Post-Season XC Schooling - Making Deposits to the Confidence Bank

Perfection. So exciting what he can do when I get out of his way and ride right! 

It's time for everyone's favorite thing: CROSS COUNTRY PICTURES AND VIDEO!

After the shit-show that was our Flora Lea BN run, I really wanted to get out and about and popping over some XC fences to get Dino back in Bold & Brave mode, and put us in a good spot as we look towards next spring's competition season. So we headed out to the horse park with confidence building in mind.

My plan was to start small and give Dino every chance for success, so after getting him tuned into my leg and popping over a handful of warm-up fences, I headed out to run him over the entire Elementary course.

Truth be told, he was a little wide-eyed about the whole thing! He definitely felt backed off to many of the fences, tiny as they were, and actually refused a simple post-and-rail jump that he's jumped confidently many times before. Of course, more aggressive riding on my part would have prevented that, but hindsight is 20/20.

Knowing that Dino wasn't feeling 100% gung-ho about the whole thing, after running around the Elementary course I wanted to continue to keep it simple for him, and chose to work on a small upright log jump (Elementary sized) to the water, and ride on to a BN size log if that went well.

Easy-Peasy over this little jump on an angle
Homeboy easily popped over the little jump, and after only a momentary hesitation went RIGHT into the water! I was really proud of him for feeling the need to check only briefly for crocodiles. Dino trotted boldly out, and while he felt VERY backed off and unsure to the log, I kept my leg on and EuroPony jumped it! That was one deposit into the Confidence Bank, for sure. We did that whole series once or twice more (getting bolder to the water each time! hooray!) before heading over to ride the BN course piece by piece.

My friend and ground person reminded me to do whatever it takes to get the pony over the jumps, and that especially when I feel unsure and start to get into the "will he stop?" mentality, I need to funnel him in to the fence and KICK ON! It was something I definitely needed to hear!

I let him check out the Fence 1 log, and Dino really didn't seem to care. So, I picked up our canter, headed towards it, and for the first time that day he took charge and took us right to the fence! I softened my hand and just let him continue on in the perfect rhythm, and Dino jumped it absolutely flawlessly. Lots of pats and "Good Boy!"s all around!

We then moved on to ride the stacked logs to the pheasant feeder, which Dino also definitely felt more confident about, despite ACTUAL BIRDS flying out of the feeder on our way to it! He asked me if it was OK, and if he should jump it, and I said yes. Dino popped right over the feeder but definitely gave it a LOT of room!

Then it was time to tackle the Produce Stand. After the Attack of the Produce Stand at the horse trial, I wasn't really sure how Dino was going to react to this fence, and was riding very defensively to it. Turns out I didn't need to worry at all, as he jumped it from the gappy distance and I got completely left behind waiting for a stop or the close one! More Good Boy Dino, and we came around to jump it again, this time getting over it much more in sync.

A little blurry, but we NAILED IT!

I was really pleased with his confidence at this point in the schooling, and wanted to jump just a few more segments of the course before calling it a day. So we strolled over to the ramp-rolltop-barrel series that we had schooled over in my last XC lesson. We jumped the ramp very well, and then picked up our second (and last) stop for the day at the rolltop. In the video, it's obvious that I'm the one getting backed off here, and it was my idea to be unsure about this fence! Bad Rider. I knew it was my fault, so I just let Dino have a look at the jump before re-approaching and popping over without issue, riding on downhill to the barrel jump which we got over on the very first try DESPITE my apprehension! Brave Pony FTW! I jumped the whole series again - ramp to rolltop to barrels - and it was pretty darn near perfect, with Dino hunting the fences and moving off my leg right up into the bridle. It was EXACTLY the kind of feeling I wanted from this schooling session, and I was super pleased with my pony!

Jumping the snot out of this rolltop! 

I wanted to end with some work on the bank complex, as I had avoided schooling banks pretty much all year (because down banks are scary), and Dino is very confident about banks so I knew he would feel great about himself afterwards.

For the first time EVER, I was NOT scared to go down! Dino hopped happily up and down the bank complex like a total champ, cheerfully launching himself into oblivion. It was clear that he felt awesome and brave.

...and Down!

The icing on the cake, and proof that I had done the right thing by keeping it simple in this schooling, happened on our walk back to the trailer. I wanted to show my friend a weird little tunnel through the trees where one of the Elementary fences was hidden, and as we stopped to look at it, Dino began walking towards the jump. All by himself. I asked him if he wanted to jump it, and gave him a little squeeze. Right away, Dino popped into a bright little trot, hopped over the jump, and cantered happily up the hill! He WANTED to jump that jump because it was FUN, and that is exactly the kind of outlook I want and need to foster in him!

While I had some tougher things in the back of my mind when getting ready to go schooling (like stringing together longer portions of the BN course, and schooling some Novice fences), I'm glad that I listened to my gut and my pony and kept things easy and light. The huge increase in confidence was evident in both of us, and I feel like we're in a much better place now than we were after Flora Lea.


  1. woooo hoo - what an awesome and perfect schooling for capping off the season. Dino looks fabulous and confident in the videos - exactly what we wanna see! i'm so depressed that we couldn't find a way to school together this season, but suspect it'll be a perfect outing next spring to get things rolling for a new year :D

  2. Sounds like a VERY successful day! You two look great!

  3. Y'all look awesome. I'm glad you had a great, confidence boosting ride.

  4. You guys looks so great, and it looks like you guys really a FUN again.

  5. Totally jealous of that course, so beautiful! Also, you guys have definitely activated beast mode!


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