Want to know the perfect recipe for an amazing cross-country outing?
1) Start with a horse who has decided that he is the bomb and no longer needs input from his rider
2) Add a rider who is riding as if they have never sat on a horse before
3) Complete it 10 minutes after mounting with a surprise appearance of your period which isn’t due for 2 more weeks and explains the headache, back pain and nausea you’ve been fighting all morning. Be thankful you chose your dark riding pants and have a dark saddle to avoid mortal embarrassment.
In all seriousness, even with some major issues it was a great outing filled with a lot of big deal firsts for me and while I did want to kill Eeyore a few times, he had his big boy pants on and well..I couldn’t ask for a lot more than that. Ok, I could ask for some brakes but details.
Eeyore has been a bit of a tool lately. I’m going to say it is the cooler weather, the lack of exercise, and the fact that 30 year old Pete has awoken from his summer slumber and is picking on Eeyore non stop to play, play, play. It all has Eeyore a bit amped up. Trust me, he isn’t in any pain and his mystery right canter lead issue is a thing of the past. He is literally vibrating with excess energy which has resulted in the return of his cross tie pawing, trying to tear apart the trailer when asked to stand still and when I take his halter off to release him back to the pasture he flings his head and gallops like he hadn’t worked at all. I’m looking forward to a more consistent routine again and in fact he got ridden Friday, Saturday and Sunday and by the end of the ride Sunday he was a lot more polite about life once again.
Trainer AB had invited another woman on her OTTB to join us for the outing and I was a bit concerned how Eeyore would behave. The last few times he has been with another horse he has decided he can not function more than 3 feet away from his new BFF. He must have learned something with our previous outings because this time he was a perfect gentleman about warming up far away, passing/being passed by the other horse, and waiting in the shade while she did her thing. He earned some big brownie points in the warm up which he then consumed during the rest of the ride.
It was pretty obvious from the start that Eeyore was happy to be out jumping and cantering around. He really lives for cross country. His exuberance and abundance of energy came out as a nice celebratory buck after each jump (ok..not a real buck more like dropping his head between his knees and faking it) then grabbing the bit and running into the sunset. He was jumping everything and anything just fine, it was the backside of the jumps that had me worried.
Look, I’m not that brave and I’ve finally gotten over wanting to puke looking at a jump. Eeyore has taught me that he will go over and that has boosted my confidence a ton. This new behavior really rattled me, I wasn’t riding all that strong and was fighting nausea and well it kinda turned into a battle of wills which isn’t a great idea.
Still though, we did a line of three logs set at 4 strides which was a lot of fun. The first log was doubled and it caught him off guard a bit causing a stop the first time. After that he was game on though and tackled it with gusto. The line was a bit hairy because…well running away and all…but we did it each time both uphill and downhill and got a nod of approval from Trainer AB with a “well, sure you were getting run away with but you stayed the course and did each jump so it was good!”
After that line we moved to the bank complex which has a ramp leading up one side and then banks all around the other sides of the mound. They all looked huge to me. Trainer AB had us work on coming up the ramp then bending and going down the tiniest baby bank off it. The first few times Eeyore stopped at the lip and looked hard but he always went down without a fuss while I tried to figure out how to not be too far ahead yet not left behind.
After that I thought we were done with banks because the others all looked above my pay grade, but nope. Trainer AB has more faith in me than I do. She had us trotting up the ramp then off over the bank at the far side of the complex. The first time Eeyore simply stepped off like a trail horse and Trainer AB said “Well, he made that way too easy on you. Come in with more power to encourage a jump off next time”
Which I did….
Ok..well…lets try that again….
By this point Eeyore had really decided that he was much better at this whole cross country thing than I am, which isn’t totally wrong, and really peaced out on listening to me. We would land and he would snatch the bit then run off. Trainer AB was telling me that I needed to sit up (always the answer), and kick on when he did that. We had a huge field to work with and where were we going to go? Make him work hard when he did that except I couldn’t convince myself to do it. I knew it was the right answer. I knew he would give up sooner or later because no matter how fit Frat boy thinks he is, he is lazy at heart. But feeling like I was already getting run away with and then kicking him was just not something I could convince my body to do in the moment.
She set up a nice little course for us next to help keep him thinking and responding to me versus tearing off. Fence 1 was a house, make a sweeping turn left to come to the bank then over the ramp’s tiny bank, then forward 4 strides to a log. I looked at her and blinked. The house? This house I was standing right beside? The house that is the biggest jump I have done to date? That house?!?! Yup.
I approached and uh…took a unique approach by clamping down and shutting my eyes hoping we’d make it to the other side. Probably not the best approach. We never did make that sweeping turn to the left because I had stopped riding upon the approach and Eeyore took full advantage of that crap. We stopped before we left the property though so yeah…proud of that HA!
At this point I was really frustrated. I wanted to jump and I wanted to try that house again but I was really unsettled with his behavior. Trainer AB said he was having the time of his life and enjoying it and maybe it’s time to not be doing xc in a single jointed full cheek snaffle. She asked if I wanted to try another bit right then but I knew we weren’t going to be out much longer so I passed.
She wanted me to do it again but wanted a better approach to the house so she switched it up a bit. We did the double log jump we had done before then turned right to the house then left after to the down bank and the log. It went ok. I rode the house way better and we managed to keep it together but even Trainer AB agreed that Eeyore was only half listening to me and was charging forward like a horse going to war.
From there we had two more simple exercises to go. One was simply walking up and then down the huge, steep mound which he did without issue and the other was the water complex. We walked through first then trotted and then I got to canter through my first water complex!!!!!! It was so much fun.
I don’t know. We’ve only been out xc once before and it was all new and I really don’t think he was being a jerk as much as just having a lot of fun and wanting to show off how brave and awesome he is. Which is fine just maybe tone it down a bit?
Overall the outing was successful. We did our first down bank, jumped a large house and cantered through the water for the first time as well. He was game, brave and handled the stop and go format of a group outing way better than the last time. The jumps didn’t scare me at all but darn that behavior afterward sure did rattle me quite a bit.