First XC School of 2015
On Saturday morning my barn owner and I loaded up our ponies to meet our trainer at the Horse Park for the first cross country outing of the season! I was really pumped, moreso for Dino than for myself. Cross country is his absolute FAVORITE!
The weather was absolutely perfect and I couldn't have asked for a better day for my first trainer-led group cross country school. Alas, my husband was busy shooting a wedding so there is no photo or video evidence of our great outing.
We all warmed up together, and my trainer was really pleased with how nicely forward Dino was. I had to ask a few times to get him to pick up the canter, but once he did he settled into a great rhythm and just cruised along. The group was a perfect one for us; no one was working on anything bigger than Beginner Novice, and all of the other riders were so friendly and supportive of each other.
The first fences we worked on were two teeny little logs right next to each other, and we rode figure 8's over both fences working from the microscopic log up to the slightly less microscopic log. Dino was totally foot-perfect, and it was really fun to feel him pick up the pace as he got the jumps in his sights. He was jumping like a total champ, snappy back and all. I felt really good about everything too, and had absolutely zero anxiety starting out. My trainer's only comment to me was to try and stay up out of the saddle as we turned after landing to allow Dino to keep coming forward instead of shutting him down with my seat. I can do that!
After that we moved on to string several jumps together. The more "advanced" (read: actually competing BN) riders did the 'big' log we started with, an actually big log, looped around to a (terrifying-looking) white table, and ended with a (horrifyingly-wide) feeder box thing. A lot of horses were having stops at the feeder as they saw their shadows pass over it, but everyone eventually got their horses over it and did a great job dealing with the issues that popped up. When it was my turn, my trainer made me a modified (read: weenie) course. She had me start over an upright cordwood fence, to our 'little' log, on to another log, rollback to our 'big' log, and then a long gallop to another little jump made of upright logs.
Dino was a freakin' ROCKSTAR. He just settled into a good pace and we were on the same page at every single fence. It felt AMAZING to be galloping down the airstrip with him, and he jumped everything with such huge effort. Homeboy loves him some XC.
We all splashed around in the water complex after us weenies finished our courses, and then proceeded to the most challenging part of the lesson: the Roller Coaster.
|It's hard to appreciate how steep the downhill into the ditch is in this photo...|
|But these pictures from mycoursewalk.com give you an idea of this combination!|
Being the beginning eventer I am, I'm not sure if a Roller Coaster is an actual eventing thing, or whether it's just an arbitrary name for this complex, but essentially you have to ride down a stupid-steep hill into a ditch, then out of the ditch and UP another stupid-steep hill atop which is perched a hanging log jump. And jump the jump. I watched several other riders go before me, and when it came for my turn I was honest.
I told my trainer that it scared the crap out of me, and I had no idea how to ride such a steep downward slope.
So she talked me through it and promised me that Dino would not fall on his face. All I had to do was stay out of the tack, grab mane, and keep my leg on.
In our first two attempts I rode to the stop. The downhill portion dropped off SO steeply, I got really scared, and just kind of sat up there like a lump. The third time was the charm, and even though we sort of trantered through it and hopped over the fence at the top from a near-standstill, WE DID IT and that was a huge confidence boost for me! Next time, we're cantering that whole dang thing.
Our last set of fences was really fun - again, Dino and I had a 'modified' course. We had to gallop up a hill to a small log jump, turn left to a BN-sized hanging log, then rollback to a pretty sizable up bank. Again, pony was a complete rockstar! The gallop up to the first fence was amazing, and though we lost a little momentum coming to the hanging log, we got it together and jumped it great, and Dino totally nailed the bank. We even jumped down the bank (which was set on a downhill slope to begin with!) after some encouragement from one of the other riders in the lesson. It was a bit of a "stop at the edge of the bank and stare down before slowly hopping off", but again, we did it!
I had a lot of fun on this outing, and it was really good to get my trainer's eye on us as well. She was really pleased with us overall, and had a lot of great things to say about our little 'courses'. We're to work on shorter turns (i.e. not taking the Hunter Princess scenic route) and I need to stay up out of the tack and kick on! And, of course, working on confidence when it comes to terrain. As I was looking at mycoursewalk.com to grab some pictures for this post, I discovered that some of the elements we jumped this weekend like the roller coaster and the bank are actually used on the Novice course, which made me feel pretty great!
I'm feeling very confident about starting out this season at the Elementary level, and feel that Beginner Novice is definitely in reach for us by the fall! I was also really happy with the fact that even though some things definitely scared me, like the roller coaster and the down bank, I wasn't totally paralyzed with anxiety and was able to let go, trust my pony, and get it done, even if it wasn't the prettiest thing ever.
Team PONY'TUDE's first cross country school of the year was a complete success!