Horse Shows

CHP Novice Takeaways-Cross Country

He’s a cross-country beast with the right rider. 

Remember when I wasn’t so sure he liked cross-country? Well, if he’s ridden correctly, he damn sure does.


He was a bit sticky to the first 2 jumps, but I can’t really blame him- we were heading right for the barns, where he had a fan and 2 buckets of cold water in his stall. It was 94 degrees at 1:30 PM and we had just jumped SJ. But as soon as we were over jump 2? He clicked into a whole ‘nother gear.

Into the field towards 4

Jump 4 was a jump where I had no idea how he’d react. This has been his only experience climbing a hill, jumping, and going straight downhill:

October 2017
And even though he peeked, and it was a bit awkward…
…He made it over to the other side, which is what counts

I was so impressed with him in the water. This is the same horse I used to have to drag through every puddle I could find because he was aversive to getting his delicate tootsies wet.

XC boots2
2015- hesitant about splashing in the water
2016- He spent the year convinced he couldn’t go faster than a trot through water.
2017- finally getting there
2018- Sees water, accelerates towards jump, and flies in.

The next 2 jumps were ones I was definitely hesitant about. Jump 7 we had to weave in between two scary looking jumps, and it landed downhill. Didn’t know what P would think about the drop off, but man, he flew.


I did have to slow him down a bit to make the U-turn, and I was sort of dreading jump #8. It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s uphill, and P historically has not been a fan of things with cutouts. So imagine my surprise when he charged at it.


The other one I was a bit concerned about was the table. Not for P, because P doesn’t seem to mind those types of jumps. But I was worried that I would do something to mess him up or convey that I thought it was a bit large. So I made sure to keep my hands forward and while it took every ounce of mental strength I had not to mess with him, I let him figure out his own stride. He definitely spooked a tiny bit at the carts/people walking directly behind the jump, but was a champ.

Spotting the table
Chances are high that this picture will be somewhere in every post from now until the end of time.
At this point I was sad there was only 2 more jumps to go.

The last bending line I was slightly concerned I wouldn’t be able to turn him and the last thing I wanted was a run out at the final jump. So I took him to the right of this and we met it slightly awkward.


He made the line easily, though, and made the feeder look like a Green as Grass jump.


Now at this point I got a bit choked up, and was so ready to jump off and throw my arms around this big guy. P had other ideas- get through the finish flags as fast as he could.

Not sure if I’m smiling or crying here. Probably both 🙂

I was happy with how I rode on XC.

Trainer B said, “If you feel a little out of control, go with it,” and I did. I feel like I steered and stayed out of his way, which is key for him. I was also told that if I didn’t feel him accelerate 10 strides out, to use leg and the crop. I only had to do that to fences 1, 2, and 4.

While we were walking the course, Trainer B told me that when I try to set him up before I fence, P listens, so if I don’t then follow the setup with clear directions, it confuses him and he shuts down. Which makes sense. When I kicked on towards a fence, or tapped him with my crop, he responded immediately. Even when I felt uncertain about a distance or our stride, I just stayed out of his way and he figured it all out, as long as he knew I wanted him to go.

The bit change was necessary.

I don’t think I brought it up before, but Trainer B changed up his bit for XC when we went to Virginia. P gets low and flat while galloping, and will blow you right off in rubber bits/snaffles. When we first changed him into a rubber bit, the hope was that it would give P confidence to the jumps. Well, it worked a little too well. 2 days before we left for VA, Trainer B jumped him around his XC jumps at his place in the Nathe and said nope, that he’d bring something for him. He ended up putting P in a full cheek, rubber gag for VHT.


And I think we can all agree P was great there.


My concern was for when I took back over. I’m clearly not the same rider as Trainer B, and didn’t want to do anything that would hurt P and thus back him off from XC even more. But I also know how P is on XC, and the tugging match isn’t fun. When you’re flying around, hauling on the reins and getting no response, you tend to not enjoy XC very much.


Before we left for CHP, we had an XC lesson in the gag, and I was seriously afraid to canter, lest I hit him in the mouth. But I was overreacting- P was fine, and he was definitely fine on XC at CHP. It’s not a harsh mouthpiece, but it does allow him to go around in his own frame where he’s comfortable, while still giving me the control to get his head up before a fence. I always felt like I HAD brakes…I just obviously didn’t use them, hence the speed faults. But I knew they were there. So a win for everyone.

Booking it

-We’re at the level we should be at.

After the competition, I asked Trainer B if I should enter at BN for the next competition, which is recognized.

B: “Why? So you can ride like a slug around SJ and get away with it?”

Slug? Me? 😦

Fair point.

Honestly, the whole day before, as well as the day of the competition, I felt like I shouldn’t have been there. I had no idea what possessed me to enter at Novice, and why I thought it would work out considering we had such little experience at BN.


But Trainer B said that sure, it was technically unrecognized, but the course was a legit Novice course. It wasn’t a “guaranteed success” course. The War Horse series is a big one around these parts. They bring in real course designers and use the same jumps that they use for recognized competitions. So ok, maybe we won’t look like idiots the next time.

-The “T word” resurfaces. 

While neither Trainer B or I were upset by the speed faults, I asked him if I should do something different next time. Pull him down to the trot at some point in the course? He said no, P needs to get going from right out of the start box and stay forward. His confidence obviously increases the further he gets in the course, so messing with his rhythm wouldn’t be a good idea.


Then I got, “Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to get speed faults until you go Training.”


32 thoughts on “CHP Novice Takeaways-Cross Country”

  1. Okay so I do the whole canter through the start box thing (really helps with getting forward) and at Full Gallop I got yelled at by the TD! She even read the rules book to me but guess what it doesn’t say anything about not cantering through, only that you must be in control. I was so fucking pissed but since she didn’t DQ me (though she threatened and told me that type of riding would not be allowed at places like Pine Top and Southern 8ths) I just took my ribbon and left it alone, but ugh.


      1. That’s crazy! Did she call you back from the start or wait until you had finished?? Guess I’ll just be sure to check with each TD beforehand.


      2. 😂😂😂 I’m looking at the rule book and all it says is, “The horse does not have to stand absolutely immobile, but the competitor must not get any advantage from a flying start.” I think if I waited until I was already counted down, THEN picked up my gait and came through, it wouldn’t go against any rules.

        I’d probably trot through anyhow, vs canter. He behaves well in the start box, I just want to get away from his immediate reaction of starting sideways!


      3. Yeah I have seen a TD give someone a DR for cantering into, through, and out of the start box. It would not fly here either, especially given how busy the start box area can be at some events. I kinda get it though, with all the volunteers and stuff that are in the immediate area I can see the danger there. I sure wouldn’t want a horse cantering around or at me if I was working as a starter… not to mention whatever “advantage” may exist (which I think there really isn’t one at the lower levels). Maybe setup a makeshift startbox at home and practice coming out, either by walking into and then cantering out, or standing and then cantering out? It would suck to get eliminated for something so asinine, or to get a volunteer injured if the steering goes awry.


      4. The crazy thing to me is that this TD flat out told me that if the horse was just crazy and out of control, that was okay. But me polietly cantering through was not.


      5. I guess. Basically for her it wasn’t about DR – which I do totally get – but the flying start I think. Oh well, not really a huge problem to go back to the normal start method. Not eventing anytime soon with the bank account looking like it is 😆.


      6. Yeah I think probably since she was the TD, so the adherence to the rules as they’re written is her job lol. Some definitely take that responsibility more seriously than others.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. And truthfully, the cantering through is not for the horse in my case, it’s all for me. Lol. Gus has no problem with standing and waiting.


      8. Ha, you wanted to get the show on the road! Weird about the TD- if the horse is uncontrollable that’s ok, but if you do it on purpose, it’s not? Seems a bit…flawed 🤔


      9. I wouldn’t want a horse cantering around me if I were volunteering either. Can’t blame them for that.

        It really only happens when we go straight from SJ to XC (he seems certain he should be done after SJ). Every time we’ve done XC separately or have gone schooling and practiced, he’s been fine.

        Def don’t want anyone injured!


  2. this is an EXCELLENT post. i was a little skeptical when you were like “he charged the cut out table” but then with the helmet cam gif i was like no, yeah, that’s actually accurate.

    def do a novice 3 day, its on my bucket list!!! and think how fun he’d be on steeplechase!!!!!


    1. Ha! I was totally expecting to have to use my crop to that fence. P politely declined.

      We have the Heart of the Carolina 3 day in May, I definitely want to do it! You should too, on your new horse we’re all dying to know more about!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. great job KC on all of that. WOW what a tiger he is cross country. Who would have thunk? LOL


        And keep me posted about the 3 day KC i might have to come next year and watch:)


  3. Such great takeaways! Yeah watching the helmet cam I was smiling like “YES GO P and KC!” lol. You two looked great, and for you guys to have come so far the speed faults are a good thing I think haha! Definitely a bit scary about Training, but I think you guys could totally do it!


  4. So many great photos and really wonderful takeaways that sound like they’re setting up your future to be very exciting. You’ve got so much to be proud of!


    1. Awwww, thank you. I really still can’t believe we did it.

      When Trainer B told me in January we’d move up to Novice in 2018, I thought that was the funniest joke I’d heard in all my life. It seemed waaay too big and scary. But it was nothing for the P-man!


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