In Which We Leave the Ring and Survive

My dear readers. For those of you who have followed along for a while now, you may have gathered that I’m a bit of a ring princess. For the newer folks: I’m a ring princess. I LOVE hearing about XC adventures and think foxhunting sounds exciting, but really have never felt any desire to leave the confines of an arena. Considering I often use the wall to stop RollerCoaster McHappyPants, I really like having that wall there to help me.

But I was talked into joining the barn for an old fashioned paper chase this weekend! For those of you who don’t know what a paper chase is (like me), it was a 3-5 mile hack along a course through fields/woods/wilderness, with optional logs and coops to jump. The group I was in elected to do the Jumping II division- a 3 mile course with some logs to pop over.

This. Was. Amazing. I won’t say that my fear of riding outside the ring is gone, but Fun and Happy and Excitement are jumping up and down yelling, “Again! Again!” and I think Fear has gotten trampled in the process.

Addy thinks it was no big deal. Don’t let this face fool you, Beastly was the happiest horse on the property.

Much of my nervousness came from the fact that Addy has never done anything like this before. We’ve done a couple little trail rides near the barn and cantered across a field or two, but never anything near cows, with a group of riders, through woods, or anything like that. I know that Beastly is a very sane and calm mount. I know that she has never once offered a spook or a bolt in the year that I’ve been on her. But I was still a little wary of how she would handle this.

There was zero reason for me to be worried. Addy LOVED this. Seriously loved it! She handled gates, climbing up rocky banks, big herds of cows, lots of horses all around her, all the commotion. When I asked her to trot she gave me the biggest springiest ground-covering trot you’ve ever seen, and when we decided to canter she gave me a light and easy lope. No heaviness or pulling in the least- she was content to take her time and enjoy the scenery. Cantering down the trail through the woods was amazing! We even went for a bit of a gallop across a field and she was such a happy camper to open up and run.

BossMare was more than happy to lead the way. Check out that trot!

And the jumps! They were all tiny little 2′ logs but it was so fun! She didn’t hesitate at any of them for even a second. Even when a third jump popped up around a blind corner after a little line, she carried me right over it. I swear one of them even looked like a little ditch. She waited to the base every time and jumped carefully. For realz, she loved it!

While some of the other horses we were with got a little snorty and went on alert, Addy was relaxed the entire time. I had her on a loose rein even when were galloping and popping over jumps because she was being so easy going! I was so sad to canter over the finish line and I think Addy was too.

Our time ended up being just enough slower than the “optimum time” for our division and that kept us out of the ribbons. I can’t make myself care even a little bit. I’m glad we took our time and went at the pace we did- we took plenty of walk breaks when we hit rocky or muddy footing, when we weren’t sure of where to go, and to give the horses a breather after popping over jumps. It was the perfect pace for us.

Go team go!

Anyone know of any more hunter paces in Virginia? I want to sign us up for one every weekend!