FENCE Cross Country Schooling

For some reason this post has been eluding me. I’ve written it probably half a dozen times and deleted each one. One was too upbeat for reality. The next too depressing. The following was way too boring and the one after that lacked any detail at all. I don’t know.

The short of it is that KC and Pilgrim traveled down to FENCE to meet up with Trainer and me for a day out cross country schooling. Nothing terrible happened. I didn’t fall off. We jumped everything we were supposed to except for that green bench of doom which I opted out of. The fences were fun, varied and all starter level sized: a log flanked on both sides by trees, a roll top, a bank, a hanging triple log pile and then some odd bench/roll top/box thing. The terrain was complex and varied as well.

So I should be writing an exciting post about how Gem jumped them all, how I was committed to the jumps and not scared (minus the green bench of doom) and how I even pointed out jumps I wanted to do and asked Trainer if I could. All good things.

Instead though I’m stuck on the fact that Gem very nearly tried to kill me multiple times during this outing. Well, that’s a bit melodramatic but the mare seriously wanted to dump me and tried every trick she could come up with to succeed. When all her tricks leading up to a fence failed to produce the desired result, at one point we were approaching the roll top coming off the bank on a left hand turn and while her head was pointing at it her butt was swung left and was parallel to the jump until about a stride out from it, she turned her attention to the backside and began dolphin leaping and bolting.

KC grabbed some good shots through her Cambox. I’m too computer illiterate to figure out how to embed the gifs she sent me here, so instead I took screen shots with my phone and you get those instead. If I ever figure out how to do it the real way, I’ll post the footage of us jumping.

Before anyone starts yelling “she is in pain!” She isn’t. Her tack fits fine. He teeth are fine. She doesn’t have ulcers. This is just Gem. A Gem who doesn’t want to play the game. A Gem who is bored waiting for her turn. A Gem who wants to go trot and canter down the trail and not stand and wait or worry about the take off or landing. It’s a Gem not interested in what I asked her to do.

This little red jump was one I saw myself and asked Trainer if I could do it. I was happy with myself for finding new jumps and being comfortable with them. Now that bluish grey roll top in the foreground? KC and Pilgrim ROCKED over that coming off a novice sized roll top just off screen. They looked so good out there!

On my way home I talked to Trainer and asked her what my chances of going to a HT and finishing the cross country course were. Her answer? None. So I scratched my HT in December and need to re group. I’m not ditching Gem or my hopes to event. We just need a ton more schooling for the both of us and I’m fine with dumping my money in lessons instead. I signed us up for a jumper show (our first ever!) this coming weekend at our training barn. I think spending money on dressage or jumper shows is better spent right now than a full blown HT.

Typical Gemmie. We had already gone over this same jump a few times, yet here she is caught on film spooking at it right before take off like she had never seen it before and how dare I surprise her that way? She still went over it though.

It was a good outing overall and I realized a lot of things. I’m not scared of a lot of the jumps anymore. Some still get to me and I’m in no way ready to go up in xc height beyond starter, but a lot of the starter stuff wasn’t looking too bad. That’s a big deal for me. And Gem can do it. She can do it well and without issue when she decides to. It is the getting her to decide to that’s the issue. Trainer told me I need to ignore her shenanigans on the front side of the jump and teach her that twisting into a pretzel isn’t going to get her out of jumping it. The issue is always complicated though.

One of my biggest issues with her is getting her to focus. We will be coming up to the jump on either a long or short approach and be lined up straight and there Gem is looking left, looking right, looking behind her in some magical yoga pose until we are slammed up against it. Then she is all “whoa now hold on a minute what is this thing in my path?” and takes a hard look then decides to go over or perhaps not. Trainer is on me for not using my legs more to keep her between me, but any leg equals “go faster” to her so then I end up with this freight train half bolting half spooking still not focused on the jump under me. And she is both smart and athletic enough to pull some wonky crap right before the jump to get out of it, so running her at it isn’t a good idea.

We will get there. Just not this season. Maybe next?


23 thoughts on “FENCE Cross Country Schooling”

  1. aww i’m sorry to hear about the scratched entry for december but your idea of rerouting to jumper and dressage shows makes a lot of sense. on one hand, i feel like this time of year is tricky for a lot of mares…. but it’s also just really difficult to make the change to a new sport and keep the horse focused on the new task. Gem looks really good in a lot of those photos tho and it’s awesome that you’ve gotten so comfortable with cross country!! hopefully Gem will continue to get more focused on the task at hand with more schooling!


    1. Thats the thing. When she jumps she is super cute, doesn’t hit any fences or rails and does really well. Its all the times in between that suck and right now I think we have too many of those to make a HT worthwhile. I don’t want to set us up for failure and I think if I am just a little more patient we can come out next year and have positive experiences all around versus.


  2. Ya, you weren’t kidding when you said she had no steering. I couldn’t believe the positions she was contorting herself into all the way to the jumps! I thought you handled her well, though. I probably would’ve been crying. She’s too smart for her own good. And, like you said, she has endless amounts of energy so it’s not like it bothers HER that she has to re-attempt over and over…

    Totally get it if you don’t want to go at all, BUT the event at FG isn’t just a HT- they’re also offering a CT with extra jump rounds (or dressage tests but come on, who really wants that), plus XC schooling before/after the show. Maybe something to consider. I know Dusty is running that race though, so I understand if you want to just forget that weekend.

    Good luck at the jumper show this weekend! Fingers crossed Gem comes out to play.


    1. FG may still happen, but it getting so complicated to make it work combined with where we are. If the jumper show goes well I may try the CT and add on some xc schooling.

      Gem is super hard for me I think in part due to all our history. I know she needs a good strong leg to keep her straight, but I also know a good strong leg gives her an excuse to go galloping wildly around. Its hard, but I will say we have come along so far with our flat work and a year ago I would never have attempted any of those jumps let alone asked to do the last red table, so there is progress.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. that’s kinda the same riding issue i have with that velvet horse – she needs leg. so much leg. she basically needs me to break her ribs with leg. but she also uses it as an excuse to hop and skip, bob and weave, and bounce all over the place at the lightest touch (never mind that she WILL run right through the leg {and spur} when it suits her). it’s certainly a challenging ride!


      2. Yes!!! That describes Gem 1000%!! The fact that I’m a big wimp who won’t just dig in and deal doesn’t help at all. We are growing though. Slowly but surely getting there one outing at a time.


      3. Progress is progress! I hope you guys still come if you can make it work. FG is a friendly venue for the lower levels so at least it won’t be a super stressful environment.


  3. I understand where you are coming from. It can fee like ‘haven’t we done this already? And could we just move on?’ I think that you have done so much with Gem and should be proud. I will throw it out there that if you want to do eventing and Gem is not that keen you could consider selling her. I don’t say that lightly- I had a horse that was wonderful in all sorts of ways except that he hated dressage. Like really hated it. I sold him and he’s living life large a few hundred miles away. But it was a hard decision and some days I wish I still had him because, damn, he was safe on the trails.

    It should be fun. It’s up to you as to whether you can push though to help Gem see that it is fun.


    1. That is a loaded question with a long, drawn out answer. The short version is that she is 19 and not highly desirable. Her best bet in a rehoming situation would be endurance, but I don’t know anyone who would purchase a 19 year old endurance horse. I wouldn’t. At least not one without a 5,000 mile history and perfect behavior. Thats not Gem. I doubt anyone in the arena based disciplines would have much use for a green to the sport 19 year old mare. I love her still and plan on keeping her to the end of her days. If we ever purchase a farm, I could have the ability to retire Gemmie to the life of luxury and some trail rides/hunter paces which she loves and add another horse to the family that I could explore eventing with, but I don’t have a farm yet and it isn’t looking like I will any time soon. For now we plug along and continue to learn and grow together.


      1. Yup. We are stuck with each other for better or worse 🙂 That’s my other thought too. I mean she is 19. It’s hard enough to teach a new discipline when they are young but she hasn’t had to work this way ever before and is nearly 20. It’s a lot to ask of her.


  4. You’re doing a great job with s tricky opinionated mare! You’re both learning a new sport and it will come with time… the little jumper show will be a lot of fun and there are plenty of other opportunities to get out and about and see things 🙂


  5. It sounds like Gem has Opinions. That can really be a difficult ride. I hope that lessons and jumper shows help you both and it also sounds like you are seeing the good side of things, like not be scared of the fences and realizing that Gem has the athletic ability to jump them even if she does horse yoga all the way to the take off.


  6. I hope you figure it out she is a cute jumper and there is no reason she can’t learn at 19 to do the small starter stuff. I think with more exposure maybe she will get the idea that if she goes over the jumps she gets to go faster? 🙂 HA the hurry up and wait while cross country schooling is tough. I find at the actual shows when we get to do a full course Remus is so darn excited where hurry up and wait even though he is very patient can be a time waster in their minds! Good luck!


  7. Oh, Gem. You witchy woman. Give your mother a freaking break and play ball with her – you know she adores you and gives you the best life ever? ‘Cause she does. And you should be a good girl in thanks to her for all of that.

    But really, Sara, she looks so cute over the fences! But I hear you on discussions of needing so much leg in comments above. Q’s that same kind of ride when she simply does not want to do something. It’s complicated and difficult at best. Athletic mares are both the fucking BEST and the fucking WORRSSTTT lol

    Exciting about the show this weekend though! I hope you do well and have a blast =)


  8. I like the new plan of attack, and am sorry to hear about the scratch for next month… So, one piece of advice that has worked for me, and may for you? Have you ever talked to her while you’re up on her back? So, with Georgie, I talked to her all the time. It served many purposes a) it kept me breathing b) she knew I was up there and paid attention to me c) it kept me focused on what I needed to be doing. It was weird, but helped me so much. I think it might really help Gem to stay concentating on you? I dunno… just a thought


    1. I do talk to her but um….that day I think I was cussing at her 😉 maybe not the best thing? You are right though and I need to start being more vocal with her. I tend to not breathe and get very tense which has the same effect on her. I’ll try talking to her more when I’m riding.


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