After his second night on the property, Courage was looking very comfortable. Ellie had to work, so he and I started the morning with a nice hand graze, then tacked up. I was super proud of my little man as he hacked way out in the XC field by himself, then was able to do a little flat work to practice from our lesson. I didn't push it because again, we were more interested in calm, positive experiences than in getting in a fight about contact.
I let him chill for a while, then Ellie showed up and it was time for our first real XC exposure. Those of you who have followed along with this blog for a while know that I've struggled with pretty severe anxiety regarding cross country. (Broken bones will do that, I guess). Let's just say that Courage wasn't the only one needing calm, positive rides. Still. I wasn't shaking or puking or (whole-heartedly) wishing I was dead, so that's pretty good for me.
The group before us ran long. Courage and I took advantage of the time to stand and chat with some friends. I realize I could have trotted and cantered and used the open space, but I was more interested in being relaxed than high achieving. Plus I live in Idaho, so open space isn't exactly at a premium. Even when the group started, our instructor had us stand by her to see how Courage would react to the group.
Answer: like a super star. We were walk/trot/canter ready and having a good time.
And then one of the more seasoned horses totally lost his shit and started freaking out and running up on us. I think I was more rattled than Courage, but we pulled out of the group and just hung out with the spectators. Again, Courage stood quietly and watched the show. I laughed and chatted and got my heart rate a little closer to normal.
The instructor had to get on the idiot horse, so she sent the rest of the group off to walk over baby logs under the tutelage of the most experienced horse. We trotted to within a few yards of the logs, then walked over them.
I did my best to just loop the reins and ride forward after the fence so Courage could figure it out. I suspect because of all the time Redheadlins has put on him doing spooky fences, Courage was fine. We had to do some hops and get things figured out, but he tried hard and listened well and there was minimal careening and flailing post-jump.
Just as we were getting bored of baby logs, our isntructor called us back. Courage and I got paired up with the more experienced horse and send out to jump a tiny course that included going through the water. I tried to stay loose and relaxed as we headed out.
I was so proud of my little man! I was expecting a big to-do about the water, but we just stuck him on his buddy's hip. He hesitated at the edge, but walked right in when I put my leg on. What a star! We walked around in the water a little, then I tried going back in by myself.
Nailed it. I couldn't even believe it. I don't know why I'd built it up in my mind, but Courage was just so brave and calm about the experience.
Even after the water we had to follow some horses and trot through open space and deal with the other greenie running up on us. I swear that stuff bothers me more than him. I mean, he gave the greenie a bit of a look, but then we just carried on.
We finished up our little course by jumping some baby logs in style. There (unfortunately) isn't a picture of it, but when we went out and did the course by ourselves, we had to add in another log that had a slight ditch under it. About two strides out, Courage started to back off and ask if I was serious. I just put my leg on and we cantered over!
We landed exuberantly and nailed a lofty flying change, which I'm sure was the envy of the group. <3
Even after our enthusiasm, Courage was able to rejoin the group and stand on a loose rein while we wrapped up the lesson.
Calm and positive, happy and forward.
And we still had another day of cross country to go!