Rocky goes Cross Country…
It has been a good 5 years since I last wore my Body Protector and carried my jumping whip, but after dusting them off, today they were reborn!
Even though I now concentrate on Dressage, I do feel jumping gives the horse a good education and can break up the flatwork training. So today Rocky and I (along with my long suffering kids!) hired a Cross Country course!
I have done some jumping at home every now and then to help Rocky get to grips with leaving the ground but never XC, so this was a big step.
I chose Dene Farm XC as not only is it near, but is set out so you can jump a variety of obstacles from 1’3 to 3’6, so there is something for everyone.
We arrived on a blustery cold wet day (not ideal!) and to find a big group of riders just setting off, well that would be the first test, how would Rocky deal with that? Well, to be fair, he was brilliant, yes he was looking, no he wasn’t rooted to the spot, however for his first time in such conditions, he kept a lid on it and away we went.
The rain was horizontal and the wind was howling as we set out on to the course, just walking allowing time for him to digest it all, but not allowing him to do as he pleased. The first thing we did after warming up was pop over some of the tiny fences. Yes they were indeed tiny, however I am a firm believer in introducing things slowly and making it fun, so the tiny jumps were ideal as if he was unsure he could quite literally step over them, this meant he wasn’t thinking about either stopping, refusing or attempting to run out if genuinely unsure. Thankfully this wasn’t the case and he was soon confident.
Rocky was confidently jumping the small fences, so I asked a bit more and included a few of the bigger ones, a decision I was confident about and proved to be right about as although we did have an initial wobble, he soon got the hang and jumped the chosen ones. Again, although I felt the size was easily achieved, technique was what I was looking for, so choosing easy obstacles, logs and brush fences were tackled!
Soon we came upon our nemesis, water! Those who follow us will remember we have had some issues with water! The first water was a “man made” one, basically a strip of water with a small step up and out, but with “sides”, this was a big question and where my children came in quite handy! James was deployed into the monsterous horse eating swamp, or water jump as us humans call them, to show Rocky that all was fine and it didn’t actually contain the lock ness monster! He was still very unsure, genuinely, and a lot of coaxing was required, which proved to be worthwhile as after a few minutes of yes no yes no yes no, argh I really can’t do this mum, he took the plunge and walked in, yay, what a clever boy!
Following this we repeated the exercise to the point he was jumping in!
This water jump has a brush fence to follow it and on exiting the water we took the brush fence and, well, lacked a few brakes for a short while when he locked his sights onto the other fences!!
Next were steps, well I didn’t anticipate issue here, and rightly so, he hesitated a couple of times, even attempted to turn away on the odd occasion, yet on representing, he simply popped down them without a doubt.
Then we moved onto the 2nd water, a more complex one with various entry and exit areas, but with plenty of room to splash around!
After an initial OMG I am not sure, he then splashed his way in and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself! We played around there for a while entering and leaving at different points and jumping the logs out, he was awesome!
We then headed off towards the box as I was aware that he had done a lot and had answered every question, the route led us down an “avenue” of trees with optional jumps, well, I asked and he responded, a super canter down the avenue clearing the jumps without a question.
I dropped the reins and told him how amazing he was….. just as another horse was galloping along the track above us!! Well, it has been a very long time since I sat on a rocking horse, but this was about as good as I remembered, poor Rocky was taken by surprise and didn’t know if he should stop, go or what!! I gathered my reins (Quickly!!) and sat still until he came back to me, which didn’t take long at all, he was genuinely taken by surprise!
We returned to the box and went home VERY HAPPY!
For the first ever time out in that weather, environment and the questions asked, I cannot say just how very pleased I was with Rocky, and you never know, perhaps we may even do the odd ODE in the future…..
Here are a few pics from the day...
And some clips: