Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We Go XC, Take II

We are not thinking about it.
Kind of last minute on Monday I found out that Cuna and I were going XC schooling at a local facility on Tuesday evening.

From then on out, I didn't think about it. Intentionally. My thought process was this:

1) Your subconscious completely wigs out about this whole shebang.
2) What your subconscious doesn't know most likely won't hurt it.

As such, I didn't mentally prepare, didn't watch XC videos, didn't visualize anything, and didn't talk about it much. Even on the drive over, I chatted about absolutely everything except riding horses. My sole concession to my subconscious was to switch Cuna's bit from his full cheek happy mouth mullen to an eggbutt Dr Bristol.

We tacked up. The other ladies were taking forever, since apparently their job has never entailed riding 4 horses in three hours while feeding, doing turnout, and cleaning tack. I took Cuna away from the group, hopped on, and started hacking around. I hadn't ridden at this facility since the accident with Izzy. I have gorgeous photos of us there and vivid memories of how it felt. Every time we came around a turn, I could just picture Izzy and I.

And I put it out of my head. I read an article by a prominent female showjumper (Beezie maybe?) who said that's how she deals with coming back from accidents. It sounds kooky, but I had to do something. I focused on warming Cuna up. Not Izzy. Not me. We walked all around, trotted and worked on moving off my legs, and cantered, focusing on going forward and back and doing lots of transitions. I wanted him balanced and adjustable.

Stephanie asked if there was anything out in the field I wanted to jump.

"YES. That teeny, tiny little log way over by the fence. It looks ok."

Us on course. 
I'm not sure how she kept a straight face, but we were sent off to jump it. I knew I had to give Cuna a better first ride than I did last time, so I kept my eyes up, put my leg more or less on, and grabbed mane with one hand and breastcollar with the other. The reins may have been a little wonky, but at least I wasn't pulling on him.

Cuna trotted over the jump and cantered away without so much as a peek. Excellent. I didn't go back to Steph for instruction, but just kept trotting back and forth over the tiny log. "I can do this," I thought. "I can do this all night and be happy."

Then she called us back. New pattern: trot over tiny log. Turn right, CANTER OVER GINORMOUS LOG PILE. Make a right hand turn, canter up the hill over pretty intimidating coop.

Ok, the log pile was 2' tall. In my defense, it was also the jump Izzy and I wrecked at last year about this time. I was thankful for the coop--it gave me something else to completely stress about.

Off we went. The first jump was pretty easy. I kept my eyes up and we trotted the tiny log. Then we came around for the GLP. I thought I would die, but I kept my eyes up and legs steady while grabbing everything I could hold on to that was not Cuna's face, and he hopped over it like nothing. We came around for the coop and I finally started to settle a bit. Cuna was in a nice, forward rhythm. I could see a comfortable close spot. I counted the last few strides and he popped right over it.


Ginormous log pile #2 as demoed by Rinsie
We weren't done yet. After repeating that pattern a couple of time, Steph added in an EVEN BIGGER GINORMOUS LOG PILE!!!!!!!!! Omg. It might even have been 2'7". We did the first couple of jumps, then headed for it. As we got within about 10 strides, I heard Steph yelling at us to stop. We pulled up in a couple of strides and did a nice balanced halt. Apparently, we were supposed to be demonstrating a pulley rein. Oops. She told us to just jump the jump from where we were, maybe five or six strides out.

"Cuna can do that," I told her. "I can't do that." We circled around and came again. The closer we got, the bigger that jump looked. I swear it was rolex sized by the time we got to the base. Again, I had mane in one hand, breastcollar in the other, and kept my legs steady. Cuna hauled my butt over the fence. Good boy!

Scary barrels as demoed by Rinsie
The last jumping exercise was to jump the (now non-threatening) log pile (the first one) and then come around and jump this horrifyingly huge barrel jump. It may even have been 2'6". I figured we would just power through it (shut up), but Steph wanted me to drop to the trot to do the barrels. I made her explain that insanity in great detail, and it actually made sense. Cuna was comfortable with everything we were doing and taking me to the jumps very nicely. Since eventually we will jump a fence that might make him want to back off a bit, I need to feel like I can kick him at a jump. We were manufacturing a situation in which I could do that.

Breathe. Ok.

We came towards the barrels. I got him down to a collected canter before Steph yelled, "Kick him." I did, and over we went. Nicely. Safely. Happily.

Then it was off to the track to do pacework. (Thank you Katie for setting the flags. They were great.) My lesson buddy went first. I watched them slowly canter around and come in just 10 seconds over and realized that 350 mpm was going to be painfully boring. As predicted, Cuna and I came in at 55 and 57 seconds (goal of 60 seconds) and we were barely moving. Cuna actually had two of the biggest spooks I've ever seen from him--one because a giant cow was hiding behind a bush, the other because who knows why but we got a perfect lead change out of it.

My buddy went too slow both times, so she was sent back to go a lot faster. I whined a little, and got to take a turn going more hastily.

Cuna and I walked onto the track. I put him into the canter, and just let him roll forward. We hit the nice novice pace and sped up in about a stride. His stride got longer. As he and I found our balance together. I stayed poised above him, steady without resisting. Each quarter of the track, he picked up just a little more steam. As we flew around our final corner, I realized that I hadn't really tested the brakes and he had no particular plan to stop. I tried a half halt and got nothing. Right. We are galloping. I need to change his balance...

Ready to head for home
I slipped the reins through my fingers and let go of the hold I had of him. We cruised down to a trot, then walked a lap around the track before returning to our group. It was a great group, composed of nice people on solid horses, and I knew that I was sitting on the best horse in the whole group, bar none. <3 Cuna.


  1. YAY YOU! :) I love that rolltop and the little A-frame, and the coop. In theory. I remember them being super, super fun to jump, and they'll be fun to jump again soon. ;) (For some reason, I don't love and never have loved the barrels, small though they might be.) The double log is pretty fun too, but I like the rolltop and the A-frame best.

    You looked great out there, and Cuna looked nice and relaxed. Like I said earlier, wish I could have stayed to the end, but I was utterly starving by about 8 and had to get home. Hooray for you and Cuna on XC!!!

  2. Yeah!! So good to see this. Two years ago I spent my first year over fences over-mounted and I used to (and still occasionally do) feel the same fear you do. With as good of an equine partner and trainer as you've got, you're well on your way to getting through it.

  3. YAYYYYY!!!!!! XCOUNTRY AIMEE!!!!!!!!


  5. Sounds like a really fun and positive experience! Proud of you guys!

  6. Fantastic! Go you and go Cuna!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Awesome! Sounds like you and Cuna had fun!

  8. Well done!!

    I remember once taking a rather large combination jump of a fence a coffin and a fence in an event from the trot, mostly because my horse was pulling for home and getting flatter and flatter with speed. Rather than risk the striding from too fast a pace, I pulled him up to a trot. Apparently the spectators--other than my friends--gasped in horror. "She's not going to jump THAT from a trot!!" Needless to say, we came in at a moderate pace, picked up a nice canter on the last stride and simply rolled on through. My friends knew my horse and I could jump big fences from the trot since my trainer had us practice that, so what was the big deal.

    So, lesson to learn. It's all in the approach. If you come in in the right balance and impulsion, a good horse--like Cuna--will handle the rest. You just need to sit there and got with him. Sounds as if you are really getting good at that.

  9. YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! So proud of you! What a great post about an obviously great schooling. Whoop whoop!

  10. SO happy for you!!! So so happy! Great job!

  11. What a gem you have in that boy. Congratulations!

  12. My sole trick for cross country fences is to picture the same fence as a stadium fence of similar dimensions, then I realize they aren't as big as they look. I've been fortunate to never be unseated (well, all the way to the ground; I've landed forward of the saddle a time or two ;-) jumping cross country, though, so I don't know if that idea helps.

    I hope you know we all really respect the difficulty involved in overcoming your fears, and are super pleased for you. And proud!(hope that doesn't sound patronizing)

  13. Jean,

    I was schooling my guy at an open schooling day at KY horsepark, and needed to work on ditches, of which there were way too few in the size range (SMALL!) I needed. There was a nice one I could use, but with a flipping prelim ramp in front of it ~set for a coffin~ that you had to go over to access the ditch, although room on the other side to not jump the coffin out without pulling your horse off a fence. (I am HUGE about never lining up to a jump I don't expect them to take. My guy never had a run out or refusal on cross.)

    My horse was not ready to canter in to that type ditch, a half coffin... so, yep, we TROTTED a 3'6", 5'6" base width ramp so he could school the ditch.

    No problem! And oh, yes, people gave me funny looks.

  14. Good for you! Talk about facing your fears <3

  15. Your welcome! Flags make testing time much easier don't they?you to look great!

  16. Sounds like you had a great day out, Good on you for facing your fears and dong it. You guys are great.

  17. Great post!

    Congratulations on an excellent day. You really took control of your thinking and your trainer sounds very clever and perfect for you. and, of course, Cuna is the perfect horse. ;)

  18. What an awesome post i couldnt help but keep reading it was so interesting! Good for you guys overcomeing your fears and doing so awesome. It makes a world of a difference when we can just let go of all that we are afraid of and trust our partners underneith us to take us there safely. <3

  19. How awesome and that Cuna is worth his weight in GOLD.

  20. Yay!!! You guys did so awesome!!! I'm so proud of you for facing your fears and even having fun doing it. :D Go team Cuna!!!


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