It’s a funny thing, prepping to school cross country on your own horse after not having done so for way too long. I was convinced I would forget something, and put my safety vests in the car the night before just to make sure I didn’t forget them. Then there was the task of deciding what June needed to wear. I haven’t bought much for her, so was hopeful Georgie’s xc boots would fit her (they did!) and that she would be fine in her D ring snaffle (she was!). Once I checked and double checked that we had everything, the excitement was palpable.
We went to school with Sarah and Rapid, which I appreciated, as I wasn’t sure we were ready for a group environment yet. Keep in mind, we’ve cantered in the open twice? Three times? And she has never done the “go do something then come and stand here for a while” routine, which is what you do with groups. Plus, I had no idea what she would think of all the jumps, and all the open space, and I really just needed to see who this horse was when put to work in a new environment doing new things.
I started with lunging her (duh) and she was so calm and relaxed we quickly moved to jumping over some obstacles. She handled these incredibly well. Really didn’t look at anything, even as we progressed from logs to a “picnic” table, red branch looking log thing, A frame, hanging logs, etc. Again, she was being so good, I hopped on her and we got to work under saddle.
The goal for the day was to build confidence, but also for me to get a glimpse of what she might be like on cross country. Who knew if she would even want to do this, and one thing I must have, is a horse who is willing to get from one side of the fence to the other, safely.
We started by trotting and cantering around the field. She didn’t get spooky or weird as we trotted and cantered away from Rapid, into the shadows, and up and down a teeny hill. In fact, she kind of liked the exploring, and she had her ears forward, ready for what was next.
I continue to be in love with this horse’s canter. I have never had a horse with an uphill canter, nor did I ever put much thought into why it was important. But then, when I rode Rapid for the first time, I was like “Woah. This is like a totally different experience.” The best part is that you just feel the power from the back end surge forward and instead of falling down they come up. Have you ever driven a sports car? Hit the gas and felt the front of the car lift as the back powers it forward? It’s like that. It’s amazing. Ever since I rode Rapid’s canter, I knew I wanted an uphill horse. And thank God, June does not disappoint. She isn’t strong enough to keep that canter for too long, but it’s there, and it’s going to make things so much easier moving forward.
From there we moved on to trotting over logs. Super simple, super FUN. Our goal was to see if we could get June to land in the canter. No problem. She was eager to do so. She was bold, honest, and everything I would want her to be for her first outing!
Now, don’t be fooled. I’m making this sound easy and perfect. It wasn’t. I was thinking “steer, steer, leg on, steer, SUPPORT,SUPPORT, steer” the entire way to the jump. June was being honest and brave, but it didn’t mean I just sat there and hoped it would happen. It was a lot of work, a lot of figuring out what works best, but in the end, it honestly went great and I think both of us had a good time!
Since I didn’t want to over jump her on her first outing, we headed over to the water to see how she would be with that. Sarah was going to school Rapid, so June and I would have a little break and she could just check things out. I made the mistake of hopping off of her, so I could film Sarah. And I say mistake, because June thought me getting off and standing with her for 20 minutes meant we were done. She wasn’t really excited when I got back on her. She got tight in her back and a little sour. So, I hopped off, lunged for a few minutes, asked her to lunge through the water (which she did) and got back on. She without hesitation walked into the water and walked around.
But I never got that relaxed, easygoing, horse back. She continued to be tight in her back and sometimes refused to go forward in the water. I wouldn’t give her her head, as I didn’t want her to buck, so the entire experience wasn’t as low key as I was hoping. I got a little stiff, she got a little stiff, and I expected it to go south. It didn’t. It went ok. In fact, in looking at the videos, I think she was less likely to buck than I thought. I think she was just figuring out the splashing, she wanted to drink (which she later did), and she didn’t love the feeling of wet boots in the water. At one point she just started pawing and pawing and pawing in the water and would NOT move. I was legit scared she was going to lay down and almost hopped off, but Sarah was like “Nope. Stay on.” And she grabbed June by the bridle and pulled her out of the water. Then she looked at me and said “THAT was being a pony.” Meaning, she was just being a brat. So, the good news is, she isn’t scared of the water. She didn’t buck me off. We need to work on me being confident but smart when she pulls these shenanigans. Actually using my dressage whip to get her moving forward. I knew from the get go she was going to test me. Now I need to have the answers.
We walked back to the trailer on a loose rein and all in all I’d say it was a great experience. I’m so excited to get back out there with her!