After scraping myself together for a Saturday morning lesson, I decided it would be a good idea to scrape myself for a cross country schooling day on Sunday after more wine.
So bright and early, we loaded Simon up and headed out for adventure. Since we had only been jumping a grand total of two rides before schooling, I told myself that we were just going for an adventure. Normally I’d be trying to obsess over getting ALL the pictures and media of us jumping “gigantic” fences, but on Sunday I tried something new called “enjoying the experience and not worrying about pictures.”
Arriving at the facility after a two hour trailer ride, Simon hopped off the trailer and into a stall as cool as a cucumber. I didn’t know what to expect because he has only been off the property to horse show, but for a minute I thought he might be as chill in the wilderness as he was at home.
That was not true.
I briefly thought about not lunging, but after hand walking my 1200 timid dog through the forest I decided otherwise. He kept staring at the trees and snorting. That snort said, “Here there be Ligers!” I also learned that Simon seeks me out for comfort when he is scared. That is super sweet, because I love this horse, but it also means that when he jumps away from invisible Ligers he wants to jump right on top of Mom for safety. We’re going to add “didn’t get stepped on by terrified horse” to the list of accomplishments of the day.
I lunged him just a little bit, and that did help some. He was super unsure about cantering on uneven, grassy terrain but settled pretty well. I hopped on, and our group decided to start with a walk through the trails.
By walking, I mean constant jigging and head tossing. I thought I was in for a day of trouble, as he felt ready to explode at any minute. Through the trees were invisible ligers (yet the VERY LOUD traffic next to us on the road didn’t bother him at all). Any time the path narrowed or the ground changed colors, he would snort or jump. He constantly stared at the ground, and would refuse to walk over piles of broken twigs or leaves.
“It’s the homeland of the kind, forest gnome people!” he said as he stopped.
“The ligers ate them. Keep walking nerd horse,” I legged on.
It was a huge exercise in patience to try and calm myself enough to calm him down, because in between saying “Easy boy” and “Good Simon, calm down” I kept thinking to myself, I could be at home watching Netflix.
After managing not to die on the trail ride, we walked to the open cross country field. Here Simon immediately settled down. It was just a really big jumping field like we had at home, and that made him feel better. He stopped jigging, and we did a little trotting. All was well… until we got near the water complex.
Now at home, I can’t get Simon to walk through a puddle. My hopes for the water complex were not optimistic. We gave a few half hearted attempts to follow another horse in it, but he was so scared and backed off that I just decided not to make an issue of it. My trainer said that I needed to push him in, and not let him turn away from the water. I walked Simon away from it and thought, I know you are right about this… but I could be watching Netflix right now.
Fortunately for everyone else, all the other horses loved the water. Pretty soon my party was cantering and jumping through the water super happily, which was very unfortunate for Simon. Why? Well each time a horse’s hoof hit the gravel in the water, it made a little “Ping” sound that was pretty unique. Multiply that by several horses cantering and jumping through it, and Simon thought we were in the trenches in WWII. He grew about a foot tall, and I could feel every muscle in his body tense at once. I felt like the hamsters spin off their wheels in his brain, and only think he didn’t bolt because he knew his mommy was up top. We walked around some more and I calmed him down a little, but every time he heard a horse go through the water he’d snap his head in that direction.
Once he calmed down from the water, we did a little jumping. Now like I said, Simon had only had one jumping lesson prior to this adventure. We all know I’m not the world’s bravest person, and my horse was mentally a little fried so I kept things super small. I figured it was not worth blasting around and trying to reacquaint ourselves with jumping big over solid obstacles on our very first cross country outing.
We jumped some little logs, little coops and my favorite – trotting up a hill over a 2′ log and then cantering down the other side. Nothing crazy happened – no ditches or banks or what nots. Simon still felt very worried and a little backed off of things. I had to sit up and really ride, so when he gave me 10 or so honest attempts over our little cross country jumps, I was quite pleased.
My favorite parts of being out in our cross country adventure was letting him stretch out a bit without being held back. Several times I would canter over something small, float my reins afterward and balance in two point going, “Wheeeeeeeeeee!” No, he was never super fast but he always listened and I would let him go as fast as he wanted as long as he didn’t start to get too heavy on the forehand.
We rode for a solid hour and a half – two hours, and I decided to be done. We jumped, we galloped and we were both dehydrated and dripping with sweat. Despite Simon’s fear at times, he never put a foot wrong and really tried to keep it together for me.
I did hop off at that damn water complex, and of course he walked through it with me without question. The first time he basically stepped in my footprints he wanted to be so close to me, but hopefully walking him through it will help next time.
Overall, I don’t feel like he really loved the day. The minute I threw him back in the stall, he sighed happily and relaxed. It just never felt like he quite undersood the game, even though there were minutes of goodness. He confirmed that hunter/jumper is definitely still our forte, but I’m so happy my trainer graciously took us all for an outing.
It wasn’t perfect, but we all know a challenging day with ponies is still better than an easy day with Netflix.