So when I left off nearly 2 weeks ago (SMH, I swear someday life will be more interesting), S was entered in his first HT at BN. Which was a pretty lofty goal, considering the horse has never seen an XC course in his life, and I’ve been riding him for all of 4 weeks. The original plan had been to school him Saturday and just enter him in the BN CT, but they schedule the CT division for after the HT division, and I didn’t want to wait until 4:30 PM to ride. So we decided to enter him in the HT with the likely plan of scratching after SJ.
Saturday was the schooling day, and they were running the BN SJ ring first. We were all on a pretty serious time crunch, with 4 horses on the team entered in BN and Trainer B doing dressage that morning with 2 horses. So S and I arrived to the SJ warmup ring at 8:30…and it was a ZOO.
S impressed me with his cool head about all the horses, as he definitely got all the crazies running up behind him and head on. We even experienced jumping a warmup jump while a horse and rider FELL right next to us after crashing through a fence. It was an exciting time down there for sure. (note: horse and rider were both ok)
We went in the ring and he was a little startled by the atmosphere in the ring. In his defense, it’s a huge ring with lots of decorations, tents, banners, the loudspeaker, etc. Jump 4AB was a 2 stride- a max height/width obnoxiously orange oxer to a vertical. In our first go-round, he stopped at 4A, received a smack, and went over with no additional issues. But he was quite wiggly down the lines, and a bit bulgy through some of the turns, so we opted to go back in for a second round.
I was happy with him in that round, though he still cut the turn from 2 to 3 and wiggled pretty hard down the line from 5 to 6. I struggle a little bit in his saddle (it’s fitted to him, so I use that one instead of mine), and am experimenting with stirrup lengths so for sure some of the issues were mine as well.
After that he got a few hours to nap in his stall, then the 4 of us headed out to XC. I was expecting S to be a bit tired, but as soon as we headed across the street and he saw the wide open fields with horses galloping and leaping, his brain seemed to turn off. Suddenly I had *THAT* horse that was jigging, bumping into horses sideways, and acting like he was about to run the Kentucky Derby.
For warmup, we all trotted the Green as Grass course, which are 18″ inches. We went single-file line, with 2 other students in front, then me, then Trainer B. We made it over jump 1, then S tried repeatedly to take off with me down the hill (again, this horse has never been on an XC course and has no experience with terrain) and I thought to myself, “Well, this is where it ends for me. On a Green as Grass XC course,” and thought of all the jokes that would be cracked at my funeral. The thought crossed my mind at least 5 times during that little course, but by the end he was much calmer.
I think this was the last jump on that course.
Then we went and trotted the Maiden course (up to 2’3″) with everyone, and he had sort of figured XC out by now. He didn’t even need a lead into the water, so was much better.
Then it was time to go to the fields with the BN+ courses. I wasn’t sure if we should even attempt BN, and thought maybe we should just end on that note, but Trainer B had us try out jump 1 just to see. And he was great, so we went to 2. And watched 3 horses refuse that jump. Definitely the widest jump he’s ever seen, so Trainer B just said, “Trot, canter, gallop, and sit back.” Oh, is that all?
While we were standing around on the backside of this jump waiting for the others, a girl came galloping at the Training level version of this jump just to the right of the BN one. The horse stopped at the base, then tried to leap from a standstill…and GOT STUCK. Like, front feet on the ground on the landing side and back legs on the ground on the takeoff side. The girl got thrown off and the horse was scrambling trying to get off the jump. The horse did eventually make it off and though he got cut up quite a bit will be just fine. But poor S- first horses are falling down next to him in SJ warmup, now he’s watching horses get stuck on XC jumps. Definitely a great first experience.
Then we came to 3, which was the BN version of this:
So another quite wide one. As we were galloping up to it, I could feel the exact moment S assessed it’s width and he was just like, “Uhhhh, WUT?” and ran out to the right. So we re-approached, this time adding a little smack on the right shoulder, and he sailed over.
The next few jumps were uneventful, and the real test was going to be the water. It was a different water than the one he had already gone into on the Maiden/GAG course, and this one was much spookier- you had to go downhill into it, it looks much deeper than the other one, and has jumps/decorations around it. And while he hesitated, he trotted right in with no lead required. Good boy!
There was a tricky jump out of the water that required following a slightly uphill approach to a bench, which with some whip encouragement, he went right over.
Then onto a rolltop to a down bank combination. The first time through he galloped the rolltop incredibly boldly and I had no idea we needed to turn right after until I saw the flags out of my right eye. It was too late to turn, but neither S or I realized that we were headed straight for an unflagged bank until we were Supermanning off of it. I was worried he would balk at the down bank as we re-approached (in a much more controlled canter), but he popped down with no issue.
Then we continued down the hill to a rolltop set next to what looked like Swamp Thing’s Home Base. He definitely gave that water the hairy eye ball, but popped over the jump.
So we went back and redid that jump, then finished with the final 2 jumps on course, a feeder with some feed bags strapped to it and the little orange and black rolltoppy thing. He spooked at the volunteer sitting in golf cart, but jumped the 2 unfamiliar jumps just fine.
So when everyone had jumped the final jump, I was all ready to hop off and give S lots of peppermints. But Trainer B had other plans. And that plan was for everyone to go around the course on their own. So off he went, then the 2 students went individually, and when they were out of sight, I started. He popped over 1 just fine, then 2, then took off galloping and I was concentrating on slowing him a bit and almost didn’t see the woman who came running in front of us, waving her arms and yelling at me to stop. I got him pulled up…and saw a loose horse. The student who went first after Trainer B had come off at jump 4 and her horse was trotting around. The student was ok, and caught him and decided to head back to the barn. So I headed back to the start field to let Trainer B know what had happened, and then started again.
And S was…great. Cantered through the water, popped off the ditch, was a bit easier to regulate….it was a lot of fun and I was glad I’d had the chance to do the full course.
So as we were walking back towards the barn, Trainer B goes, “You know how you weren’t going to run XC tomorrow?” And I said, “Yeah,”(thinking daaamn, he’s going to say this was enough for him), and he said, “You’re running XC tomorrow.”