With the warm temps and the lack of rain, the sand arena would have been very dusty for the 5 horses scheduled in our lesson last night, so we turned to the cross country course!
Overall, we had a great ride. I was a bit dim on our way to the barn… I forgot the camera, made Lee turn around to go get it, and later realized the camera lacked a memory card… so no pictures 😦 Well he did get a picture of a gray headless blur landing after a log, but it was hardly worth sharing.
This was the first time Bentley and I had an actual cross country lesson together. We have popped over a few logs and tires before, but never under supervision. Also, I think we have only maybe jumped 4 or 5 cross country jumps at myrddin, only one of the jumps we did last night we have tried before, so I pretty much consider it his first time. We started out with a quick warmup, then each of us got to do a hand gallop around the field. I got good compliments on our pace and position, the only thing I needed to fix was to bring my elbows down and forward. Alright! I will get focusing on that right away!
The first jump, we had an option of jumping a row of tires on end, or a slightly smaller group of logs with some brush. Since Bentley is the baby of the class, I opted for the smaller of the 2. We later added on a double wide log (which seemed pretty big to me!). At first, he refused it twice. With a shorter approach at the trot, we jumped it no problem.
The problem I am having with jumping is I come forward before the jump, and then Bentley stops or veers to the side because I have unbalanced him. With that in mind and Margie reminding me to each jump, I tried to stay back as best as I could. Its a fine line I am learning… I have to be up off his back to gallop over terrain, but I have to keep back to keep him balanced. Will have to practice this a lot more, but I know where to go now. We added in a good size log and we had another refusal. Thats when Margie told me that my toes should jump before my nose (hey that rhymes!) Somehow that set it into me, and from there on in, I was nailing it. We only had one more refusal at another jump we added in later, which was due to me being confused. Let me explain myself. I was the first to go, and it looked like this:
So from where we were standing, we couldn’t see the last jump for the crest of the hill. Remember how I said it was my “first” time? I NAILED the course, keeping my toes in front of my nose and a great gallop, but as I came over the tires, I went straight to the next jump. My vision must not be what it used to because as I got closer, I realized it was some fence looking thing, not looking like a bench. I see the bench to my right and make a last minute attempt, but it wasnt successful, it was too tight and we just went around. Circling around I reapproached and no problem.
Funny part was, the bench was much higher and solid than the centre one. When the next person went, they were nervous about doing the bench and Margie said “thats ok, there’s a smaller one beside it, do whatever one you want” Well I wish I knew that before! Next time around, I was better prepared, really rode with my shoulders back, and aced it. The bench jump felt incredible, it was a perfect jump. To bad no paparazzi to catch it, I will have to be extra sure next time, or at least get a picture standing beside the jump. I got a “that was really good” from Margie and I left smiling “it FELT really good”. It was a reason for me to not be afraid when jumping, I have been pretty nervous ever since my fall last yer.
The other students in our lesson also commented about how easy it looked for Bentley and I, from a fitness perspective (ok a little bit of style too… we are improving tons!). Admiring his muscles and lack of sweat or any puffing. Yup! That’s nothing!
Unfortunately the lesson wasn’t all happy, one of the students had a really bad fall. She had the same habit as me, getting forward before the jump. The horse hesitated and looked like he was going to stop before the jump, then popped over at the last minute. While this isn’t uncommon for Bentley, it was uncommon for this horse, she fell on his neck and down as he decided to jump. Her body angle and her foot not leaving the stirrup meant she went headfirst into the ground with a loud thud. I have heard news that there is nothing too bad, stretched muscles in her neck legs and concussion, but nothing broken or beyond repair. It was a hard fall to watch, but I could really see mechanically how I could be affected if I continue to jump forward. Yes, Bentley did throw a few of these jumps my way, but I was barely thrown around because of my positional changes (and perhaps because I was expecting them). It also reminded me that it can happen so easily, and I really should be wearing my riding vest, therefore next time I will make sure I am using it!
It also makes me appreciate how wonderful Bentley behaves, hes in a group of well seasoned school horses and we are keeping up with them. I am flattered and thankful that I am given the opportunity to challenge him and myself in these ways, but also having the option to scale down when I am a little uncomfortable. I am greatly looking forward to more practice in the field!