May 17, 2012

First Cross-country!

Two years ago, when I was an over-mounted senior in my college Jump II class, scared to death and worried about surviving to the other side of every fence I jumped, I couldn't imagine ever jumping cross-country.  I wanted to, I felt pulled to eventing, but I was scared to death.

Two years ago, before my trainer completely redefined my position and me as a rider, I would have laughed at you if you told me that 700 days later, I would be taking my mildly neurotic green pony with like, what, four jump lessons, over his first cross-country fences.

Today is not two years ago.

Today, we jumped things that don't fall over.  And today, I lived to tell about it and LOVED IT.

Our somewhat resident outside Dressage clinician, was teaching in the outdoor when I arrived, and my trainer was teaching her lessons in the big field.  You know, the one in which the meltdown occurred about a month ago.  I wasn't worried, though, I felt like this one would go well.  He was alert, but relaxed, and twenty minutes of walking around the field before the lesson didn't hurt.  Plus, it was gorgeous, perfect riding weather and not a cloud in the sky.  Nothing can go wrong on a day like that if you're on the back of a gorgeous pony.

We started the lesson with a bit of a steering lesson.  She had us do an exercise in which I held the outside straight, with my elbow back and my hip posting up toward that elbow, and gave on the inside while doing an opening rein - the idea being that I would encourage him to bring his weight more onto his right shoulder instead of the stiff left side.  He's been so stiff on the left and hard to steer lately, that really helped.  Obviously in the open field, steering and straightness issues become much more apparent than when the rail is keeping him in check in the arena, so that was good.  Here we established that taking up the reins so that they are shorter does not mean taking up a heavier contact.  It was just something I'd never consciously done or not done before until she pointed it out - this is why we have trainers, right?

After that we progressed to stadium fences in the field, and then to cross-country jumps in the field.  I was never afraid, and I really thought I would be, but I wasn't.  My trainer has this way of sneaking things up on you that you are completely capable of doing, and then they seem so minor.  This was that way.  We never discussed it previously, it just happened, and it was perfect.  It was like "Okay, you jumped this thing that will fall over several times, now jump this log the exact same way."  She drilled the idea of keeping him contained until the jump so that he can explode over it - she kept telling me "Go, Stay, Go, Stay" with the Go's being engaging the hindquarters with leg and the Stay's being the half-halts.  This had the effect of slowing down his forelegs while encouraging him to sit and contain the power in his hind-quarters.  Roughly, of course, he'll get it more eventually.

The feeling of jumping my own pony cross-country was indescribable.  Look at this log, we jumped it.  Look at this more intimidating, slightly larger log, we jumped that too.  I could feel his confidence growing with literally every jump, as we jumped things that previously had terrified him as we just simply walked around them.  About halfway through he started to really gain his confidence and got strong enough that I had to shut him down a few times - but I don't mind that as a future eventer.  I want a cocky little guy that doesn't know what it means to be faced with a challenge he can't tackle.

I want that for myself too, and with each ride I spend on his back, I am closer to becoming that person.  Really, it's amazing that two years ago I was where I was.  My trainer is a miracle worker.


  1. Good for you both.
    The right pony can make all the difference.
    It was funny when I started jumping Comrade on trail. He seems to prefer the solid jumps over the arena jumps.
    I am so exicited to see how you two progress. Keep having fun. And get pictures :)

  2. Connor seems to prefer solid jumps too, but then again, I've always felt more comfortable out in the field than in the ring - more room to think about things in between fences. AAAAAGGGHH no pictures yet, waiting on my husband to get employed so I can get my DSLR lens fixed!