Go More Faster - XC Lesson Recap

I was finally able to coordinate with my trainer and join in a group XC lesson over the weekend. The fabulous and talented Jenn from Stories From The Saddle was even able to come hang out and take pictures and video!

What was supposed to be a larger group of 5 or so riders ended up being much smaller than originally planned, and the lesson consisted of just me and another girl on a chestnut pony, also wearing a teal shirt that day. There was so much matching going on it's not even funny! I'm really glad it ended up being just the two of us, since we were both definitely having some issues and needed the individual attention.

Dino warmed up GREAT on the flat before we started jumping - my trainer had us all trot down the airstrip to a spot where there were more jumps, and then work on a large circle to get the ponies moving. EuroPony was really excited about that approach, since we started out actually Going Somewhere instead of just plunking around on a small circle, it really helped me install the Go Button. Miss Trainer asked us to concentrate on asking for a 'burst of speed' and then letting the ponies settle, then 'bursting' forward again to get them tuned in to the leg. At one point in asking for a trot 'burst', Dino just popped right up into canter all by himself! I rolled with it, happy that he was choosing forward. We galloped the ponies down a few straightaways, and then got right to business with the jumping.

The one thing I love about my trainer is that while she's sensitive to my anxieties and will NEVER push me past the point of no return, she doesn't mess around, baby me, or beat around the bush. The first thing she had us jump was a little Elementary-sized log, and then loop back around to jump the BN produce stand.


While most BN sized XC jumps are starting to look a bit smaller to me, jumps with a concave and sloping face like a produce stand or bench still weird me out now and then. But, when your trainer tells you to Do The Thing, you gotta #bossmareup and Do The Thing.

Dino and I went first (ack! I couldn't watch the brave teen jump it before us!) and... it was absolutely perfect. The fences came up right out of stride and it was absolutely no big deal. Whew!

After getting a "good job!" from Trainer, she then told me to jump the BN produce stand, then make a circle and come back around to jump the (definitely extremely large and full sized) Novice produce stand that was next to it.

My thoughts on the subject can be summed up simply: "UM. ARE YOU FOR REAL? WE'RE GON' DIE. Time to #bossmareup?"

Because I am a good and dutiful student, and I trust my trainer to not purposefully put me in life-threatening situations, I got ready and cantered off to Do The Thing.

BN produce stand? Easy peasy. That one jumped just as well as it did the first time. We looped around, I aimed my pony at the N jump, and... it was just as perfect as the smaller one! We jumped it right out of stride again, Dino popped over no problem, and we didn't die. Our first Novice XC fence!! Wahoo!

Of course, at that point, the weenie in me was ready to end on that fabulous note, but my trainer had some more butt-kicking to do.

We all moseyed down towards the bank complex, where there were a bunch more fences set up near the ditches. My trainer asked us to jump a BN ramp, and then ride a slightly angled 7-stride line over a rolltop, which was next to the ditch. Dino and I nailed the ramp, but I totally lost my line to the rolltop and didn't focus on where I wanted to go (straightness strikes again!!) so we had a drive-by to the right. Aargh. Blessedly, the run-out didn't unnerve me in the least and I was able to just turn right around, pick up the canter, and jump the rolltop. Easy. The pony mare in the lesson with us started having some SERIOUS pony'tude at that point, and was coming to an impressive sliding stop at the base of the rolltop, so there was considerable time spent convincing her to jump over the fences.

"Stop being a weenie and KICK ON!"
We schooled ditches next, which Dino is The Best at. Trainer had us jump the ditch once by itself, since she hadn't seen us do ditches yet. Dino was pleased to show her that he is Boss At Ditches. Then she had us jump the ramp to the ditch, then cross the road and down a little hill to a row of barrels, the same ones we jumped in schooling last week. After that, we were to continue on to make a right turn up a hill, jump a hanging log, then jump the rollercoaster. Backwards.

Cue me weirding out about the entire thing and my trainer not caring and making me do it anyway.

We NAILED the ramp to ditch, and then I found myself having a little freakout about riding downhill to the barrels and pretty much pulled Dino up in front of them. My trainer assured me that I had the PERFECT canter coming to them (I did) and that I just needed to stay out of Dino's face and ride forward, and the distance would be right there. (she was right, as always) We went through the entire line again, ramp to ditch to barrels, and this time I willed myself not to touch the reins and just let Dino keep coming. What do you know, the barrels rode perfectly.

I had NO IDEA where the path was supposed to be to the next fence, so I vaguely turned right and kind of rode into some tree branches, and then I saw the hanging log! Dino saw it too, and he also saw evil gnomes under it, and started to get googly-eyed and up-and-down in his canter. At that point I was tired (it was hot!) so I just sort of let him quit and stop.

So, back we went to come at that jump again, and you'll hear in the video that my trainer essentially just yelled variations of "GO! KICK! KEEP GOING! MORE! FASTER! GALLOP!" the entire time. Incredibly, Dino jumped the hanging log absolutely perfectly when I actually used my legs and stopped pulling on his face, and then we cruised around and totally NAILED THE BACKWARDS ROLLERCOASTER the very first time! It helped that my trainer screamed, "DON'T LOOK FOR A DISTANCE" as I was about to get super picky to the first element, and so I just put my hands down and rode forward, and Dino took care of the rest.

Funny how that works.

The next thing we jumped was undoubtably my greatest XC accomplishment to date. My trainer wanted us to work on the Novice ditch-to-ramp combination; I guess you would call it a half-coffin? Looking at it actually didn't terrify me. She had us jump just the Novice ditch by itself first, riding it on an angle so it was clear to Dino that he didn't have to jump the ramp just yet. He, of course, jumped it flawlessly. Then we circled around to jump the ditch and two strides to the ramp, and then continue on down the hill to the barrels.

Novice ditch? NBD. I can do it with no face. 
IT WAS PERFECT. SO PERFECT. The entire thing rode BEAUTIFULLY and when I pulled up at the bottom of the hill I was smiling so hard my face hurt and patting my pony and telling him what a good, amazing boy he was! I told my trainer that I would be OK if we never jumped another cross country fence ever, and that I could now die happy. She laughed and took us to the water complex.

Our mission was to jump a tiny Elementary fence, go through the water, turn around and come BACK through the water, and then jump the Novice produce stand. It was simple enough, but at that point both Dino and I were getting tired. He went through the water after some initial hesitation, and was much more confident coming back through the second time, blasting away towards the next fence. But at this point I started making mistakes and my hands were slowly creeping up on approach to the produce stand, starting to get picky instead of letting Dino roll forward. We had two rather impressive stops at the produce stand, since my pony did not have the energy left to cover for my backwards riding over such a big fence, and at that point my trainer had us jump the BN one instead so that no one would lose confidence.

The very last thing we did was to ride through the water and then make a right turn to jump a BN log. This went very well at first, with Dino making his boldest entrance to the water yet, but during the turn to the log he only swapped half the lead, and was cross-cantering like a lame camel towards the jump. I made the executive decision NOT to come at the fence with that awful trainwreck of a canter, and circled around to re-approach. Dino picked up a proper canter, and then promptly tripped in a small depression and almost fell on his face. Take three. We had a great canter on just one lead, my pony was not falling all over himself, and I pointed him at the log. He was confused, since I had just turned him away from it twice, and almost stopped, but I tapped him on the shoulder at the base and my Good Pony bunny-hopped over it for me. While I wanted to try it again, Dino was tired and hot and my trainer and I agreed not to push it any further. He celebrated by scratching his entire body on this large hay bale:

I came away from this lesson EXTREMELY satisfied with the experience. I made mistakes (a lot of them!) but was able to quickly regroup, figure out what went wrong, and fix the issue immediately. We jumped our very first Novice jumps, including our first XC combination, and jumped things like the backwards rollercoaster that totally petrified me. The BIG takeaway from this lesson was that I need to put my hands down and leave them there, put my leg on, and not worry about a distance. My trainer gave me a great quote that she had heard from Phillip Dutton: "Let the fence be the bit." I.e., don't hang on your pony's mouth and let the jumps do the job of backing him off. Especially for me, this is a great mental image for when I start getting mentally backed off to the jumps - riding FORWARD at every fence is going to work out better than getting handsy, every time.

I have an AWESOME eventing pony, and I'm working hard to let him be the best he can be!


  1. You guys looking like you had fun!

  2. I think it's time you picked up a "I got 99 problems, but a ditch ain't one" t-shirt. ;)

  3. I'm really glad I got to come out and watch you and D-Money KILL IT on XC. You guys are totally bad ass! Dino eats Novice combinations for breakfast :)

    1. Thank you so much for coming along!! We had a great day :)

  4. wooooo hoo you guys look phenomenal!!!! what an awesome schooling :D

  5. Oooh, is Dino looking FANCY! And your position is right up there with him!

  6. Wow, look at y'all! So fancy. So scopey. So cross country super pony :)

  7. So awesome! Almost had tears in my eyes I'm so happy for you! Also, totes jealous of that xc course!

    1. Aw thank you!! I am so lucky to live close to the horse park!

  8. You two look great! I'm too big of a weenie to even ride in an open field these days... Let alone jumps x-country jumps. Great job!


  9. You guys look amazing!!!! Love that thought about letting the fence be the bit, I was always so bad at that.

    1. Thank you!! Yes I think that thought will be super helpful in getting my hands under control!

  10. obviouly a trainer worth their salt because you two look amazing. I also love trainer's that don't handle their clients with kid gloves.

    1. She is seriously THE BEST. I can't believe how much she's helped us improve in the past year. Thank you!!

  11. Love the pictures! Love everything about this!

  12. Eeee! This is awesome!! Much needed Dino watching session ASAP (ya know, once I stop working 24/7, literally). Go Dino!


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