Monday, August 2, 2021

Cross Country Schooling

Wednesday my friend and I headed out to Sweet Dixie South for our first cross country schooling with JT. We hacked around at the walk for a little bit first. Yoshi decided that the white gravel ground near the ditch and a few other jumps was horrifying and made of lava. He also gave the water a hairy eyeball. Possibly because it was water, possibly because it was surrounded by the poisonous white gravel. We looped around it all and then started our warm up in the usual way - bending, moving the inside shoulder out, maintaining an even tempo. We hopped over the ditches first. Yoshi had previously stepped into a ditch at Majestic Oaks when we schooled there, then the next time around he hopped it nicely, that's how unconcerned he was. Sweet Dixie's tend to be much scarier for some reason, so I was not surprised when he stopped. I didn't fling my upper body at him, but I wasn't exactly riding the way JT wanted me to - hands forward and steady leg on without quickening the tempo. At least for once it wasn't a jumping ahead problem though. She grabbed his rein and led him over. He nearly hopped on top of her, prompting her to remark that every time she did that she thought about how she probably shouldn't. I get why she does though, it's pretty darn effective!

Then we trotted the ditch... back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. She encouraged me to drop the reins to the buckle, maintain the trot rhythm with my posting, and still give forward with my hands. The first few times he rushed away and we halted on a straight line then got lots of praise. Her theory is that they are running away from something scary when they do that, so it should be stopped fairly quickly. Eventually he was pretty ho hum about it so we took a break. Next she pointed us at the T/P ditch (granted it is part of a prelim combo, but still!). He stopped again the first time. I asked what I should be doing differently. She said nothing, that green horses with ditches were one time that she didn't care if they stopped. I reassured him, turned away and headed towards it again. This time he hopped over it. We did it probably 3-4 more times till he was pretty relaxed about it again.

Then we moved on to an entry log up a hill to an entry coop. He hesitated 2 strides out from the coop, I closed my leg, and he smoothly responded with forward and a lovely hop over the coop. It felt amazing to feel that hesitation, to respond correctly, and get a willing response to the correction. 

Next we headed over to the water. In spite of his willingness to walk in puddles, he spooked at it and needed my friend's horse as a lead. It only took two passes by before he followed in though and then he gradually became more and more confident and trotted and cantered through. We put together a mini course with an entry log, looping back to the water to an entry coop, circling right to a BN coop, then going back through the water to the BN part B - a tiny rolltop a few strides out of the water. The first two times through I let him get long and flat and he rolled over his shoulder over the rolltop. It's a horrendous feeling when he jumps like that cross country. The jumps are tiny and he's not coming too close with his knees, but it certainly is not something that I want to keep up. So we circled through the water... and jumped it the same way again. We circled through one more time and then finally got the bouncy uphill canter that made it a much better jump. 

JT told me that I needed to be able to get him off my hand faster and if that meant a stronger half halt and then RELEASE then that's what needed to happen. We headed up a hill and put together one last course - trot downhill to an entry log, loop around to head back up hill over the BN log, back downhill to the entry log by the water, circle uphill to a BN bench, then over a BN roll top. I felt like I half-halted SO dramatically on the way in to the roll top, but watching the video it really isn't that dramatic. I didn't quite release forward after though, so she had us circle and do it one last time before ending. 

I'm SO proud of him. He jumped every jump and didn't really think about refusing anything! He also did the ditches AND water with only a little encouragement. It was a really cool feeling that when I rode properly he was jumping really confidently and with good form.

Take aways:
  • I NEED to work on my fitness. I was exhausted by the end (it was 89 degrees when we finished, with 80% humidity...) and wasn't able to ride as effectively near the jumps or stay in my galloping position between the jumps. I don't think it is an aerobic conditioning issue given my current running workouts, but I think it is a muscles for riding and galloping issue. I see lots of trotting 2 point in my future...
  • Ride him like we're jumping stadium jumps and he will jump like we're teaching him to. Chase him down at the jump and he'll still go, but in a fairly unsafe way. 
  • Ride forward away from the jumps in galloping position. Put butt down in saddle and shoulders back about 8-10 strides out to get the bouncy canter.


  1. Really great progress! Getting out XC schooling is so good for expanding the young horse mind.

    1. Thank you! And yes! It's funny, the things I thought would bother him barely did, but things like white gravel were mind blowing.