Except unfortunately the weather did not cooperate... Apparently the pace would go through some newly developed fields and that just wasn't going to be workable with lots of horses after a couple inches of rain. Booooo!
|a little mud won't stop us tho!|
Except honestly I kept it relatively light for him anyway. This was the day after his killer jump lesson at OF (written about yesterday) and while I was very happy with how he was jumping, I was also still very much inclined to focus on quiet and low key experiences (esp since we were sans trainer).
|left: boots immediately before schooling.|
right: boots immediately after schooling. splish splash!
In my mind, there are basically three main components to schooling cross country:
- Riding at speed out in the open on variable terrain and amid other horses, all of which may potentially be working independently
- Jumping solid jumps on said variable terrain
- Navigating the holy trinity of cross country: Ditches Banks & Water
I'm honestly not super duper concerned with how Charlie's going to handle #2 on that list.... But for my own personal reasons I'd very much like our first true schooling session over solid fences to be with Trainer P.
So for this ride, that left items #1 and #3 as my primary focal points. Or, let's be real, they were my objectives after just plain old having a great time riding with so many friends that I haven't gotten to see or ride with since our last big paper chase. In fact - for most of the group this was their first time meeting Charlie too!
|quiet in a big group!|
The group moved to the next big field and I started warming Charlie up at trot and canter - toward and away from the group. Again, no difference shown in the big guy. Tho in retrospect I could have done a better job of actually asking him to work as if we were in the arena. My tendency is to get a little complacent about things like bend and straightness and general quality when we're on uneven ground, but that's not the right approach at all. Must be consistent always!
Charlie dropped down a moderate sized bank to then follow the group into yet another field, where we spent more time trotting and cantering around while everyone else jumped. Charlie's met a baby bank before, but this one was definitely more substantial. Took a little convincing, but he did it. Good boy.
This was quite an inviting ditch so it's entirely possible that he'll have a different reaction when faced with something deeper or darker or more.... idk, horse-eating. But for this outing? Charlie could not have cared less. Yessssss.
The other biggie for me tho was the water - conveniently nice and full after all the rain. Charlie impressed me by walking directly into the water on his own without a lead on the first try. Yess!! We've needed leads into the water at both OF and Loch Moy, so this was definitely progress.
We walked in and out a few times, then walked in and trotted out, then trotted in and out. All was well, so I opted to add in the bank down into water. Alas, this blew Charlie's mind a bit. I should have been faster to ask for a lead but as it was, we spent a fair amount of time going sideways and backwards, and then struggled to even just get into the water at all again.
|bank into water!!!|
also notable here - charlie's extreme superman leap into the water haha. thus the aforementioned mud splatters everywhere
The key is to see how far ahead of us Little Foot is, and then compare that to where Charlie actually lands in the water haha. Also, watch his shadow. Twas.... dramatic lol. But surprisingly easy to sit, which was nice. We were covered in mud splatters tho - up to the pommel of my saddle haha.
|freshly organized trailer rack! complete with picture of charlie's DIY sparkle hat + matching Dark Jewel Designs browband, since i forgot to take a picture of him wearing them together....|
We dropped down another non-water bank again tho just to reaffirm that drops are nbd. He was more hesitant and reluctant to do this again, but did it and was a good boy. Methinks we'll practice more seriously with the baby bank at home tho.
see if you can count how many times i say "good boy" lol....
To finish off the ride, I did end up popping him over an itsy bitsy xc fence, mostly just to say we did it haha. Obvi he was fine. Part of me kinda feels foolish for not truly jumping around while we had the opportunity.... but then again I'm fairly resolved to wait until we can school with trainer P. Which should hopefully be soon!
The day felt like a giant win tho. I mean. It's obvious that the horse is fine. Nothing really bothers him. Not the other horses, not funny looking jumps, not terrain. He showed some trepidation with the banks and water but that's totally reasonable. He aced the ditch tho - quite pleased with that! So it all bodes well for his future!
|we had made matching diy team stock ties for the hunter pace too, such a shame we didn't get to all dress up!|
|#tailgating. and yes obvi we had a tablecloth too. we're not heathens!|
Mostly tho it was great to all hang out as a group to really build up the anticipation and excitement for a full season of fun ahead of us. We all have different goals and ambitions, and horses at different levels... But we share the same enthusiasm. And that's what really matters.
Do you like to mix socializing with your riding? Or does your barn ever have parties? We're kinda all spread out at different barns so we gotta make do when we can.... But I know elsewhere it's more common to have big group gatherings. Or maybe your barn is very small and private?