Following on from our recent cross country lesson blog post, we were both on a high. And what not to do when your feeling fantastic about something? But continue to do it! And that we did.
(Please excuse the lack of photos & unrelated photo’s I have in this post, I didn’t have anyone on foot to take pics!)
We decided to go to a cross jump show and basically use it for schooling purposes to see how Dante would get on! I was slightly skeptical of how he would react, but he had been behaving very well recently so I didn’t think much of it. So I got him ready and threw him into the box and off we set on our travels.
The minute he stood out of the box, it was as if he entered a new world. He was so unsure of his surroundings. He could see right down over the cross jump tack and to be brutally honest I could feel his nerves. He seemed so overwhelmed by it all. I was starting to think this might not of been the nest of ideas, but we were there and if we turned back now, it would only put a massive bruise to my own ego let alone his!
Thinking nothing of it, more of his baby brain just going into overdrive. I tacked him up & hopped straight up on him. The minute i was on him, he settled, he walked into the warm-up arena with a spring in his step! He was on his toes. He felt great!
Our warm up was great, we had a trot, and canter on each rein again we were out of the stage of draw reins, our trust in each other has grown tremendously over the last few weeks! There were two practice jumps set up in the arena (which was a grass area) a cross pole & one big huge log! To be honest he loves being out working in the field, so I was delighted their warm-up wasn’t in a proper sand arena! Without any hesitation Dante jumped both jumps. He didn’t bat an eyelid, he jumped the jumps perfectly as if he had jumped them a million times before! So with this I automatically thought, he was on fire, so I headed over to the starting line and waiting in line to go next for my round.
God I was so wrong! The running of the day went very smoothly, but as soon as I tried to walk Dante over to the starting line he panicked. He would barely walk up to the starting line, let alone walk over it. Keep in mind that the starting line was nothing scary or spectacular, it was literally a gap between the fencing, and a very spacious gap at that! It was one step forward and a million steps backwards at this stage. There was a jeep at the starting line but I didn’t really see it as a reason for him to spook, as he wouldn’t really be much of a spooker.
From the minute he got out of the horse box that day he just felt on edge about everything. Getting angry at him was the last thing for me to do at this stage, he was so unsure of his surroundings and getting angry would of been unfair to him when he was completely out of his comfort zone.
It was tedious work trying to get him to start but when I did I thought it was best to start everything of slowly with a trot. If I began to canter the fear would be that we would never stop & he would just take off on me!!
Excuse my french but holy F*#k, the next 15 minutes where the longest 15 minutes of my life, they were horrendous!!! The first 3 fences seem like such a blur now, but they were the only 3 fences we managed to tackle. He refused them all, and hesitated over them all anytime i went to bring him over them. He was definitely not himself. At this stage any onlooker probably thought I was a demented woman, I was shouting, kicking, tapping him with the stick trying to get him over what seemed like simple Cross country fences, that he has jumped numerous times home before. I reached a point where I was literally hanging off the side of him (thank god for my neck strap!) So I gave up. Almost 5 attempts later at each fence and probably around 5 near falls I decided to call it a day, It was not worth getting injured over! He was not happy and pushing him & pushing him would in the long run only ruin his confidence & mine. So I walked away from the course. Yes, I felt defeated but with Dante, jumping in the field at home is one of his favorite things to do he really relaxes in this environment so I didn’t want to sour him towards something he loved just because he was having an off day.
So I left the course & brought him back into the warm- up arena to walk him off.
When It comes to going with shows, you will without a doubt get a few commentators on the sidelines trying to give you advice, trying to tell you what to do with your young horse. My advice, DONT listen to them. The trouble with Dante is that he is big, he has quite the presence so when I tell people how young he is they never really tend to believe me until he starts to have his baby moments or whopper tantrums! Even at this they throw the eyes up & tell me hes so bold, you let him away with murder. I will agree, there are moments when he does need a good kick up the arse that I don’t give him to cop on, but in situations like this with him being such an overly sensitive horse all he needed was time to settle and get used to his surroundings.
So if this ever happens to you, ignore people, remember you know your horse best! People will soon shut their mouths when you offer for them to sit up on your horse to show them how its done!
Swiftly Moving on… as Dante settled back down after the shocking attempts at the first few fences, I didn’t want to leave him on a bad note. In my situation this would of been the worse thing that I could of done to Dante he would of never forgotten! So With permission from the event organizers, I was allowed to attempt the course again this time with a lead from the other horse that came with me.
Second time around he done everything without hesitation. He was still quite hesitant over the first 3 fences, but once he got past them he really began to come into himself, almost to a point where I was barely able to sit his jumps or even slow him down he was enjoying himself that much! I was delighted. And to add to everything there were a good few scary intimidating fences through out the course but once he into the swing of things he was in his element. He became that horse I knew he was, that small bit of reassurance from the horse in front was just the confidence he needed.
It really goes to show that you really have to be on your toes with these young horses & bringing them to new places. You can never anticipate how they are going to react. They may be good one day, but two or three days later its a hole new story!
No matter how much Cross country schooling I done at home, it was the new environment that really got to him, he stepped completely out of his comfort zone.
So to conclude, Cross Country schooling in different places, is 100% in the pipeline for the future!!
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