NOTE: I have been waiting to publish this post until I am sent pics, so if I do end up with pics someday, I will post them! ;-)
Snappy and I had a GREAT time at a cross country clinic at Rest and Be Thankful Farm on September 11, 2016 with a local Preliminary rider. I knew I needed to find a way to school her over XC jumps before we ever tried a full 3-phase and this was the perfect place to do so.
After a summer of sunshine and drought conditions, Sunday morning's sky threatened rain. Not exactly the best weather to have a "calm" cross country schooling haha. We arrived around 8:25 AM for our 9 AM lesson and no one else was there yet. The wind was whipping and I was slightly worried that Snappy would be wound up between the weather and being alone. I took my time getting my tack and cross country gear organized before I unloaded her. By 8:45, I decided to just start getting her ready because I also did not want to be late. I was just saddling her as the other two riders arrived. I took my time and got her to the ring to begin a warm up at 9. She was a little looky at the farm's three horses who had just been turned out (and were leaping about), but she was actually quite calm. It was nice to have a quiet horse when I was honestly expecting a dragon!
The wind died down and it became humid. It may have only been 75 degrees, but it was muggy. We trotted around a bit and the clinician asked me about Snappy. She mistakenly thought she was a Thoroughbred when I said she was on the track, and honestly I let her think that. I told her I just wanted a good experience for Snappy's first time over cross country fences, and that I wanted to do as much as we could. The other two students were young riders who boarded and rode with the clinician, so it was a pretty laid back group. There should be photographic evidence at some point, as the parents were snapping plenty of pics and I was told they would be shared on Facebook.
The clinician, Audrey, was great and I really liked her immediately. She was positive, upbeat, and helpful. For warmup, we started with just a rail on the ground at the trot and then a crossrail. Snappy wanted to just throw her body over it because it was tiny, but Audrey encouraged me to slow my posting down to get her to the base in order to have her "sit" back and use her body over the jump. We ended up with a much better jump and I was pleased to already see improvement.
First, we started with a small log, which Snappy had to stop and walk over LOL! I guess I much rather have her break to a walk and carefully step over it than have her run out or freak out. Of course, this technique won't work over larger fences haha, but I was happy that she was at least willing to try even over something that worried her. I hesitated to really drive her over the fence with my seat, as I might if we were in a competition, because this experience was about letting her find her confidence in her own time and own way.
We trotted over the log in both directions several times until it was completely ho-hum. We added a small rail/stump jump a few strides out, and again she broke to the walk in order to step over it the first time. After that, she jumped both fences in a row from both directions. So far, so good! I could tell she was thinking and trying, which is exactly what this lesson was for!
We moved on to a rustic plank type of fence, which she hesitated at for a moment but popped over easily. Audrey added a small stadium crossrail fence near the edge of the field, so we had to jump into the woods (light to dark) and then back out (dark to light), which she did easily. Then we put jumps together; we jumped the crossrail into the woods, turned and came back out, and then turned left to go over the rustic plank. I was super happy that Snappy was so calm and willing; there are times we have jumped in a field both at home and at 2-phases where she gets extremely wound up. I wonder if it was because she was with two other horses and several people. Regardless, I am happy because a good experience now will help in the future. She never offered to canter and backed down from my gentle canter aids after each fence. I was OK with that, because it kept her mind calm, but I would have liked to have tried a little canter after a fence. Oh well!
At this point, Snappy was completely chill and unconcerned about the entire idea of jumping things other than stadium fences haha. Next we walked over a tiny ditch and then trotted/jumped it. A lot of horses have problems with ditches but Snappy popped right over it without hesitation. Granted, it wasn't huge but she did not even hesitate. We went up and down a bank, which was also great. The first time up she got a little stuck (as in, what do I do now?) but she quickly figured it all out (as in, how to get down haha). I like how Audrey encouraged calm and quiet repetitions.
We ended the lesson with playing in the water complex. Well, I thought it would be the end, but Audrey wanted us to string together all the fences into a mini course for our end. YES! I was anxious to see how Snappy would act having to leave the group and jump everything "alone". We started in the water by just walking around. She hesitated at the edge but went right in. Then we took turns trotting into it and out, just taking the easy entry and exits. Audrey set up a crossrail at the edge, so we trotted into the water and jumped out. Snappy was like UMMMMMMMM wait, what? but she did it with extra leg encouragement. Yay mare! I was slightly nervous about jumping INTO the water, mostly because this was NOT a place I wanted to fall (CHILLY COLD WATER FROM THE HOSE!), but she did it effortlessly.
We waited our turn to try the course and graciously went last, as both young riders had found their own confidence instead of wanting me to go first. They were super cute. We did the log, stump/rail, bank, ditch (over and turn back over), crossrail into and out of the woods, plank, and then the water (trotting in and jumping out), for a total of nine fences. I am SO proud of Snappy, because she willingly left the group and did every single fence with confidence. (Both young riders did a great job as well, so it was a good lesson for us all.) I could not have imagined a more perfect first XC experience for her and now I am excited to potentially return to the farm for an Ultimate 2-Phase this fall (dressage and jumping, which will be a mix of stadium and XC fences). It will be a perfect way for us to end the year.