Among the challenges of schooling cross country for the first time in a year is remembering how to ride cross country. On Sunday we waited until the kids were pretty much done with their XC rides before getting Murray tacked up and ready to go. Since he did so well on Saturday, I wanted to just school him over everything once and Aftermake it a bit more “run” like — stringing together six or seven fences in a go — so that we could get the feel for running and jumping in sequence back.
Murray was definitely feeling the work from Saturday, and wasn’t quite as peppy or forward as he had been earlier in the weekend. But that was an important aspect of the ride to me. I need to be able to ride Murray when he is tired and punky and not his fresh XC schooling self as much as I need to be able to ride the supercharger forward pony. Fortunately, despite being a little tired he was still right there with me. When he got a little sticky to the base of a few warm up fences I just kept my leg on and he went right over them – no problem.
We cruised over the first few fences in the course, a coop and a turkey feeder, then I took a wrong turn and headed over to the intro course for a little house and hanging log. I backtracked when I saw the real hanging log we were supposed to jump, and went back for that one and another go at the half-coffin. This was where I made my first real mistake. I assumed that since Murray had seen and jumped everything the day before with such professionalism that he would be okay right off the bat with them on Sunday. Not so — he still needed a hard second look at the ditches, so he stopped at the jump element of the half-coffin as he peered down into the ditches below.
After we schooled back and forth over the ditch we headed back up to the top of the half coffin and it wasn’t a problem. Then it was up the hill to the upper plateau and some of the benches that Murray literally flew over on Saturday. I skipped the water since there were a bunch of people schooling there and headed over to the down banks. After our stop at the coffin I decided that I was going to give Murray a good chance to look at everything technical if he showed any hesitation — I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after so many months without seeing this stuff! So we trotted over to the down bank and let him look at it. He walked a couple of strides then went down without a problem, so we schooled up and down the bank again just to solidify it in his mind.
This video is from his first look at the bank on Saturday. What I love so much about it is how he’s thinking. There’s a little bit of “can I get away with not doing this?” but once he understands the question and it’s clear what I want, he’s just like “oh okay, down we go!”
After the down banks we came around to the wine barrel table again, which I pulled Murray to a stop in front of so he could look at it again. I didn’t want to fuss with him getting spooked by it again, and wanted him to really have the opportunity to stare the fence down. It might be just me, but it seemed like most of the questions we had problems with were painted black — not something we see a lot of at our barn.
The last few fences were little roll tops before and after the water, a jump on a small mound (giving you just a little something to gallop up and down), and some straightforward tables toward the finish. Murray finished strong even though he was soooo tired, and lifted his head up to look at the next fence when I made it clear there was still work to be done.
I can tell that we have some fitness work to do before we will be ready for the event, but we have a few weeks for that! (More running for me, more trot sets for pony.) And it feels absolutely awesome to know that Murray is ready to go out and jump our BN fences and then some. I just need to get my show nerves under control and learn how to give him a supportive and forward ride, especially if he is tired. (Hahaha, “just”!)