Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Solway Practise Cross Country Day

I mentioned that the XC practise day was unfortunately rained off the other weekend, but the Pony Club rescheduled for the following Sunday - which was really fantastic of them!

The North Wairarapa Pony Club have some awesome grounds in Solway and a neat selection of jumps. We paid a $25 fee and then had unlimited access to the flagged cross country jumps, and a selection of five or six show jumps. I left Oscar in a day pen with a hay net whilst L and I walked the course. I wanted to practise a ditch/trakehner jump, water and a couple of logs.

Whilst there were no ditch/trakehner type jumps flagged for practise, we made up the 'scary jump quota' with a wide tiger trap fence, a brush and the water jump wasn't the most inviting. I'm really unfamiliar with what a pre-training course looks like now, after being out of the game for so long. So I kind of just picked my fences and course willy nilly. There was a house jump that, despite being super colourful, looked friendly enough. It was in the open, away from spooky tree branches and facing towards home. I kind of just waved at it and told L that I would pop over it on my way around. My course consisted of sixteen jumps, in this order:

  1. Tiny wooden ramp
  2. Tiny coop
  3. Inviting pre-training roll-top
  4. Brush fence between two trees
  5. Tiny log drop into a sunken road
  6. Up a bank and a tiny drop down off of it
  7. Hanging log followed by a one stride to..
  8. Over a tiny log and straight into the water
  9. Pre-training ramp 
  10. Pre-training solid fence (can't actually remember if this was a log or a coop, or what)
  11. Scary tiger trap/box
  12. House jump
  13. Ramp
  14. Ramp
  15. Staircase combination (two steps)
  16. Tiny log type fence between low hanging branches

I honestly believe my horse knows when he's jumping and when we're doing flatwork - I change his bridle, bit, saddle and boots when we jump and so it's not farfetched to think he knows that when he's wearing a grackle noseband and fulmer snaffle, we're either going to work at pace or over fences. Therefore as soon as I hopped on and took a contact he was bouncing off his hocks, snatching the reins and shaking his head. Experience has shown that the best thing to do when he is wound up is to canter. And canter and canter, until he's settled. Just keep working that canter because Oscar is that boy at school who is always running around trying to rough and tumble with the other kids and is distracted at the drop of a hat - the only tactic with these kinds of critters is to tire them out. Well, try to. 

Anyway, L had kindly sacrificed his one day off to drive me a long way to the practise XC day, so I was really pushing myself to get around the course in record time and get back on the road to get home in time for him to go fishing for the afternoon. 

I probably should have worked harder to get my horse softer and back on his haunches more, but as soon as the worst of the head shaking was over I popped on over to the show jumps. The course was tiny! I hate show jumping though and was desperate to get out onto the cross country course so I didn't bother adjusting them - such a wasted opportunity, but I guess I'll just have to deal with the consequences of avoiding practising show jumping if they arise. 

Because the jumps were so teeny, my horse didn't even look at them. Being the kid who likes to rough and tumble he's usually ready to give anything a go - in reality the practise is mostly for my sake. 

The biggest jump, feat. me riding like it's twice the height, because... show jumping.

L was chatting to a client the first time I went over the course, so I had to do it one more time for his pleasure. Oscar didn't pull me around the turns so much the second time, so hooray for small bonuses. We then went straight out onto cross country where my horse proceeded to jig and get excited. He absolutely remembered what cross country was all about, and he was loving it! I'll let the ears and eyes in the photo below do the talking!

I'm biased but, my goodness, is my horse cute or what?!

So Oscar was super excited immediately when we got out onto the cross country course. I clicked him forward into a canter and set off straight away. The first jump was a tiny wooden ramp that we got too fast into - come to think of it, we got into most of the jumps a little fast or flat. We had a sweeping u-turn to the second jump, which again was tiny. You can actually see jump number three in the photo above, the roll top that looks to be behind the coop. We had to cross the gravel footpath after jump number two, and my horse slowed down to a trot by himself - clever cookie. Despite getting slightly strong, he doesn't lose his mind with it. 

Jumps one and two were so tiny - not sure if they'd be pre-intro or intro level...

I'm doing some crazy release over jump number two, the only explanation I can offer is that I was half halting vigorously coming into that fence and after working hard at not sitting on the handbrake when jumping, I overcompensated.... severely.

Jump three went without a hitch, but jump four was well off course and was heading towards these massive wrought iron gates leading off the property. Oscar slammed the brakes on about four strides out, and I only managed to trot him up to the brush fence by flapping my legs and clicking the whole way up to it. You can see how deep he got to this jump, I literally had to ride him every inch forwards. iPhone zoom leaves a lot to be desired...

I circled and re-jumped this fence from a canter the second time around which earned Oscar #allofthepats. He loves being told how good he is. After jump four being so hairy, I decided to canter Oscar through the sunken road before circling and jumping down onto it, just to get him going super confident again. 

Then it was the tiny drop off of the bank, to circle around over the hanging log and into the water. The log was no issue, but the water jump was less than inviting. It was murky and dark, and Oscar had to go over a log to drop in. He actually ran out for the first time ever! He had no clue that trick existed until that jump when he was like 'uh huh, no way!' and ran sideways past the water. I am a little unforgiving with horses that run out. Stop, sure. You can pause, hesitate and look before popping over the jump - but running out is a different kettle of fish. 

I probably should have walked him through the water and then asked him to jump into it, but when I made a second attempt over the log and into the water he just hopped in.

Such a champ. We turned left on exiting the water and came full circle to the hanging log. You might be able to make the footpath out from the photo above, it runs parallel to those trees. We headed up there for the next jump and unfortunately left our photographer behind.

The rest of the course went without a hitch - Oscar seemed to find his stride after 'defeating' the water and just felt so bold across the rest of the course. Our twelfth jump was the house, and as we rode up to it I remember thinking 'oh lord - that's huge!'. It was really wide, and if it wasn't a pre-novice fence then it was max training height. Oscar bashed his feet on it going over as it's the biggest thing he's jumped in forever. It felt amazing to jump something that required a bit of effort again though! 

We found our photographer again at the staircase. It's so nice having photos, even if they are blurry and taken on a cell phone. 

L takes his job as chief photo taker really seriously and even papped us walking back to the float once we finished. As per usual, my horse's tail looks magnificent. I didn't even brush it out!

I walked back to the float incredibly excited for the upcoming ODE. I'm nervous for the show jumping, but the cross country will more than make up for that I'm sure! L had somehow sneaked an apple past me whilst I was packing, and had stashed it away for Oscar once we finished. Once I had washed, dried and loaded up my horse he just whipped out this juicy little treat. He can be so sweet, especially for a male and even more especially for a farrier!


  1. I love his expression in all of these! The dude definitely loves being out there!

    1. Does he what!!- conveniently forgot what half halt meant by the time we got to jump number three haha.

  2. I so wish I was out there with you! Looks like so so much fun! Cant wait to hear about the ODE!

    1. I'm completely hooked on cross country at the moment - Oscar is too!
      Hopefully you'll be joining us some time soon xx

  3. Looks great! Where are you headed for your first outing?

    1. Yeah it's the first time I've been to Solway - really nice course!
      We're going to the Horowhenua PC ODE which is in Waikanae I believe- have you done that course?
      I just read that you've got a show the same weekend - jumping? :)

  4. Yea Carterton Spring Show which is a pony club deal, so that's a good starting point, probably just roll around the 80 and 90. Haven't done Waikanae, only the QE2 course on that coast. Looking to do the Wairarapa Event at Clareville, November 22/23 for his first horse trial but I'm not convinced he's going to be brave enough to event.

    1. Oh awesome, obviously a jumping day? Hopefully he finds his brave pants for you, he looks like such a nice type!
      May potentially see you at Clareville!!

  5. oh man he looks sooooo happy!!!! what an awesome schooling - can't wait for your evet!

    1. I know right!- totally in his element when jumping! :D