Ever wonder what the pros see when they're out walking cross-country? In the Ride Between the Flags series, riders walk us through their approach to tackling different cross-country questions. Alexa Perkiel rode Ron Reagan in the Novice division at the Three Lakes Winter II Horse Trials at Caudle Ranch and talks us through her approach to fence 12AB, the half coffin.
Three Lakes at Caudle Ranch is one of the newer events in Florida that everyone is so grateful to have! There are lots of pine trees and the course is a bit windy, which is great for giving the horses more experience in the cross-country phase. The Florida area does not see many winding courses until Red Hills, which hosts only the upper levels.
The first element of the half coffin at fence 12 on the Novice course was a good, chunky log with a small gap underneath and the second element was the ditch three strides later. This combination came several strides after a nice bend in the course, which naturally helps the horses to get back on their hind end and then the rider can keep creating a "coffin canter." Even at the Novice level, you still want to have that adjustability, and in creating the coffin canter you want to slightly shorten their stride and add more bounce and energy and keep them up in front of you and paying attention. That coffin canter and building of the "RPMs" basically tells your horse, "Hey, something is coming, listen up."
Ditches can surprise a horse, especially a young or less experienced one, so creating a canter where they are balanced and up in their shoulders helps during the approach. The pine trees helped funnel them to log, which made for an inviting first element and since the horse was most likely going to see the ditch on the landing, three strides were the perfect amount to present the ditch.
The combinaton rode perfectly. The ditch wasn't too deep or wide and allowed for a nice ride, everything you can ask for at this level of eventing. If there was any doubt or hesitance going through the combination, the following jump was a great confidence builder - a smaller, wider log with another small gap underneath it.
In my opinion it is always nice to have a bit of a "let up fence" after a trickier combination, no matter the level, because if there was any trouble you want your horse to be able to have an easier, more positive fence to get back going again. I credit this nice arrangement to the cross-country course designer, Morgan Rowsell. The Novice level is meant for encouraging the horse to enjoy his job and to begin teaching them the footwork in smaller, less complex forms to help prepare them for the move up to Training and for their future in general.
It's an honor to get to compete and be surrounded by all of my fellow eventers and competing at the lower levels is so much fun. People always tell you to make sure you're having fun and you love it and it's true. I love being back "in it" and it's been so much fun to have the adrenaline, nerves, and pressure to preform (especially when Lauren Kieffer is your owner) and just being out there with all my friends and really doing it for the love of the sport.
Check out this video of Alexa tackling the half coffin, with commentary provide by Lauren Kieffer!
Alexa Perkiel has been eventing for nearly 20 years and has competed to the three-star level. After selling her upper level horse RF Cool Play to Lynn Symansky in 2015, she obtained her real estate license in Florida and has been helping fellow riders find their forever farms. Never wanting to be too far away from the eventing community, in 2017 and 2018 she groomed for Alex and Ellie O'Neal at competitions including Red Hills International, Carolina International, the Kentucky Three-Day Event, Jersey Fresh International, and the Ocala Jockey Club. She has been riding Lauren Kieffer's Ron Reagan this spring at the Novice level.
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