Post-Event Thoughts: Cross Country
|This is what joy looks like.|
Continuation On A Theme
We really killed it in the warm-up for this entire show! Dino historically has not needed much of a warm-up at all for cross country, and this time was no exception. I cantered him over each schooling fence once, and he blasted over them and galloped away. Ready for launch!
An Excellent Start
Dino EXPLODED out of the start box. This was our third horse trial, and now he's starting to understand the order of the day, and what the start box means. He absolutely ate up the first two jumps, we nailed Fence 3, and I was able to keep him on track (RIDING DOWN A HILL!) when he started scooting away from a jump judge in a chair on our way to Fence 4, which he jumped like a champ.
The Iffy Middle Part
Fences 5-7 were situated on the air strip - a beautiful long, flat field - which is Dino's favorite spot on the BCHP cross country course. There were long stretches of gallop in between jumps, and I just let him cruise. However, the cruising was a little too flat and I didn't get his canter together and "up" enough before each jump, so there was some chipping going on. I realized the error of my ways by Fence 7, a small coop, and pushed Dino into a bit more of a bouncy canter for a much nicer jump. He took offense to Fence 8, a small rail on top of a hay bale going downhill, and just stared it down and crawled to a walk. I was of no help as his rider, and just sort of sat there instead of getting more aggressive when he started backing off. Thankfully Dino is also the Best Pony Ever, and conceded to literally walk over the jump. Good Boy!
The End, In Which I Stop Riding
We got our crap together for Fence 9 and nailed it. Dino started staring down Fence 10, the Palisade of Doom, from quite a distance away. I had another out-of-body experience. I thought to myself, "Wow, he is really backing off. I should kick him. Or whack him with my stick. Or nudge him with my spur. Oh, here comes the stop. We're stopping now. Yep. Better turn around and try again." Thankfully my brain was working on our second approach, and Dino jumped the palisade like it was never even a problem to begin with. At this point I was getting tired, so I let him trot down the last hill, but did insist on a canter to the small coop on an uphill slope at the end of the course. Dino jumped it fine, and we cantered through the finish flags, and I felt like I wanted to die.
It's All About The Canter
Whether you're in a ring or running cross country, a good jump comes down to a quality canter, every time. For several fences on this course, I had the right amount of impulsion, but I didn't have the right amount of balance. I need to remember how my pony jumps best (from a more put-together canter and me SITTING IN THE SADDLE) and apply that to our cross country rounds. Even though I need to get out of the tack and let him flow forward in between fences, I can't jump this pony well from a loosey-goosey canter in half seat. I need to sit and package him up a bit before each jump, especially if the canter has gotten flat from a long stretch of galloping. Riding the right canter consistently is going to make the difference for us when it comes to being ready to move up to Beginner Novice.
Keep The Brain In The Skull
The thing I'm most frustrated about when it comes to this ride was the fact that I had yet another out of body experience and just sat there when I needed to DO SOMETHING. It wasn't that I didn't know what to do, or didn't have the skills, or got frightened or anxious, I just didn't do anything at all and watched the stop happen. I need to find some way to stay present and rock myself back to reality when things like this happen. It cost us a win, and that is not okay!
Hit The Gym
Both Dino and I were WIPED by the end of the course. I know the high heat and humidity had a lot to do with it, but cantering and jumping for a little over 3 minutes straight is just about our physical limit at this point. I know as the season goes on that the cross country courses will only get longer, so we need to hit the gym and do some longer conditioning rides at home to prepare.
Despite the aspects of this cross country round that I am unhappy with, I need to remember that less than a year ago I was having a near panic attack over trotting a log on the ground. I almost cried out of anxiety, fear, and emotion during my first cross country schooling experience. At this most recent horse trial, I blasted out of the start box with a huge grin on my face and a laugh rolling off my tongue. I almost cried out of SHEER JOY. I am loving getting to run cross country with Dino, the Elementary-sized jumps don't scare me anymore, I can ride terrain without feeling the need to hang on for dear life, and I feel confident and capable at this level.
Guys. That's HUGE.