off you go to someone else. As for the grooming, I kind of appreciated it. It’s always raining and muddy in Ireland. Time is better spent elsewhere and horses can be a bit muddy.

The horses. I can’t say enough good things.

We started with Lady Grey and Jacqueline. The first day they would jump anything. And then stop. They knew the routine. Get the rider over the fence, then walk back to the pack. (By the second time we rode them we knew we could ask more of them, and they were super fun. Way more forward and willing to gallop after the jumps). After a fairly large down bank, Jacqueline fell to her knees and struggled to get upright and out of the mud. I waited it out and up she came. It was only a few seconds of terror, but Willie was impressed with how I rode it, and perhaps deemed me a worthy enough rider to foxhunt the next day on one of his nicest horses.

Alex was amazing. This horse (as well as all the horses our group rode foxhunting) would jump 4ft walls like a champ. If we were in the back of the pack and the wall had come down a bit, he was smart enough to jump over the rocks on the backside and not injure himself. He could gallop fences, trot fences, keep up with a crazy day of galloping and jumping, and stand quietly while we had a beer at the pub afterwards. And yes, I’m not stupid. I asked how much he would be to purchase. And yes, he is well out of my price range. Whomever ends up buying this horse will have the most amazing partner. We did hunt 2 more days but they were quieter and not nearly as exciting as the Tuesday hunt. We did find out later, after making some friends in the hunt field, that Tuesdays hunt was considered one of the best hands down. Personally, having grown up foxhunting, I thought it was the best thing ever.

When we weren’t foxhunting we were riding different horses over cross country jumps. There was only one horse I didn’t love. Dear sweet Homer was super safe but also terribly on the forehand with a mouth of steel. He would land and his head would go to his knees. I worked so hard to keep him uphill and finally told Sarah “I’m on vacation, I shouldn’t be working this hard.” The gal who rode him after me, the following day, fell off after the first jump as she wasn’t prepared to be launched down and forward… Would jump anything, and so sweet. Just, tough.

I rode Willy, and Lilly, and Jacqueline a couple times, but by far my favorite horse was Buttons. Oh man. He was a 5 yr old ISH and SO FUN. When I put my leg on and kept the contact he would soar over any jump. Such a comfortable canter and just a lovely, honest horse. I really considered figuring a way to bring him home, but it’s not in the cards. I kind of hope an eventer from America buys him so I can follow him.

There were a couple things I came away with as a rider. Sarah and I have been working on getting me to ride more defensively. I know Georgie will jump and get a bit lazy sometimes… at the end of this trip I said to Sarah “All this trip has taught me is that horses will jump anything.” So much for working on riding defensively… But I did get to ride lots of different horses and see what I liked, what I could do to improve the ride I was on, and man, I haven’t jumped a horse other than Georgie in 3 years, so I was really proud of myself for jumping lots of horses I didn’t know!

Also, Willie said something in passing that really stuck with me. He was so complimentary of his horses and you could tell he really loved them. If someone had a problem he would reassure them that the horse could do what was being asked, just ask again. At one point, he said something along the lines of “Any of these horses could jump around Rolex.” Could they? I don’t know. But the fact that he had that much faith in them, stuck with me. I find myself doubting Georgie sometimes. I worry she will have trouble with Prelim tables, despite Sarah telling me she won’t. The fact that Willie believes his horses can jump a 4* made me think that I need to believe in my mare more. She’s never done anything to indicate there’s anything she can’t do. So, if I believe in her, and ride her like she deserves, who says there’s any limit on her ability? Sure, we probably aren’t going to do more than Prelim together, but why should I believe that’s her limit? I now believe in her as much as Willie believes in his horses.

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Foxhunting selfie. Needs some work

If any of you are considering a visit to the Emerald Isle, I highly recommend this trip. I’m happy to give you more information and have a gazillion pictures and videos. Now, back to the real world and getting Georgie back into work. I saw her yesterday and the first thing I thought was “Man, your head is small.” Small, compared to the giants we were riding, but perfect nonetheless.

 

 

 

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Adventures in Irish Riding

I’m still planning on coming home Monday, but it’s going to be tough to do.

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Jacqueline. I rode her on day 1 and 3 and she is a fun horse to jump!

Sarah and I began the riding portion of our trip Monday and it certainly hasn’t been a disappointment. We have had to get used to the Irish way of doing things, and Irish time. Apparently 10am means 10:20, and no one is really in a rush to get much done. The riding stable is as authentically Irish as they come. The horses are amazing, all large Irish drafts or Irish Sport Horses and they know their jobs so incredibly well.
Willie Leahy, the gentleman that runs the facility is probably in his 80s and has been around horses his entire life. A nicer man cannot be found. He has a great laugh, and he takes us out riding and when we do something right he yells out “I love ya for it!”
He basically plops us on one of his horses and tells us to go jump something. You don’t say no. He trusts us more and more and gives us nicer but younger horses each day. It’s been amazing. I hope to write about each of the horses when I have a bit more time and am not so exhausted from riding all day.
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Surprisingly my favorite horse thus far. While I LOVED my hunting horse, Alex, Buttons is a really fun, keen youngster. He jumped anything and was super duper comfy. I jumped some really fun stuff with him and trusted him wholeheartedly.

On Tuesday we foxhunted. It was absolute insanity. Essentially we were thrown into the pack and had to keep up. We jumped 20 stone walls in an hour. Probably 40 in the course of 4 hours. The gal that was with our barn, visiting from NY, fell off at the first jump and broke her ankle. Because she was in the middle of nowhere, she had to ride with a broken ankle for about 2 hours. It’s essentially survival of the fittest. AND I LOVED IT!!!!! You gallop and stop. Gallop and jump crazy ass jumps. Gallop and then listen to the bugle of the hunstman calling his hounds. It’s incredible.
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One gal was riding side saddle. Foxhunting, side saddle. At one point we got separated from the pack and were in a field with Maria, the side saddle rider, and some young kids. Maria took us galloping through fields, and over stone walls until we caught up with the hunt again. She did it all side saddle. On a horse that had hunted twice. And we were flying along, not stopping, no looking back.
I told her she was my hero. Because she is.
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So calm and relaxed. SIDE SADDLE. 

At the end of the day people were buying us pints at the pub. And then Willie picked us up in his lorry  and drove us home and we raved about his horses and told him all our stories. He ate it all up as he was once the field master, and is still very connected to the hunt.
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Sarah with Chester and me with Alex. Such great horses. Worth their weight in gold. And yes, Chester lost a couple shoes over the course of the day…

We are hunting again tomorrow. Willie had us jumping some crazy stuff today that I hope to share video of.  At some point. Right now I am just excited to still be awake past 9pm…
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