Folks, Sunday afternoon was life affirming on a level I never thought was possible. Ignoring what happened when we got home, the cross country school was magical for me in a lot of ways and left me feeling ready to tackle my personal white whale: Windridge. Which made the discovery that night of his illness and heart murmur all that more devastating. I could go on about how everything seemed normal during the school. Believe me when I say that I have logged many hours rethinking every move, every decision I made that day to find something I did wrong. If I could go back and do it again with the same information I had available then, I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess that should ease my heart and mind. It doesn’t though.
But this isn’t about that. This is about that afternoon, with the wind blowing cool, the sun shining warm and a bright blue sky that seemed endless over rolling green hills dotted with cross country fences.
Eeyore was happy to be out on those fields. He was game on and ready. In fact the only thing he did wrong all day was to show his enthusiasm a bit too enthusiastically from time to time, but you can’t fault a horse who is having fun. Somehow the stars aligned and I was having one of the best riding days of my life. Never once in the nearly 2 hours we were out there did Trainer tell me…basically anything except what to jump next. No “sit up” or “don’t get left behind so much” or “ride the back side”. A reminder here and there to not hang on his mouth when he wanted to race to the next fence. A note to ride a bit farther from the jump before allowing him to turn. A tip to move more forward and not let him suck back. That is it. Nothing major. We flew. Together. As a team.
Out there on that course, we were the pros of our group. At one point after she told the other two to take the lead from me, I laughed and said “I must be living in a parallel universe if we are the ones to show the others the ropes!” I’m generaly the scared one, the one hanging back making the others go first, the one needing my hand held and being coached in depth. Not that day. That day I was sent over fences out of her sight and given the harder course to jump than the others. That day I was made to go first every time, was expected to be the good example of bravery and power to the fences and beyond. Eeyore and I were the role model.
Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that for me.
The warm up took forever. We did it inside the stadium arena to give the other two a chance to calm their nerves in a semi enclosed space before heading to the wide open world. Eeyore was behaving nicely. He was forward without being rushy and came back to me every time I asked. I got complimented on my down transitions and my upright posture. Trainer was able to spend more of her attention on the others and let me do my own thing which was empowering in and of itself. I’ve graduated to handling it on my own.
Once we hit the course, we began at the start box and tackled the first three fences on course singly then as a mini course. We stuck with the starter fences and honestly? They didn’t even give me pause. They looked small. Exactly how I want a starter fence to look. These same fences would have given me a heart attack any of the other times I was at Windridge. What a difference time has made.
After everyone was graduated from this exercise we moved to the water where Eeyore had a massive meltdown about not being allowed to play in it. We walked through, giving the lead to the other two, then trotted and finally made a fun little figure 8 exercise. We cut a sharp diagonal from right to left through the water at a trot, picked up a canter on the bank, circled around to the right to enter the water at a canter and then cantered through on a left to right diagonal line and exited.
OMG, but that was the best thing ever for Mr. Eeyore. He flew through that water, kicking up his heels and splashing water everywhere. Once we hit the bank at the end he threw in a few massive bucks of glee then tried to turn around and enter again, but alas we were graduated from the exercise after one pass through. He was a pissy horse when he had to stand still and watch the others run through it several times each.
Last we had our Grand Prix. Trainer pointed out a fun little course of starter fences and I was excited. Then she told me I had a different course. Gulp
We did a BN coop, turn right through the water, left over a BN cabin, then up the hill to a starter ramp/step thing between the cedar trees out of sight. Our first attempt we botched pretty good, but made it over all three eventually. I was so focused on getting over that massive looking coop, that I forgot to ride the back side and had to make a left hand circle to go through the water, nearly biffed the turn to the cabin, and then he refused the ramp because I was pulling on him too much but we represented and he went right over and that refusal was my fault.
We had to do it again and this time I made the direct route without a refusal and without screwing up my line too much. He didn’t appreciate that he couldn’t gallop to the horizon after the water and was made to turn towards the cabin. This resulted in him sucking waaay back and getting scrunched from head to butt which makes him move more vertical than forward. This in turn led to a very close spot to the cabin but we made it over anyway.
After that I hopped off, loosened the girth and walked back on foot to the trailer to untack and load him up to go home.
He was the perfect boy. Not truly in that he did no wrong. He flung his head a bit, tended to either rush or suck back, threw in a few bucks here and there but all of that is pretty par for the course with him and not dangerous at all. He is just throwing out his opinions on the matter and I have learned to ignore and deal with them. But he was perfect to me in that he said yes to damn near everything. He allowed me to be that rider – the one in the group I always looked at and wished I was. The one who felt confident, rode whatever was pointed at her with a smile, and looked like she was having the time of her life out there. The one who didn’t need her hand held and coddled. I’ve been waiting literally years…close to 4 now… to be in that place. To go out there and have fun and work on the nuances and have fun and ride an incredible horse and have fun and soak up everything and tackle new things with gusto and have fun.
And I got it. Thanks to a big Orange Doofus and an amazing Trainer who has always believed in us.