First of all, let this post be a secondary declaration of my amateur status, which will not be in question (not that it ever was) after finishing this post.
Also, let this post be a testament to both how difficult Jack can be, and how forgiving. Bless.
After finishing our dressage from the weekend before, we changed tack and headed out to the XC course to get our first miles over solid training fences.
Because he was basically warmed up already, we started by popping over a Novice fence once then coming back at it’s Training brother- a tall roll top in the shade. That went well enough, so we moved on to fences 2-4, which were out on the galloping track and set with lots of running in between. Though Jack peeked hard at 3 and 4 (no pics, but a max table and cabin with interesting cutouts), he obliged with a reminder from Mr. Tappy and went over. This horse has just the BEST gallop, and it’s so fun to let him rip and eat up the turf.
Since we were schooling the course in order, 5AB were next- a 2 stride roll top combination with some terrain in between. These War Horse shows take no prisoners, so of course they were again maxed out. Jack has jumped plenty of two stride combinations in showjumping, but this was his first on the XC, and his first time through he dove right over the B element, jumping it but causing my right foot to take out the flag. On representing, Holly had me create the straightness by being forward, and it made all the difference.
Next up was the coffin complex, which includes a ditch that Jack generally hates, and the feeling is mutual. The questions was a (again, max- just assume everything is maxed) roll top, 2 strides to the ditch, then a short angled one stride to a skinny roll top. This felt a little much for a horse green to the level, so we opted to just school the ditch, which you can see in the video.
We then made our way up the hill to another combination on course, yet another skinny followed by a left hand turn back to a brush fence. This ended up riding beautifully, and was a real confidence builder for me.
Thankfully we had had a good schooling up until then, because from here on out our greenness at the level was glaringly obvious. We got to the water, which included a log pile in that went between 2 pine trees (I admit I GOOFED this line the first time because I couldn’t tell which trees to go between!), through the water then up a bank, 2 strides to a roll top. We had a real stop and start rhthym at the point, not only because of my issues reading the lines but also because of interruptions from other groups schooling and being a bit oblivious to the other riders there. I don’t know if it was this that got Jack all jazzed, or my own anxiety rising, but homeboy got strong all of the sudden, and somewhat difficult to manage. That made me think I had to ride backwards to get over the log pile… and as you’ll see in the video. It’s not pretty. So despite that taking some time to figure out, he did make the bank-rolltop seem quite easy, so I’ll take the small victories where I can.
Issues with the ‘in’ element continued with the next combination (seriously, there were very few single fences on this course), a cabin-to-cabin situation on a hard bending 6 left. Since Jack has always bulged through his right shoulder, we absolutely blew by the 2nd fence on the first attempt, and it took me putting both hands on the left rein to correct our steering. So the second time through I tried to fix that by jumping in a bit weaker (read: not the right decision) over the A element, which allowed us to hit the B element but still not as tidy as I’d have liked.
Luckily we were able to get some mojo back over a large corner and skinny-to-skinny combo that was near the end of the course. Despite being wiggly (and still strong), Jack took it the first time without a whole lot of issue, but we were encourage to really get to it in a super forward canter. I also lengthened my reins and got a little behind him as instructed, which made the whole thing ride beautifully, and I was just effing thrilled to be done and have survived. You couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face if you’d tried.
To say I learned a lot that day is an understatement. I learned that Jack absolutely has this in him, and there are pieces that feel fairly easy (skinnies) and plenty to work on (ditches, turning, straightness). The biggest difference for me is knowing how he needs to jump over these wider, larger XC fences, and how I need to ride differently to accommodate that. Mainly, I need to ride with longer reins than I do in showjumping, and get a little more into chair seat on the approach. I also need to get more comfortable with really traveling to the fences to create the straightness, and trust that he’s going to jump- some of my holding and therefore hollow jumps are from trying to maintain the control that I have in SJ, and it’s just a different animal at this level compared to Novice.
All in all though, despite our mutual mistakes, I am so thrilled with Jack and trying to be forgiving of my own mistakes. Mostly, it just makes me want to get out there and try again now that I’ve learned so much. Hopefully some of this will translate into our Boyd clinic this weekend, but I’m just grateful to say that we survived our first real foray into Training land!