First XC School of 2016

Dino and I got to go out for an impromptu cross-country outing with Windows and his person yesterday afternoon!

It was the perfect opportunity for me to get out there in a no-pressure situation and get my weird nerves out - after not having gone XC since November, I was feeling like I just plain didn't remember how to do anything.

We started out following Windows in a nice forward warmup trot and canter around the entire perimeter of the course. Dino was very pleasantly forward, and felt super rideable in the canter. I could soften and let him roll on forward, or bring him back by just stretching up in the saddle. He gave a large flock of geese the hairy eyeball, and I opted to walk him past them to avoid them all flying up into the air and spooking my pony before picking up our canter again.

After we were all warmed up, we strolled over to the water complex. Dino hesitated for a crocodile-check the first time we walked in, but never came to a full stop. I was pretty pleased with that! We kept riding back and forth through the water until he was trotting and cantering in and out without pausing at the water's edge. We also managed to avoid squishing two teeny baby killdeer and their mother that were hanging out by the water complex. Wildlife conservation, y'all.

I was, to be perfectly honest, kind of apprehensive about jumping. While the clinic had proven to me that Dino and I are capable of a lot more than I think we are, the first time out on XC after a long break still leaves me feeling a bit anxious. So, I started with the teeniest, most microscopic fence I could find, and loped on over.

Dino was, of course, perfect.

As I got more confident and got more of a feel for riding XC again, I popped over the majority of the Elementary-sized fences that were on the course. Dino was really super about it all, and jumped everything I asked him to even though I'm sure my nervousness was giving him some mixed signals. We had one very stupid run-out at a BN raised telephone pole type jump where I couldn't find my line or distance and instead of just sitting up and kicking, I sat there like a brain-dead blob and half-heartedly decided not to jump the thing and steered my pony to the right.

Argh. Sometimes I hate my brain. On the re-approach I actually, you know, rode, and Dino of course jumped it just fine.

But aside from that, everything went very nicely overall! We jumped every little Elementary log out there, and schooled the BN ditch a bit for a confidence-booster. We love ditches. We also stood around a lot videoing Windows, and Dino went right back to work afterwards with minimal 'tude. VICTORY!

My riding buddy suggested that I gallop Dino flat-out down the entire length of the course to really get him motoring, and to help myself get more comfortable with riding at speed. I thought this was a great idea, since my default on XC is to ride backwards at everything.

So, I jumped Dino over a little coop and then put my leg on and said GO!

And Dino... wiggled.

He seemed genuinely confused about what the purpose and motivation of the request for all this exertion was. He was not pointed at a jump. There was no clear path. I was asking him to go fast for, apparently, no reason whatsoever. He kept cantering along, but not in a straight line, and just seemed very befuddled as I pony-kicked my way down the field.

Thankfully, Windows came to the rescue!

He galloped up from behind us and gave us a lead. As soon as D saw his buddy racing down the field, suddenly something clicked and he kicked into gear. We were, finally, flying! My friend slowed Windows down a bit so we could pass them and continue on, and Dino mostly maintained the pace after that.

Not perfect, but it's a start.

My friend then told me that I should for sure definitely jump the Novice sized house before we quit for the day. She runs Training on a 16.1 hh thoroughbred, so to her this is a "small jump". To me this is the equivalent of jumping an actual human-sized house. I hemmed and hawed and felt my stomach start to do backflips. While I knew that we could absolutely physically jump the thing without issue, my brain was not cooperating in the venture.

"Well, okay. How about this little table then?! It's not as wide! See, it just looks like a friendly little rolltop from the front! DO IT! DO ITTTTT! You can totally jump this!"

Granted, the Novice table DID look a lot friendlier than the house, and she was right in that we COULD jump it, but instead of envisioning a strong, positive ride down to the base, my imagination started going straight to a stilted, picking, backwards canter resulting in a stop.

Not today.

Instead, I set my eye on a series of logs that looked a LOT more doable. Dino and I popped over the BN log twice with great success, and I found myself saying out loud, "Well, maybe we can jump the Novice log..."

I saw my friend's face light up in a smile, and she offered to video our attempt. After getting over some momentary sassiness, Dino and I picked up a good rhythmic canter and jumped on over. Twice! While he jumped really awkwardly over his shoulder the second time, I still feel like I rode this fence very well, staying committed to our canter and keeping my upper body quiet. I'm actually very pleased with my position in the still shot here!

While I'm frustrated that I didn't always ride my best during this outing and succumbed to nerves on some level, I am extremely excited that I calmly jumped a Novice fence on my first XC school of the year, and that Dino and I ended the ride feeling more confident than when we began. I could definitely have ridden stronger and been more decisive in a lot of ways, but overall I think we had a positive first outing of the season.

I'm also feeling more prepared for certain activities that are scheduled to occur over the weekend that may or may not involve other bloggers and XC schooling...


  1. Novice leg! Much epic! Very large! You ended on a great note and that's really all that matters.

  2. You guys are looking great, and I'm so jealous of your confident ride there. That log would give me all the anxieties.

  3. Looking great! Super bad ass, especially for the first outing of the year!

  4. Looking great!! You guys made that Novice fence look easy.

  5. Oh, man. That log didn't look that huge until you got right next to it. Amazing!

  6. Eeeeeeeeee sooooo exciting!!!!!!!

  7. So exciting - can't wait to see more!

  8. SOOOO awesome! I hope you had some celebratory cookies for being so bad ass!

  9. That sounds like it was an excellent school to me! Plus, you look awesome.

  10. Go you! You've got to knock off the rust at some point, and confidence building on the first outing is so important.

  11. As a petrified amateur rider, I feel you completely on the nerves. Awesome job swallowing that fear and getting it done! I keep telling myself, it won't get less scary if I don't do it! (Whatever the "it" may be... currently it's attempting to canter my transitioning OTTB.)


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