First off, yes I skipped blogging on Friday. No I’m not dead, but clearly I’m way too predictable judging by how many people messaged me to check in. I have a good excuse – we headed up to Texas Rose on Friday for a weekend of XC schooling!
I’m always excited for XC schooling, but especially when we get to go to places that we don’t typically visit very often. We are lucky to get to school at Pine Hill on a pretty regular basis, but a) there aren’t that many more facilities, and b) they’re further away. It’s 4 hours each way to Texas Rose for us, but they have a lot of good questions on XC. I was really looking forward to schooling their giant weldon’s walls and the bank combos that they’ve had at the last few shows. Except… womp womp… they’d already taken all that stuff down and started moving things around for their May show. A few combinations were already set, and some of the portables were staked down, but the weldon’s walls were completely gone. I had a lot of sads about that. There was still plenty to school though, and since we were staying overnight we could split it into two days.
On Friday afternoon Henry came out feeling REALLY full of himself, and kind of proceeded to drag me over the first couple jumps. We had a bit of a discussion about which one of us was in charge, and then his brain clicked and he settled. We jumped a few of the gallopy Prelim fences and then decided to save him for the combinations. It’s the technical stuff that we need to work on most, so jumping a bunch of singles is just wear and tear for no real benefit. We did a skinny house rollback to a skinnyish hanging log thing…
And then headed to the water. The Prelim question here was a hanging long, a long two strides to a drop into the water, and then out of the water over another fence. We jumped through the Training way first, which was a coop a few strides out of the water, over a log in the water, then circled around and jumped just the down bank to the Prelim jump out. After than we came around and did the whole Prelim question, adding the hanging log – bank – jump out.
The two strides definitely wasn’t going to happen, not in a schooling environment anyway. I’d have had to really chase him at it, and Henry definitely prefers to pat the ground a bit at the banks. I’d rather just sit and wait and let him decide where to put his feet. He also definitely does not need to be encouraged to leap wildly off of banks, he already tends to be a bit extra about them. He was super honest though, didn’t even give it a second thought, just figured his feet out and down he went. He hasn’t really jumped drops into water much, and definitely not in a while, plus we’ve had bank issues in the past, so I was really happy with him there.
We jumped a few more things, then opted to call it quits and save the other combinations for the next day.
On Day 2 we went back to the same water, did the Training route again first, then the Prelim route, and then Trainer asked if I wanted to try popping him down the Intermediate drop. It was a little bigger than the P drop plus had two logs stacked on top of the edge, so it looked relatively enormous. I know I kind of looked at her like she was bonkers, and hesitated for a second. The thing that caused Henry’s come-apart at banks a couple years ago was having the log on the edge like that… he just did NOT get it at all. But hey, if we’re gonna try it, now was the time. He was confident, we were building on what we’d just done the day before, and if it totally blew his mind we had a lunge line with us so I could dismount and lunge him down it if we had to. So we came back around, going past the Intermediate jump to just the drop by itself. And wouldn’t you freaking know, Henry just popped right in.
Not even an ounce of hesitation. I was pleasantly surprised. So we went around again and this time added the jump before the drop (which would be brushed up a lot for the show, but was a pretty small little rampy thing as it was). I rode in quietly, so he could easily fit the third step, and again he just went right on through like no big deal.
He is 100% Good Boy.
Then we went over to the angled offset rolltop line, which was the thing I’d been least worried about of all the combinations. And of course, I proceeded to absolutely biff it. Twice. I rode in a little backwards and indecisive, too busy worrying about the distance to the first jump, and Henry was like nah fam, nah. He’s pretty tolerant of a lot of things, but if I’m squirrely and not committed, he doesn’t hesitate to put his feet back down. I don’t blame him. I was riding way too much to the first jump rather than being proactive and riding to the second jump. Once I put my eyes up and rode THROUGH it, rather than TO it, he of course went through just fine. How many times to I have to learn that same lesson? I dunno. A lot.
I was glad for that pearl of wisdom, because next we headed to the coffin combo. Prelim came downhill to a hanging log and then had an angled line over the ditch to a skinny wedge. The wedge didn’t have it’s brush on it so it didn’t look very big, but you would definitely have to be really committed to the line and ride up to it. As soon as we got to the log I put my eyes on that wedge and boom, we went right to it.
But, ya know… I took one too many tugs to the first log that time, so I had to come do it again without making Trainer’s eyes bleed (my bad). And again, he was super honest and good through there. It’s fun when you feel them looking for the next one in the combinations, like a heat seeking missile. He’s starting to understand the more technical stuff (okay let’s be honest, he probably gets it a lot more than I do at this point, he’s always been a quicker study than his rider).
It was a really good, helpful outing for us. We didn’t jump his legs off, just went for what would give us the most “bang for our buck”. It’s fun to push the boundaries a little and try harder/more complex things, and I’m learning where my weak points are and what I need to keep working on. At this point I feel like the horse will go however well I ride him. He understands his job and is confident enough to do pretty much anything within reason, as long as I’m with him. If I’m not, he won’t hesitate to peace out in a “mom, these are too big for me to do this alone” kind of way. He’s not wrong.
We have another XC schooling planned in the middle of May at another venue that I’m really excited about too. Hopefully we can keep carrying the momentum forward and figuring all this stuff out!