A couple of weekends ago we headed off to Coombelands for our first cross country outing in 20 months. I was bricking it as usual, even though I was thrilled to be back on a cross country course. Scarlet was being suspiciously quiet and well behaved as we warmed up with the other two horses, popping the small practise fences nicely and working in a soft outline. We even got the right canter strike off! We headed off onto the course and Scarlet and I took the lead, jumping a small log to a palisade to shark teeth running downhill on a curve. She thought the sharks teeth were pretty scary and we had a tussle over it before she popped it. Unfortunately the next person fell off at the palisade - her horse over jumped and threw her off balance, so he helped her out of the saddle by putting in a cheeky buck. He then whizzed off up the field back to the lorry park.
Both were fine, luckily, but it caused a very long delay which made Scarlet very stressed and she started jigging around, grinding her teeth and being a pain in the butt. I whimpered at Caroline and she told me to take her off and work her, and not let her get away with anything. This helped get Scarlet's concentration back although I could see her eyeballing everything, but for the rest of the session I had to keep her trotting and cantering in between fences, whereas other horses were happy to just stand and watch. She was leaning on my hand quite heavily which she always does when she's stressed, which made her feel strong and I felt I couldn't adjust her pace much at all when approaching jumps. But, she was absolutely fantastic over the straightforward fences, cantering and popping without hesitation. She was naughty with ditches but we jumped several open ditches so I was pleased. I say naughty because she slammed the brakes on and then gazed off into the distance, totally unconcerned by the ditch in front of her. Caroline insisted she jump from a standstill but this really worried me, as Scarlet wasn't looking where her feet were going and I could imagine her falling right in it. Caroline said she wouldn't - "she's not daft" - but actually "daft" is exactly what Scarlet is. She was being stubborn rather than frightened and I knew it, because Caroline was running, yelling and waving her coat at her to make her go forward over the ditch and Scarlet took not a blind bit of notice. If she was frightened, this would have definitely had a reaction!
We also jumped the dreaded trakehner! I fell off at this two years ago, and would have again this time had it not been for my RS-tor! We jumped it on our third attempt and I was absolutely delighted. Scarlet's great with water, and we ended up doing steps in, steps out, and cantering through to a meaty house two strides out of the water. By this point we were soaked the skin thanks to a torrential downpour... We battled on, and went on to jump roll tops, log piles, banks, steps, and more ditches, before finishing in fine style down a line of fences, which Scarlet flew over. We ended with that amazing buzz you can only get from a brilliant cross country round. She had completely calmed down by now, and strolled back to the horsebox as cool as a cucumber.
She then took an hour to load. Again, we were eventually assisted by a very strong man, who walked Scarlet in a hoof at a time. She's got a neat trick of making her knees go rigid so I can't pick her feet up, but this guy deadlegged her behind the knees and she was beat. Little scamp. Loading practise next weekend!
So a very busy few weeks, and I'm so pleased with her progress. She's also sound as a pound, most importantly. We've got lots more planned - combined training, jump lessons, and hopefully a one day event in a few weeks. Nothing we do is pretty or stylish, but it's a heck of a lot of fun :)
For some cross country clips on my round with Scarlet, please take a look at these:-
Written by Laura Paine of Dragonfly Saddlery