As I was making final preparations to leave for the clinic in Dallas early Friday morning, I received an email from host Allison Freeman saying that Rainey Andrews, the super-star clinician I was so eager to ride for, was in the hospital and the clinic was officially canceled. Rainey is going to be completely fine, no need to worry. She just wasn't up to teaching this weekend.
Although the clinician was MIA, Allison extended an invitation to all of us to come be her guest and use her facility as open schooling. Food and accommodations would be provided, just as if the clinic went on. Well, only a fool would pass up an invitation to ride at Cedar Creek Farms, Allison's little slice of heaven on earth, for the weekend. So we loaded up and headed to Dallas.
We got there just before dark and settled the horses into the posh temporary stabling. We met up with the other 10 riders who decided to come hang with Allison for the weekend and had a great dinner. We made plans to ride in two groups the following day: the beginner novice crowd (including me) and the novice and above crowd.
Saturday was a perfect day with gorgeous weather. We did our morning ride in the covered arena and worked on combinations and turns. Brego and I had a lot of trouble with the turns in that arena, and it really exposed some areas we needed to improve. After the arena session, two other riders took Brego for a spin just to see what he was like. The rider who normally rode a huge warmblood liked him, the rider who normally rode a pony did not. Brego is an, er, acquired taste.
After lunch, we hit the cross country course. Brego did water and banks like a champ. I jumped him over hutches and coops and anything that looked like it was beginner novice level. He never missed a beat and I even started to get that "taking a fence out of stride" feeling. He obviously started to feel how much better life would be if he would jump out of stride instead of chipping every fence, because he really started moving out.
After the ride, four of us took out the 4-wheelers for a little dash around the huge property. It was a blast, tearing around the dirt roads and 200 acre hay fields, crossing bridges, and moving through cow herds. What a beautiful peace of land. We got back just as the sun was setting to a picturesque view of a hot air balloon floating above the barn. After washing the road dust down with a few beers, we tucked in for Wurstfest where brats were served, appropriately, on a stick! Great times!
Sunday morning, we took the horses out on a long hack to the back of the property. It was good "foxhunting" training because we cantered down a dirt road as a pack and Brego was very much listening. It was a great relief since we are going out hunting for our first time next weekend. He also seemed to have plenty of gas, thanks to his new diet and fancy body clip. He had been working hard all weekend in pretty warm temps and never even really broke a sweat anywhere but under his saddle. He loves the body clip and I love it as well, so easy to keep clean and he needs so much less after-ride care.
We then rode up to yet another schooling area, where I took Brego over his first ever corner. And it was a narrow as well! I am so proud of him for being able to lock onto a fence that is only 4 feet wide and jump it without hesitation. That was the fence where Brego finally moved up to make a proper distance. I can honestly say that he has never moved up to a fence before, he always sucks back and chips. I think my little boy is growing up... He is starting to see the fence and think about it. And the trickier the fence, the better he does. Cross rails are sooooo boring. Brego wants to jump crazy narrow corners in the shade with only three strides of an approach because we are cantering through a dense forest!! He's turning into a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
We finished up back on the cross country course where I took Brego over some scary barrels. I think it's safe to say he is completely over his barrel phobia. I then took him through the water again and then got a lead off a training-level drop into water. He wasn't particularly graceful, but he was very brave. In fact, his uncanny ability to jump anything and everything I put in front of him won the hearts of all the riders. He may not be cleaning up in the placings, but his honesty is priceless.
Brego did well, but the real lasting impact of this un-clinic was the riders. Every single person, no matter what level, went out of their way to be helpful and generous. I think I got a wonderful tip or bit of advice from every single person there, and when I remembered to do what they said, my riding really improved. We missed Rainey for sure, but it was a very productive weekend nonetheless.