Yesterday, for our first real outing of the season (there was a dressage show in January, but that’s not nearly as fun) was at Loch Moy for the CrossDerby, which is a combination of showjump and cross country fences set between a few rings, ending with a couple jumps out on the edge of the cross country course.  I walked it Friday, and felt pretty good about it, since the fences were mostly straight forward, and she’d been over all the cross country fences before, except for one straw-roofed little house.  I figured our biggest problems would be maintaining a steady, reasonable pace, making clean turns, and the big downhill from the second ring to the third immediately followed by a fence.  And the potential forecast of a deluge during my ride time.  Actually, that may have been the biggest worry.

We felt decent in warmup, didn’t do much but had a nicely balanced canter and was enthusiastic but not overly so to two warmup fences, which is about all that I ever bother with in warmup for her.  She does best just getting in the mindset of jumping without having the time to get too revved up about it.  After a good few moments to go chill by the ring, which helps her a lot, we went in for our round.  The first five fences in the usual showjumping ring, felt really good.  The distances weren’t perfect, especially to the first fence, but the rollback loop from 3 to 4 to 5 felt great, but it was also starting to feel a little too forward to me, and I was worried about carrying that pace straight through the usual gate opening, so I think I whoa-ed too much without enough steadying to the ditch option at 6, which she went forward to and I leaned at.  Bad me.  I made the same over-whoa into the big ring and to fence 7, but we went, and I thought maybe we were OK, but a titch too fast heading to a showjump style haybale and natural pole vertical at 8, but figured we’d be fine, until she just slammed on the breaks at it, which is not at all her style.  She was even sticky on reapproach, and I’m not sure why, because it was poles and haybales, nothing she hasn’t seen at every show she’s ever been too.  We were then rolling on to the gate at 9 and the log at 10, and because I obviously don’t learn while also trying to remember my course, made the same over-slowing mistake to a feeder at 11, and she stopped again.  Sigh.  Reapproach, and we got over, with a nice turn back to 12 and down to a walk down the big hill, and a trot on to the fence at the bottom.  The rollback there to the next fence felt great, but it felt like she was really building too much to the next two fences, which were a combination.  I tried to slow her, which was probably a mistake, and she stopped at the first fence there, again natural poles with haybales, twice.  They nicely allowed me to finish the course, which was a gallop uphill and out onto the cross country course over the last two fences.  I’m going to be a wuss and only share the “good” video portion of the course (though there wasn’t video of the bottom ring, because my videographer can only move so quickly, especially with a dog in tow).

I’ll be honest and say I was disappointed with our performance, because I know I didn’t ride the problems as well as I could have, and obviously didn’t learn from the mistakes I was making on course as I was making them.  After watching the video, I also think a big part of the problem is forgetting what a good forward XC pace, even for BN, feels like.  If I’d just let her go forward and carry that good pace, which I thought felt too fast in the first ring, we might have gone on around without any problems, because she felt happy to be going and not at all hesitant.

So the plan is to get out XC schooling at least once in the next few weeks, and definitely to get her up in the top ring at the barn and out galloping a bit as it dries out to get me feeling better about pace again.  It wasn’t the height or the turns that got us, it was confidence and consistency, on my part mostly.

But I’m also going to see about getting a couple bales of straw to toss under a fence and jump until she’s bored, because I also have no idea why that’s suddenly so scary.

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