Do you remember when you mother asked sarcastically, “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?” Well, now that I own a horse, it feels like I’m jumping off cliffs of various kinds nearly every day. Part of it is obviously the learning curve — nutrition, baseline behavior and stats, horse preferences, tack, blanketing protocols, new iPhone apps for the horse, and the like. I dive into every new aspect of the horse ownership adventure with gusto. And my horse friends have been good about letting me know when I approach OCD-type status, so I can move on to the next thing.
But then there are the actual, action-based cliffs that I seem to be careening off of on a regular basis. It started with relatively small things like letting my daughter take Charlie Brown out for a walk on Pony Trail by herself to cool him off after a lesson. This week, it took a major leap forward, all because of my barn friends and Facebook.
You see, last year, my barn held an eventing camp. For two weeks, I was at the barn from 5pm to 9pm, every weeknight. We had guest instructors go into theory and then we rode for as much as two hours a night. We set out our own courses, and learned to see the lines better than before. We faced a downhill jump in the middle of the park on the cross country phase. We learned about slicing a jump, and skinnies, and brush, and coops, and proper dressage circles, and… I was hooked.
But we’re a relatively small, public barn in the middle of a national park in the middle of a large city. So our camp was pretty low key and un-intimidating. Fun, yes. Different, completely. Demanding, for sure. But it wasn’t so hard that I wanted to throw up before taking the course. Plus, I was on my old school horse pal, Tank, so things were pretty familiar and comfortable — even with his sewing machine sized strides, and funky little fractional step that always seems to come before every jump.
Enter my new horse Charlie Brown. While he’s a love, we’re new to each other, and are still figuring out our relationship. We’ve had some bumps in the road already, and seem to have come through unscathed. But I’m still wrapping my head and my body around Charlie’s enormous stride. A 16.2 warmblood cross moves a lot differently than a 15.2 appendix quarter horse with a short stride!
And then the floodgates opened.
Phillip Dutton posted his camp dates for this summer. I didn’t see them. But my barn friends did. Knowing I’m an aspiring eventer, they set out to get the Dutton announcement in front of me — lest I miss it. It seemed to be a well-orchestrated effort, rivaled only by a military mission. There were shares to my Facebook page, e-mails, texts, and instant messages, seemingly on a coordinated schedule. A couple of dozen hits later, there was no way I could miss it. So I swallowed hard, and clicked on the link.
The June dates conflicted with a work event, but not a mandatory one. OK, I can make this work.
What about levels? The notice said “Open to riders of all ages from Beginner Novice to Advanced on your own horse.” Well, I’ve got the horse and the ability to get him to Pennsylvania for the camp. Charlie has jumped as much as 4′ according to his previous owner, a foxhunter. I took Charlie over 2’7″ easily when we trialed him. But as a matter of course, I haven’t jumped nearly that high, so often. Our school horses have a practical limit of about 2′, so that’s where my experience lies. I’m the limiting factor. But I think that’s mostly in my head. And the way this winter has been, we haven’t been jumping very much of late anyway.
Having no other excuse not to, I registered. I printed the forms, filled them out, attached my Coggins, enclosed my check, and mailed it all to True Prospect Farm. Now we’re registered. I figured what better way to start my amateur eventing adventures than with a trainer of the caliber of Phillip Dutton.
Now, I’m having performance anxiety. Every night, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I think to myself, “OMG! What have I done?” I’m worried about my fitness level, and Charlie’s. Fortunately, Phillip also offers a pre-camp fitness assessment and plan. I’ve requested one, so we’ll see what that says when it gets here. I’m concerned about being in over my head. So my friend from the barn sent me a collection of links to videos from last year’s camp. I think I can do this.
I’m working to get the trailer properly stocked with everything we will need for such an experience. I’m wondering if I need to borrow a dressage saddle for that part of the camp. In reviewing the registration materials, there are some things I need to stock up on, so I’m ordering madly away online.
And I found out that a fellow HJU blogger will be there. I hope to be self-sufficient enough to not be a pest, but it will be good to have a “virtually” familiar face around. My daughter and husband will come up for the last two days (the first day is her last day of school). So I’ve got the moral-support contingent in place.
More importantly, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m going to be out of my comfort zone a lot this year. And now, I’m actually looking forward to it. A new barn, a new experience, a new way of training, a new set of challenges. Charlie and I are in good hands, I know.
What a fabulous way to start our adventures in eventing!