Gracie and I go off the reservation (a.k.a. First XC schooling together)

I take it all back, all of it, every single snarky comment about getting somewhere on time with horses in tow….  Sorry to everyone out there.

We took five horses, yes five, to a open schooling at High Point Farm on Sunday.  I was under the impression that this was a low key endeavor and would be accomplished with minimal fuss.  Show up to the barn at 7am load some tack and a horse and be on the road at 8am.  Well, my naivete has been thoroughly squashed and replaced with a healthy respect for everything that goes in to loading for a trip away from your local riding facility. What follows is a moderately funny, completely true recap of my first ever cross-country schooling event away from our home barn.

Sunday morning starts early (relatively) for a horse trip. The alarm went off at 6 am and I was excited. So, I practically leap out of bed and Amanda would swear I slept in my breaches I was ready so fast.  (lies for dramatic effect, I wanted to sleep in.)  We crawl in to the car at 6:45 and are off to find some breakfast.  As we leave the neighborhood, “Dang! I forgot Gracie’s boots in MY car.”  We turn around and I am certain I hear a repressed sigh from the driver’s seat…  I get the brushing boots and we are back on the road to McDonalds.  Through the drive through and as they hand Amanda her coffee she turns to meandsays, “don’t worry they always get it wrong.” I know this isgoing to turn out to be a good day.

The day is dawning as we roll up the driveway to the barn. There is movement at the end of the driveway and this bodes well!  The trailer is getting hooked up and most likely our comrades for the day’s ride are also moving and getting ready.  I decide to take the high road and get Gracie from the pasture and then proactively start gathering all the tack for our little adventure.  (This is where reality starts to deviate from expectation.)  Never did I think about all the STUFF needed by a horse and rider for a little bit of jumping.  I found myself sitting on an imaginary horse in my head and tacking it up from my head to the horse’s hooves.  after loading all the tack to the trailer I got the lesson in loading horses.  At least one will refuse to load and cause problems all morning.  This time it was Simon. He thought the trailer was scary!  We tried to reset his mind, then we tried bribery (food), then a whip.  What finally worked you might ask? a swinging lead rope.  not even contact with the rope…. just the swinging. horses are weird.  Now we are loaded and ready to roll.

The drive was about an hour long and there  were three boys and two women in the cab of the truck.  As an aside, there is not much chance of boys outnumbering women in an equestrian endeavor so, we felt empowered and had “guy” talk most of the trip. Much to Amanda and Maggie’s dismay.  The drive was uneventful until our arrival at High Point. The driver of our rig took a nice wide turn to pull into a parking area on the grounds (that were mostly soggy from rain) and promptly bogged down in the soft topsoil.  thankfully there was a helpful tractor on hand to give us a small tug.   It is now tack up time!

After an uneventful tack up and warm up it was off to the jumps!  The excitement is palpable as we walk over to the first jump.  Being a bit nervous myself, Gracie is prancing around and being nervous too.  Her ears were twitching everywhere!  We trot up to the first “Green as Grass” jump and BOOM!  over the log we go!  didn’t even catch her in the mouth thanks to a new and improved device called a neck strap!   Woooo!  First jump down. Now we repeat and work on pace, timing, body position, all of the things we talk about at home…. but now, away.  Amanda then suggests I try the log next to the GAG jump… its only a few inches higher…. why not.  No questioning, I just trot up to it and BOOM! up and over the orange signed jump.  Goldilock’s jump done!  not too hard!  We move through a couple more jumps easy peasy.  Jump the GAG, jump the goldilocks jump beside it.  thinking to myself…. should have gone goldilocks if this is the size difference…

Suddenly a wild bank jump appears!

Auggie going up!

Maggie going up!

This is not an up and over jump but just an UP jump.  I am encouraged to do  it so, (never question your trainer) up I go!  The first one is a bit rough and I catch a horse head to the chest.  I forgot there was no “Down” to this jump.  We circled and did it a few more times and it was a cakewalk after that.

We all did the up bank and then our resident hotshot 14 year old saw a miniature house and of course, wanted to jump over the house.  Maybe the house was bigger than his horse thought, maybe it was bigger than the boy thought. Either way, it was informative seeing the hotshot have his horse run out on a jump.

Little bit of a run out. Photobombed by Gracie’s ears.

After three refusals we moved on to making a course.  Log, coop, then up bank.  This was fun. There was a good bit of riding between jumps and a good chance to work on timing and pace.  Then it was up to the really fun part of the day… the water obstacle!

The Water!!!!!

This water obstacle is nothing more than a 18 inch deep pond…. apparently this terrifies horses. They can’t see the footing and sometimes refuse to go in.  Now, in case you did not know, Gracie is a bit of a diva and hates mud and water.  So, I was greatly and pleasantly surprised when she chugged straight through the water and threw not a single fit!  We all played in the water for about 10 minutes and then decided it was a good place to call it a day.   Everyone stayed on. Everyone jumped their jumps. Everyone had fun.  Un-tacking, reloading, and driving home are rarely eventful.  So it was today.

Cav being awesome.

At lunch later, Amanda asked how I felt.  I told her I felt great!  and going over the goldilocks jumps REALLY boosted my confidence.  Her response kind of stunned me.  “There is no goldilocks course there.  Those were the Beginner Novice jumps.”  

Amanda and Knots doing their thing

So it turns out that I jumped two classes high than what I am registered for… Even bigger confidence boost!  
For a first off site adventure I had a fantastic time.  I think I am ready for this Derby event and can not wait to do this for real!

After Jumping
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