Thursday, we headed over to Woodstock Equestrian Park for an XC school with Kelley and several friends. It was a little wet, and there was a boggy area of drainage running through the middle of the field due to recent rain, but the ground was good enough for us to get out and get some practice in. I warmed Cally up while the first lesson finished up, and she was feeling good, including over a few little logs. Then when Kelley finished up with the first group, I asked if she’d get on Cally a bit, and install a little start-of-season confidence in her. The horse has never had anyone except me on her to school XC, so I figured it was a good opportunity to take while it was available.
Because we know the horse has scope and can jump pretty much whatever we point her at, she started slow. Really slow. Asking Cally to walk over a little log. Cally had a bit of a snit fit about this, not wanting to walk but to go and protesting being asked to go quietly. But Kelley is amazingly good at just sitting quietly and letting the horse figure things out, and that’s just what she did. After two attempts, Cally visibly relaxed, her ears flopping as she clearly remembered doing this exercise in another context, and that she’s great at it. So they spent some time walking around over little things until she was feeling totally relaxed, then went right through the water without batting an eye. After a few passes through, including jumping in and out of the water over a log, they did a little course down over a ditch, around and over a few logs and coops. Cally was looking totally relaxed and happy, so it was time for me to pop on.
Once again, we started off by walking over a little log like it was no big deal, and it wasn’t–she landed and cantered away as quietly as a hunter. So from there we went from the log through the water, and back around over the log into the water. Then we added the ditch, another log, and the coop. Cally stayed quiet and responsive, easily half-halting, only making a bid at a fence once. So we did a little loop over slightly bigger fences, going from the coop to a little bench, and up over a mound. I leaned at the bench, and really felt the difference it made; I think the mound helped me feel how I really need to sit back. We came around and trotted up the mound and down to a drop, and she did it like a pro. Then we did a log to a drop, which we haven’t done before, and she did it like a champ.
We finished up schooling a bank into the water, which was also new to us. Cally was a bit startled the first time and stopped, with a definite feeling of ‘what on earth is THIS new craziness?’ Which is fine, we circled and came back around, and she went in, as I did what I do, which is lean forward, and almost bobbled off. But I stuck on, reins flapping, as she trotted herself through and over the little log out we weren’t really supposed to be jumping. Oops, let’s try that a again. Second time was much better, but I still wasn’t looking up enough, and she was launching out a bit. But she felt confident and sassy, so we ended the day on that.
I was very proud of how relaxed and happy and rideable she felt the whole time. Doing a few walk fences in warmup is something I’m definitely going to try incorporating into our warmup routine, along with just a lot of walking until she’s good and relaxed in general. I’ll see how that works out for us on Sunday, when we head up to Washington County for a hunter show, where we’re going to try out hand at some USHJA Outreach classes, as well as some TIP offerings. It ought to be fun, and hopefully I’ll have some good photos of that, since my parents are coming to watch. (Though if my mother’s taking photos, prepare to see a lot of landing shots!)