In preparation for our FIRST event ever, we decide it prudent to take a field trip for some cross country schooling. None of the horses have been anywhere in a while and with the MDHT Starter Trial looming a week away, this trip is much needed to work on some pre-show confidence. We arrive at Woodstock Equestrian Park and Ruckus is living up to his namesake and is, um, quite the ruckus indeed. Its cold, its windy, he’s recently clipped (for the one non-horsey person who reads my blog (thanks, Mom) this means we shaved him), first outing…..you get the picture. Tacking up was, well tricky, and a bit touch-and-go, but I managed to get the saddle on somewhat straight. Before we left the barn, in a moment of sheer fore-thought brilliance, I threw the longe line in Kerry’s trailer. And we are going to need that, thank you. We (Kerry) longe him until he starts to resemble a horse again, instead of the orangutan we arrived with.
I attempt to mount from some sloped cross country jump thing and before I can even get my foot in the stirrup, I slip and topple over onto his neck. He graciously doesn’t run off with me scrambling to regain my balance and I decide a nice sturdy log is a better mounting block. I mount and immediately decide we should have longed him longer. For like an hour. Kerry, sensing my terror, puts us on a circle for lots of trotting. At this point, I’m feeling sorry for the other riders who have well-behaved horses and are patiently waiting for the actual XC schooling to begin. Trotting, trotting, trotting and we are calmer. Cantering small circles now and we are somewhat under control, not because he’s more relaxed, he’s just more tired. FINALLY we start over some logs. Trotting of course, let’s establish some steering and brakes before we unleash the you-are-going-to-get-run-off-with-cantering. He is still barely paying attention to me, which makes me very tense, and I’m so far in his mouth, I might as well forego the whole reigns business and just grab the bit with my hands. At one point Kerry says “just try and relax Julie, and I realize its just a small log, but at some point you are going to have to actually get in two-point.” Oops. Okay, deep breaths, I’ve been making a lot of progress lately and do actually, kinda sorta sometimes, know how to ride this horse. Cantering the logs is better, he’s still keyed up, but has a job now and is listening to me and forgiving me for my heavy hands and tense positioning. And poor timing. Let’s not forget the poor timing. Seriously, I’m giving this horse the worst ride of his life.
We graduate from the logs on the ground and practice over some more substantial cross-country jumps. The more we jump the better he gets and I start to relax slightly. Until Kerry has us do a drop. Oh for f*ck’s sake, I only just started breathing again and now you want us to do the obstacle I’m most terrified of? Another rider and her pony go first and proceed to launch off the bank superman style. Now, superman style requires more energy than Rocky is normally willing to put out, so I’m doubting we will follow suit. And he quietly hops down off the bank and I stay on. But I hate it. We do it twice more, and I still hate it. Of all the gravity and physics-defying feats advanced riders accomplish, staying on a horse down those massive drops is the one I find most mind-boggling. It is just so easy to get popped out of the saddle off a drop. How do they NOT end up on the horse’s neck every time??? Clearly we have some mental work to do here. Beginner Novice does not have any down banks, but Novice does. And Novice is a goal. Eventually. Drops are going to have to be mentally tackled and conquered.
On to the ditch. Rocky is not ditchy, I might be, but he isn’t, so I don’t have a lot of concerns about the ditch. Until I see it. This is not a friendly ditch. Its deep and wide. Superman pony supermans over this too. And then slides to a stop on the next three attempts, dumping her rider into the ditch on the third one (rider was fine). Okay, my big Training-level packer, we’re up. And we slide to a stop once, and twice. I think he decided if Superman pony ain’t having any of this ditch, then Ruckus ain’t having any either. I manage to keep my seat, and Kerry calls it quits on the un-friendly, now very scary, ditch.
Superman-pony-rider and I search out a friendly log to pop over to get our horses’ minds right after the unfortunate ditch experience. We trot to it, and Rocky RUNS OUT. I actually laugh. Seriously Ruckus? It’s a log. On the ground. Kerry yells at me to canter it and we do and its fine and our minds are adjusted, back into forward mode.
On to the water and a small course which ends with a not-so-small oxer. We do it twice, and its fine. Definitely not perfect, not even good, but fine. During this whole outing, I believe we had two, count them TWO jumps, where I wasn’t a completely incompetent nincompoop on horseback. We are last to finish our little course and the other riders have already started back up the hill to head to the trailer. And Ruckus is coming apart again. Normally I would just let him canter up to the other horses, but there are these ridiculously dangerous holes at the base of the hill, kinda everywhere, and I want him to walk through this holey unsafe area. He is having none of this walking business and we trot, in place for a bit, and then forward to the other horses. We reach the back end of the group and Ruckus agrees to walk, but is not done expressing his displeasure, and tries to buck me off on the walk back to the trailer. RUCKUS we are DONE now, just hold it together for TWO MORE minutes! The other riders stop and wait for us, as my orangutan has returned, and we are now lagging behind as I regain control.
FINALLY, we make it back to the trailer, in one piece, I might add. I pretty much rip off his tack, toss on his blanket and throw him on the trailer so he can calm the f*ck down and distract himself with hay. I’m back at my truck attempting to create some semblance of tack organization in my backseat and I step in horse poop. An appropriately shitty ending to my shitty riding performance.