This weekend, our barn made the last minute decision to go cross country schooling at Pine Hill just for fun. We’re a thoroughly Hunter/Jumper barn, but it’s fun to go play sometimes. I think we actually ended up taking 12 people? It was crazy. Last time we went cross country schooling over a year ago, we had a lot of fun (and almost died once), but Val was a little bit overwhelmed by the wide open spaces. This time around, he settled in after a bit of a march around the first field and got right to work. Be forewarned, there’s a lot of media from this trip because Val is the cutest thing on the planet. I’m still missing a few videos my trainer took but you get what I have so far!
Right off the bat he gave me a nice, ground covering trot that was adjustable and swinging through his back. Instead of looking all over, he focused and got right down to business. Once we moved to the canter, he was quite pleased when I let him roll along in an open canter instead of making him package up.
I know that by now he really should be a grown up, but holy cow you guys was he a grown up. Val was probably the most experienced horse in our group as far as general exposure and where we are in our training, and he set a great example. He led horses back and forth through the water, showing the babies how it was done with confidence, he led the way through the more wooded areas most of the time, and tackled new jumps without needing to be babied with little jumps first. Most of what we did was Novice I think, with some training things thrown in here and there and a smattering of BN as well.
There were a few times where I abandoned him at the base of a new, scary jump and we had to come back and try again, but over all, he was so game. And in all honestly, this horse will always be a bit peeky at new jumps. It’s what makes him jump so well all the time, and as long as I give him a fair ride he pops right over. So I wasn’t all that bothered.
We splish splashed through the water over and over, cantering down a teeny tiny baby bank (more like a step?) into the water, and cantering down a fairly steep little hill into the water without issue. Even with a little snake winding around in the water.
I worked all day to remember to carry a big, rolling canter rather than the smaller canter I often ask for in an arena, and for the most part, the jumps came up nicely out of that canter when I actually hit it. I opted to skip most of the wider obstacles anyway (so no tables for me!) just because I think I still have PTSD from that one roll top, but otherwise we were really brave. We also never made it over the ditch or up a bank, but since we aren’t switching to eventing any time soon, I wasn’t too concerned.
At the end of the ride, I took advantage of the wide open space to really let my OTTB get a good gallop going, and I’m pretty sure there are still bugs in my teeth from all of the grinning. We’d done a couple of hand gallops already, and at first, we just had a really fast canter and Val was a little confused. But he finally figured out that I was letting him let loose, and I felt him kick into another gear.
If you’ve never truly galloped a horse, you’re missing out. There’s nothing like that feeling when you feel them really open up into a flying gallop. It’s probably one of my favorite feelings in the whole world.
Although after watching the video, I can see why he was a terrible racehorse.
So to recap, Val was a super star and jumped a bunch of big jumps, we galloped in a field and I fell in love with my horse all over again, and we still don’t do ditches. What an amazing day!
From a training standpoint, there are a few things I’m less than happy with on my part, but I tried to focus only on issues that needed immediate attention and instead made the goal to simply have fun. In case you hadn’t noticed, I can be kind of intense. And it worked, because I seriously can’t wait until the next outing. Hopefully we can peer pressure trainer into taking out for cross country again us sooner rather than later.