I definitely can’t call this a “xc school” because, ya know… Presto is 3 and didn’t actually jump anything. But it was his very first time being ridden at a XC facility, so we’ll go with “adventure”. He’s been to Pine Hill a couple times before – once ponying with Henry and once just me leading him around. I figured it would be a good place for his next off property ride, and since Trainer only had a couple other folks meeting there for a quick school, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to join.
This was a little bit different than his trail ride outing a few weeks ago in that this time he was flying solo, we weren’t picking up a buddy along the way. Once again he made life easy though – I got to the barn, loaded up my tack, pulled him out of his pasture, and put him right in the trailer by myself. That’s what I was working towards by taking him places those first couple years so I’m delighted that so far, so good. As someone who often goes places alone, I can’t appreciate that quality about him enough.
When we got there and unloaded he definitely perked up and was wide-eyed taking it all in. Not in a nervous way, but in a baby horse “OOOO THERE IS STIMULUS AND I AM THREE DID YOU KNOW I’M THREE?” kind of way. The facility was emptier and quieter than I’ve ever seen it (thanks covid restrictions!) which I figured could also work in our favor. Less to gawk at.
I opted to just tack him up and lead him down to the XC field to mount up along with the other two folks. Sure he hadn’t been ridden in a week and sure he’s 3 and sure we walked out into a great expanse of open space, but… I didn’t want to lunge him unless I absolutely had to. 1) all lunging really does is warm him up (like I use lunging at home to make him think more forward/sharp/focused) 2) I honest to god HATE having to “lunge them down” any time they think something is exciting or new, so I don’t want him thinking that’s a thing he gets to/has to do when he goes places. I want him to be able to do his job like a Big Horse, so I’m going to treat him like one unless there’s an actual safety issue that prevents it.
I mounted up with no problem and we stood for a few minutes waiting for the others. He was a bit wiggly, but mostly he was interested in meeting the other two horses and telling them his life story. He likes to just march right up into their personal space like “HI I’M PRESTO I’M THREE THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE WHO ARE YOU ARE WE BESS FRIENDS WHATS THAT”. You could pretty much see the older, more mature horses like “oh jesus, can someone get this kid a Ritalin?”. But once the introductions were made we headed out, with Presto leading the charge.
We pretty much just stood around or walked circles while the other horses warmed up. I mostly wanted him to stand on a loose rein, but if he just couldn’t keep his feet still, that was fine, we’d walk for a couple minutes and then I’d ask him to stand again. And largely, he just stood. We did go trot a few circles away from the group, because I wanted to see what he’d do if I asked him to go away from them. He went just fine so we came back and resumed our standing. Presto took an instant shine to the thoroughbred in the group, and was REALLY INTENT on watching him jump. Presto was very impressed by his athletic prowess.
We tagged along around the course while the others jumped. The group worked our way through the front field and into the woods, around the back to where the big mound is. I had him climb up it and watch from higher up, which he wasn’t super impressed by. Mostly I was just glad he stayed on his feet, because, ya know… baby horse. I’m not always convinced that he’s going to stay upright.
He was really good back in the woods (better than Henry, who does not like the woods and is pretty convinced he’s gonna get murdered back there some day) although he was a little bit looky about sudden footing changes. I thought that was kind of funny, because never before in his life has he noticed or cared about random sandy or dark spots on the ground. If that was his version of being spooky or wild then… ok. He still went, he just peeked at them first, so no harm no foul.
Mostly though, we alternated between walking to the next jump and standing there looking bored.
It was relatively uneventful until we got to everyone’s favorite: the water. Yaaaasssssss. This is why we came. We can’t really do anything else very interesting at this point, but he can DEFINITELY go in the water. And go in he did. We walked back and forth across the shorter way a couple times, then (once I was sure he wasn’t going to try to lay down in it) we walked back and forth across the long way too.
Once we conquered that, I wanted to trot across it. Because now that he was confident about where his feet were going, I wanted him to go forward across it rather than stare down into it.
And because splashing is fun. I’m an eventer, after all.
He trotted right across, although it took him the whole first pass to figure out how to trot through it well. I don’t think he was expecting all the resistance from the water, so his first attempt was a little stuttery and awkward. Heading back across the second time was better. You could almost hear him thinking “whew dat was harder than I thought it would be!” as he came out the second time. For instant butt workout, just add water jump.
After a little bit more ambling through the woods (well… the others jumped, I ambled) we all called it a day. He was still bright and interested but he had definitely settled more as we went around. And he never did anything dumb or bad.
I thought he might have a little bit of a meltdown when we “ungrouped” and went our separate ways to our trailers. And he did neigh a couple times, and wiggle around looking for his new BFF, but he didn’t get belligerent about it. I untacked him, took him to the washrack to hose him off, let him graze for a few minutes, then loaded him up and off we went back home. He slept most of the way.
Overall it was another successful outing. His first time getting ridden off property without having brought a buddy with him, and he handled it really well. For anyone who’s still keeping track, that was ride #16. Now we just have to decide where we’re gonna go next!