Instead of competing in Virginia, as originally planned, I decided to take the weekend off. But when I heard that Doug Payne was schooling cross country in Southern Pines, I had to go along! Since I flew solo on this mission, there’s no videos or pics- hopefully next time!
While the morning did require getting up at the ungodly hour of 5:30, once there the experience was entirely worth it. Doug and his charming wife were both mounted on more green prospects, and the 3 of us headed out to the expansive cross country fields.
One of the first things we tackled was angled fences. After going through an in-and-out, we then took the fences at a mild angle, then re-approached the obstacle, creating a one-stride combination of the grid.
Doug emphasized at the end of our schooling that practicing angled fences would be a great tool to have in our back pocket. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone in practice would mean if something, heaven forbid, happened during an actual course, such as Foster getting ‘squirrely’ before a fence, that I would have the confidence to take the fence from a less than perfect approach.
Another way of being prepared, from a technique standpoint, included the advice that I (and assuming lots of other riders) stay back, and if need be, a little behind the motion. If I start leaning at the fence, it puts my weight over his shoulders, which puts him on the forehand and makes any attempt by myself to correct straightness and balance all the more difficult. We practiced this to both a Training ditch and later, to Foster’s first real trakehner (yay, finally!), to positive effect!
While we didn’t go out and jump every fence available (not possible, I’ve never seen so many options before in my life!), we did get to introduce new concepts to Foster. These being, to sum up:
- Jumping angled XC fences
- Training level ditches
- Dropping into water
- Confidently jumping over log into water*
- Jumping a real trakehner
I also got lots of good advice to keep in mind, and discovered a bit more about my own habits:
- If in doubt, sit to the fence
- Keep my leg on (as in ON, not kicking or ‘breathing’ as my tendency is)
- Keep the canter active (nothing new here!)
- Purposely remind myself to bring his balance up about 6 strides out
- Dropping into water – allow my hips to go forward but keep my shoulders back, let the reins slip**
All in all, this was one of the most fun cross country schooling we’ve had. The more Foster’s confidence increases, the more I feel confident in him and feel myself relax. We introduced new concepts to him that he handled with lots of maturity- not a single bobble the whole time! Really proud of my boy and the way he reacted.
This week Foster hopefully gets a saddle fitting and a training ride (a first for the both of us!). Next week another Doug lesson, and we’ll see where things go from there as we prepare for our first Recognized event! So excited!
*This we had done before, but not on a super forward ride
** I leaned into the drop the first couple attempts at the bigger drop, and thought I was going to go swimming!