Rocking Horse Winter 1 – Cross Country

I did XC about half an hour after stadium, but it needed it’s own post because – good news – I have so much freakin media!

Well ok, I have no video. But I do have XC course walk photos and I bought the All Images package from Xpress Foto, and they got TONS. So ya know. Win.

First: the course.

We hadn’t seen any of this before, of course. When we were here in December we ran the Novice, so aside from passing through the water complex, all of this was new… even the start box was in a new place.

I took pics of all the jumps but these below are a mix of mine and ones from Jana Lyle Ellerbusch in the XC Course Walks group on Facebook… hers were generally a lot better than mine.

The only one missing is the last jump, which was a simple coop shared with Modified.

1 and 2 were both running right beside the trailer parking, so honestly this was my main point of concern. If he’s going to get nappy or distracted it would be there.

2 and 3 were both simple jumps, getting into the flow. 4 was a flag table, not too big or wide, with a pretty quick right hand turn to the first combo at 5AB, two ramps set on an angle with four strides between them. You had to make sure not to come in too hot to the flag table lest you miss your line for the ramps.

6 was another gallopy jump (this one is one of my favorites, it’s big and wide but the profile is so friendly), and then you were at the next combo at 7AB. It’s really hard to tell in the photos, but the ground did a little roller coaster thing in between these two. You went up a bit of a mound to 7, then down a bit, then up a bit, and then downhill to the sharks tooth at B. Nothing crazy, but you had to ride it almost like a coffin so they had time to figure out the terrain in between. 8 was a big open MIM oxer, with a quick 90 degree right hand turn to the water. The “in” was pretty friendly, a small rolltop a couple strides before the water, and then directly out of the water there was a big hanging log.

After that was another table with a long gallop out to the crater at 11 and 12. We had a mushroom table, down into the crater, back up the steep edge, and then a brush skinny a couple strides out of the edge. Presto hadn’t yet seen a brush skinny, so that one could be interesting.

Then it was a wide brushy steeplechase fence at 13, straight ahead to a half coffin at 14AB. The ditch was a stride before the jump, and the jump was set on an angle to the ditch. Cool question, I liked it. After that you hung a right to another brushy gallop fence at 15, over to 16AB. This was a ramp, swing a left around a tree, to a corner. You also went from light to dark here, so it was important to get their eye on the corner ASAP and ride positively up to it.

From there it was a relatively easy gallop home over a coop, then another skinny brush, and a little house at the last.

So how did it ride? Let us begin mediapalooza. For some of the jumps I have a photo series, so I made GIFs for those. It’s sort of like video right?

first jump, away we go!

By some strange miracle, when I got down to XC warmup there was literally no one there. It was crickets. SJ had been running a good 20 minutes behind so I think it just kind of became XC ride time mayhem. Which kinda seemed to work better, since they were just sending people out as they were ready. I cantered a couple laps each way, making sure I could go forward and back, then popped him over a little coop, then a bigger coop on an angle, then a bigger log oxer. Presto was feeling keen and ready to go, so I trotted over to the start box. They asked me what countdown I wanted and I asked for 10 seconds… the less we dwell, the better. I also think for this horse the way we leave the box is important, so I kept him on contact in a marching walk, bending him left and right to keep his attention. At 3 seconds I pointed him through the opening on the side and by “have a great ride” we were cantering out, keeping Presto’s mind on the business.

I also have noticed that if he’s going to try to spin, it’s almost always through his left shoulder. So I made sure to come out with my whip in my left hand and with a bit of a left bend to make sure that shoulder stayed on track. No worries though, he was all business. We popped over one and I asked him immediately to go a bit more forward and keep his attention off to the left towards the course rather than gawking at all the trailer parking on the right. Presto was very much Game On though, no problems at all. We hopped over the bench at 2, the green rolltop at the 3, and then made the turn to the first real question on course, the flag table to the angled ramps.

I made sure to get him straight to the flag and try to get him deeper to the base… if you took a flyer there or came in too hot you’d have a hard time making the right turn to the ramps without ending up way off your line.

We landed, half-halted, and I turned him right and I could kind of feel him going “huh” and when he saw the ramps “oh wow more?”. Things come up faster and closer at Training than they did at Novice. To his credit his response to things like that is “NEAT, LET’S DO IT” not “oh geez that’s a lot”… he’s super keen.

In over the first angled ramp

you can see me already whoaing lol

And out over the second. This 4 stride rode tight for us.

After that it was a little ways to the triple step bench thingy, which he jumped freaking amazing. Right out of stride, shoulder up, all I had to do was shift my own shoulders like 6 strides out and he did the same… like a real boy. He’s already figured out so much since we ran the Novice here a couple months ago. He got a Good Boy and a pat for that one.

Then it was the little roller coaster at 7AB, which I’d heard had been riding a bit spooky. Because of that I rode a little bit strong into that one, which ended up not being necessary, and made the line a little bit tight getting out. I dunno what some of the other horses were seeing there, but Presto was not bothered.

Things came up pretty rapid fire at his point. We swung around to the big MIM oxer at 8, which I have different views of.

That thing looked big in person, I’m annoyed it looks so small in photos. Also note the newer yellow MIM clips which break more easily than the original red ones. I do love seeing all the frangible fence technology out here in Florida.

From there we had a quick right turn to the water, which had a very friendly rolltop in, but that hanging log out had also been causing some problems. It was pretty big and spooky and right up on the berm edge of the water, so it definitely was requiring some gritty riding from a lot of folks. I was one of them. Not because Presto was bothered by it, but because this big dingdong sometimes just can’t resist a good cannonball into the edge of the water.

sir, can we not

He didn’t do that at the December POP show and I foolishly thought that maybe now at Training we’d given him enough to think about to where he would no longer feel the need to add his own flair. Incorrect. What he didn’t realize here was that there was a jump OUT, and it’s only a few strides across the water. He landed 1/3 of the way through the water, way to the right of our jump out. I had to do a major course adjustment while he was out there like DERRRRR WAAATERRR IS FUUUHHHNNN.

Me: the most concerned. Presto: the least concerned.

We ended up trantering out over the log on an angle, at which point he was like “Oh… whoops… didn’t know that was there… perhaps I made an error…”. To his credit, if I can get him pointed remotely in the right direction, he’s game to jump it. On the other hand COULD WE STOP INVENTING MORE JUMPS THAT DON’T ACTUALLY EXIST.

I think the polite word for this was “scrappy”

He did get a big ol Good Boy and a pat for jumping out, because I think there are plenty of horses that wouldn’t have. But he also got booted back out in front of my leg and told to knock off the Fuckery.

We had a decently long gallop stretch after that, with one table along the way between the water and the crater. That one also came up nicely out of stride.


At the crater I knew my priority would be to make sure he saw the brush as soon as possible, and to make sure he stayed straight. Jumping into the crater just looked like a sea of flags. He immediately locked on to the double up banks (which I appreciate your gusto kiddo, but those aren’t ours) and I really had to dig in to get him turned to the left and up out of the crater. He saw the wedge and wobbled from the line a bit, not understanding that it was his jump, but when I dug in and went THAT ONE he was like “Ooooohhhhhhh… never seen one of these before but sure!” and popped over it. We were crooked and deep, but he was genuine, so I was proud of him for that. Another big pat and a Good Boy.

he still has a “no touchie the brushy” policy

From there was the line from the steeplechase fence to the half coffin, which rode very easy, he popped right over that like it was a baby gymnastic. Then we had the turn back to the other brush fence, which he also jumped really well out of stride, and a long gallop to the corner combo. There I switched my whip to my right hand, in preparation for what was coming at 16AB with the left turn in the shadows.

I jumped in a little bit quieter at A to make sure we had a good turn back to the corner at B, and he was super game. Easy through that line.

From there we had another gallop stretch, and I asked him to gallop on a bit more. By this point he was kinda like “whew this is longer and faster than usual isn’t it?” I’m no expert but perhaps if we didn’t leap into the water like a drunken orangutan we’d have a little more wind left? Just saying.

Pretty sure this is the exact moment when I patted him and said “I know kiddo, just a few more, you’re doing great!”

He hopped over the coop at 17 easily, and then at 18 I was interested to see if he’d learned anything from the other brush wedge at 12. Indeed he did, because he locked onto this one immediately and stayed straight on the line. No question mark in his mind that time. Smart boy.

It was an easy gallop over the last, and a clear round at his first recognized Training! Was it a perfect round? Definitely not. There were a couple gritty moments. But I was super proud of his willingness and how genuine he is – there’s not a “no” in him, it’s just a matter of learning and getting the experience and getting him to stay focused.

I hadn’t put my watch on and we ended up a little slow, with 4 time penalties. It’s about time I step on the gas a bit more, and we need to up his conditioning a bit too. At every show we both learn things, and that’s what it’s all about at this stage. The time penalties dropped us down to 7th, which still got a pretty purple ribbon.

he was not impressed

While I don’t think that I was riding very well at this show, what I did like a lot was that Presto really wasn’t even remotely bothered by it. He knows the game by now, and he loves it, and at this point it’s still very easy for him. He doesn’t take things personally or get upset by mistakes. Once he’s got more miles under his girth I think he’s going to be so freaking cool. Also he’s still so unimpressed by anything at this level and just loping right over – there’s a lot more in the tank. That’s pretty exciting. He’s so freakin fun, y’all.

13 thoughts on “Rocking Horse Winter 1 – Cross Country

  1. OMG his face at the water – hahahahaha!!! (I cackle gleefully with him in full awareness that I’m not the one in the irons having to manage the monkey in there :D) I’d love to know what you thought of the new bit, and how you thought he went? You both look fabulous, and the constant thought I had looking at all the media is “wow, this horse really loves his job.” You’ve done such a wonderful job with him, it really, really shows in his expression!

    Liked by 1 person

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