As you may have seen in the zillion pictures I post her/on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/everywhere, my barn has a big lovely indoor, and a moderately sized outdoor. I like these rings very much. Frankie is happy in these rings.
So of course, Trainer had to shake things up. Every summer she puts a course of jumps out in one of the turnout fields and uses it for lessons. For whatever reason I missed out on this last year, but I got to the barn earlier this week and saw the course re-set up.
Cue the terror.
I’m generally pretty brave- jack the jumps up, let’s school XC, haha was that a buck?? But for whatever reason, the idea of jumping around in a big field makes my stomach sink.
Well, made my stomach sink.
Because I decided to flat around up there on Tuesday to get my sea legs before lessoning on Wednesday. A nice no-pressure hack where I could walk whenever I wanted and pull up if anything wasn’t totally under control.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love my horse??? Because I really, really, really love my horse. He was perfect- honestly he was even more relaxed and settled than he was in the indoor or outdoor. (Seriously Olivia you bought a seasoned foxhunter why does this surprise you).
So Mission: Be Less Scared was a resounding success, and I couldn’t wait to get out there for our lesson the next day. Until I woke up and got scared again. This is very much a process.
But I fly-sprayed the heck out of him and put his ear bonnet on and we vigorously walked up to that field.
Spoiler alert: IT WAS SO FUN. OMG SO FUN.
Trainer let us warmup on our own because she recognized the futility of yelling directions over several acres- there’s a relatively flat area where the jumps were set up but she encouraged us to use the whole space and learn how to handle the uneven hilly ground. Aside from tripping over his own feet a couple times because he wasn’t paying attention, Francis was a champ. We W/T/C, did trot poles, did canter poles, you name it. He was absolutely lovely- once we had stretched out and warmed up a little he almost automatically pushed himself up into the bridle. SUCH a cool feeling.
Then it was time to jump! First, let me orient you to the jump-field setup:
The dark green splotches you see are hilly/weedy areas with tall grass and slopes. The bright yellow is where the round bale lives (horses do live in this field at night- we use plastic jumps so they’re not tempted to eat them), and the light yellow patch is where the ground is a bit harder near the gate. The weird triangle is a fenced off somethingorother, and the big brown thing on the right is the run-in near the fence line. Also: the ground slopes down to the left.
Got it? Good.
We went back and forth over the crossrail a couple times with an emphasis on staying straight and not letting the horse pick which direction we went afterwards. Francis loves himself some left side, so we spent a lot of time going right to prove that we could.
Then we came up the line orange to blue- it was not an oxer yet at this point. Trainer said we could come off of either direction since there isn’t a long or short side out here, so I opted to come in tracking right, go down the hill a bit, then line it up out of the right hand turn. We put in 8 strides the first time and 7 the second- both could have been good options, but I liked the 8 better. For trotting in and being uphill, that just seemed like a more powerful spot to jump out of.
Next was a bending line orange to orange down the hill- these weren’t really related. Frankie got a bit wormy in here because MAHM WHY ARE WE LEAVING MY FRIENDS so my job was to stay steady with my hands and legs and channel him forward. Then the kicker: we had to stop in a straight line. Trainer said we could take as much time as we needed to stop, but we were NOT allowed to turn. So jumping down a hill, then stopping. Luckily Francis thinks taking frequent breaks is a fantastic idea- some of the other horses galloped away a bit into the distance before coasting to a stop.
Course time! I’ll even put the diagram back here again for you to reference:
Crossrail down the hill, bending out over the oxer in 6ish. Then left and coming up the zebra gate to the orange jump in 7-10 strides. Then turn right and come back up the hill over the white gate, then go left and go around the hay bale up the blue vertical.
(No, I’m not joking with the striding. We had horses do lines in 7, we had horses do it in 12, we had horses do it somewhere in between- some of them got quick outside and some of them backed off. And some of them were perfect Francis ponies who didn’t change anything OH WAIT there was only one of those.)
GAH SO FUN. The first bending line was fine- I always lean at trot jumps but I’m workin’ on it. Frankie landed off the oxer on his right lead (HALLELUJAH IT’S A MIRACLE JUST IN TIME FOR US TO GO LEFT) and while he’s quite good about offering the change right to left, I opted for a simple change. Downhill, uneven ground, long slippery grass, off a jump. I ain’t tempting fate. We galloped back up the hill to the zebra gate which showed up beautifully out of stride, and got a big galloping 7 out over the orange. We got a bit wormy coming around to the gate until I remembered duhh straightening outside rein, then he came around beautifully up to the blue vertical.
We did go back and do the first four jumps again, this time putting 8 strides in the zebra to the orange. I liked this much better- it felt more powerful and less reachy than the 7 did. This was also a suuuper cool feeling- landing off the zebra in a huge stride and then sitting back and packaging for the add-stride. Someone even commented- he looks like he should be too big to be that adjustable. Proud mama moment!!!
Overall I was totally thrilled with this lesson. Having the space to get him reaching and powered up made seeing a spot on him sooo much easier- we had the power behind the stride to back up the short spot if that’s what we wanted, and we had the responsiveness off my leg to gallop up to the gap if that’s what we wanted. Basically, having the space to open up and extend made it much much easier to collect and package later on. Novel concept, I know.
I can’t wait to get back up there for our lesson next week!
How do you change up the scenery on your rides? Is your mount more of a ring princess, or do they like the breeze blowing through their manes as they canter through the tall grass?