So since I’m way more excited to tell y’all about Sunday, and I’m sure Sunday is going to provide more interesting content than Saturday, I’m going to recap my weekend in reverse. Don’t worry — for those of you who like technical recaps about the Circle of Death, it’s coming.
So as I mentioned in my post last week, we were supposed to go to an out of town schooling show this weekend. However there was just a show last weekend, and not many people were signed up. We nixed that plan and decided to go school cross country instead at MeadowCreek Park a new (to me) venue. The last — and only other — time Val was on a cross country course was last year’s Lope Benefit show in October and that didn’t go so well. Not that he was terrible, but we did an Eventing Derby at 2’6 where you had to leave the arena for the show jumping phase and just keep trucking right on to the cross country phase over jumps they weren’t allowed to check out beforehand. Poor Val is not used to cantering away from the arena and all his friends and was not super brave. He came back later and schooled fine, but based on that experience, I had no idea what to expect.
Val got off the trailer okay, and when I stashed him in a stall with his buddies he was fairly unconcerned. It wasn’t until one-by-one the other horses started leaving to go warm up that he got upset. Fortunately 5 minutes of moving around on the longe line and taking things in was all it took to get his brain back. I then went and got on, and did a bit of exploring in the little warm up type area that had a dried out…crater? It was a bit steep to be a water complex but wasn’t really a grotto either. Eventing followers: any ideas?
Any-who. We walked around, took deep breaths, the whole group got ready to go exploring down some trails, and one of our girls came galloping up from the check-in area with releases for us to sign since we weren’t wearing vests. I guess that wasn’t part of the other release we all signed. Once THAT was all sorted out, it was finally time to head out!
Even though Val gets a little nervous, he hates being behind anyone on trails. So we blazed on ahead, and actually had to circle when we were leaving the group behind even at a walk. We did find some scary grass he had to watch a buddy walk through, but was otherwise brave and happy, and we only jigged a little. We finally realized the trail did NOT connect in any easily accessible way to the cross country field so we headed back the way we came, and this time Val led without a buddy. What a brave little toaster he is.
Walking through the trailers that were parked around, Val was pretty unconcerned. But then we turned a corner and he could see the field. And it was the biggest field he’s ever seen. But still he forged on ahead.
We didn’t jump anything in this field, but we did wander through to the next field over that had a lot more jumps closer together to choose from for everyone from teensy logs to more solid coops and houses and things that I don’t know the name for because I’m a Hunter Jumper Princess (thank you Amanda for helping me identify the things we jumped so I don’t completely sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about).
The girl who had to take the releases back and one other rider had already gone straight to the field and tackled the water complex, so the first thing the rest of the group did was play follow the leader behind the two veterans. As we walked through the gate and into the field, a horse cantered through the super shallow complex, and the pea gravel made a really weird sound that all of the horses noticed and were concerned about. I could feel poor Val’s heart pounding in my legs, but he approached it anyway. With a buddy leading the way, Val figured it out super quickly, and soon we were trotting and then cantering through on our own. We tackled some of the tinier logs scattered around once we had figured out how to go through the water. As long as I walked Val by and made him yield off of my leg toward the new jump before we cantered down to it, he was super brave. So naturally the next step was to jump out of the water over a big log. And then make it complicated by jumping the green coop thing above into the water, and then bending over to the log on the way back out. Through this whole combination he felt so good. Like he was a pro who did this all day long. It’s the first clip in the video at the end.
There was a little up bank, and even though Val did an itsy bitsy one at our Eventing Derby, we walked up that one, plus it was tiny. This one we walked by, and then cantered right up. Only to almost fall on our faces on the back side because Val wasn’t expecting the ground to come up so quickly, and he forgot to completely unfold his knees. I stayed out of his way while he figured it out and kept cantering right back down the hill on the other side, and I didn’t ask the goob to do that one again.
After everyone had jumped around over a bunch of different things in this field, and Val and I had strung together a few short courses, it was time to move on to the next field. I was so busy jumping around/dying of heat stroke that I didn’t realize at first that we had been left behind. The fact that we could get left behind and keep jumping around like no big deal is in itself huge, since Val was only confident at least year’s event when he had a buddy right with him in schooling after the show.
There was a nice open stretch between us and the rest of the group, so we picked up a little hand gallop to get catch up. This was really fun until he started going left toward a jump to avoid the scary treeline, and then jumped right to avoid said scary jump once he noticed it, only to turn into a fish as we came up to the more narrow section that led to the next field. After almost eating dirt once or twice I decided it was time to come back down to a walk/jig so Val would have time to absorb and not be spooky.
By this time we had basically caught up anyway, and we went with the group over a bridge and into a much smaller field that had more coops, roll tops, some logs, and three ditches in a pinwheel shape. I tried a couple of times and decided that the ditch was not going to be tackled, and we moved on. We also jumped a little BN Coop which was no biggee, and then I missed hardcore to a N/T Rolltop. Val was a saint and saved me, and I’m saving the footage for Friday so y’all can have a good laugh at my expense and see what a wonder pony Val is.
While everyone else was figuring out what they wanted to do next, we also hopped over a hanging log thing a couple of times, and Val jumped knees to eyeballs like always. Man this horse is fun.
We crossed another bridge to get back to the field we’d been jumping in, obviously jigging the whole way because Val somehow had energy to spare still. The last thing I wanted to tackle was a biggish brush jump that Val had given the stink eye to in passing. We went by it once more on each side and cantered up to a perfect spot that made him rock back and push off well, and since he was a tad looky, he leaped up over again. Since the brush was no big deal, we tried to tackle a weird mounting box looking jump (forgot to ask Amanda about this one) out of the water. Trainer said she’d pay $25 if someone jumped it, so of course I had to accept the challenge. Val really didn’t believe it was a jump and couldn’t figure out how to get across it since the front was so narrow, and we unfortunately lost out on $25. We needed to end on a positive note so we jumped the brush one more time.
And even though I told Val this was the last one and gave him kisses…I asked him to do one more, because we’ve never jumped a coop set on the fence line so obviously that had to happen. I could feel when I picked up the canter that he was finally tired, but when came around the turn, he still locked on, cantered down to the jump, and popped right over with a little hand gallop on the backside. This horse has so much try in him it amazes me. He may be peeky, and he’s not always an easy ride, but he was genuinely fun today, and he had such a nice canter for the whole ride.
At this point there were only three of us still out and about so once the other two had joined Val and myself, we all galloped across the field back toward home. This was this first time I really let Val go for it for real (though I still didn’t push him because I didn’t want to step in a gopher hole and die) and it was definitely fun to jump into a gallop from a stand still and let my little thoroughbred show me what he was bred for. Of course we sent the thoroughbred who was standing with us into racehorse mode when we took off but his rider is pretty sticky so whatevs right? We started getting wobbly again so we pulled up, jigged over to once last bridge and finally walked the rest of the way back to the barn with the other stragglers.
As tired as I could feel that Val was, I think if I’d just kept asking for more he would have jumped until he collapsed. Got to love a thoroughbred. All in all I was super impressed. We jumped almost everything on the first try, he let me place him to the jump, even getting close when I asked him to, but not hesitating to leave the ground long if I asked either, and he tackled some pretty scary things while keeping a level head. Do I think he’ll be an eventer? Probably not, but this was so good for him and I am so proud of how grown up he was all day, showing the other horses how to be brave and not caring when he got a little left behind.
I am even more in love with this horse than ever after today. I also realized I’m not nearly as brave as I thought after talking to Amanda and realizing mot of what we jumped was Novice at best, or Beginner Novice. I’m just not brave enough to jump some of those bigger roll tops and tables and things though. Especially on a horse who only ever jumps poles Maybe after a few more cross country schools I’ll get braver. Huge thanks to all of the barn friends that got video including Lauren who probably has her own cross country write up. Would you ever take your horse to do something like this? I think it’s so good for them to do something different once in a while, even if it is a bit overwhelming just to get out of the ring and have adventures.