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We Are Flying Solo

October 24, 2010

Cross Country With Becky OR Why You Should Never Take A Jump For Granted

Cross country day promised to be many things.  Solo & I didn't run till after lunch, so that meant I got to spend all morning watching the Training & Prelim folks go (which means I got to spy on them to see what I'd have to force my aching legs to do).  So I limped up the long sandy path from the stabling which led through the woods & around the field to the steeplechase area.  As the group moved on to the cross country course, I quickly discerned my goal for the day:

WANT TO JUMP THIS! (double stairstep bank that Jammie & Rocky demonstrate effortlessly)

Like, want so bad I can't stand still.  Want so bad that I tell everyone around me how much I want it.  Want so bad I work myself up into a frenzy of want.

Note to you non-eventers out there: this is one of the classic signs of a terminal case of eventing fever. The twitching, the frothing of the mouth, the hopping motions all indicate an incurable eventer who has spied a new obstacle to attempt. Do not try & stop her, it is pointless to intercede. Just stay out of the range of any limbs that may be thrashing with excitement, I wouldn't want you to get hurt.

Moving on...

(It's going to be a long story, but if you stick with it, I promise great entertainment.)

At one o'clock, I head up the path again, only this time on my horse. One member of our group has never really schooled cross country; I caution her that once she gallops through that water at the end, she will no longer be able to think about anything else for the rest of her riding days.

To begin, Becky wants us all to gallop the steeplechase loop sans jumps so she can watch our galloping position & our gallop rhythm. Solo is more than happy to oblige with the galloping through a field bit, but I have to remind him about every 0.2 seconds about the rhythm bit. I choose to ignore the burn of my thighs, what do thigh muscles know about what is important anyway?

After our circuit, Becky offers effusive praise for our rhythm & position & my ego shoots up about 25 points. Which is probably about 30 points higher than it should be.

"Okay," she says, "Now do the circuit again, but include the small steeplechase jump."

This jump is maybe a 2' or 2'3" wooden coop with fake plastic sticky "brush" coming out of the top. No problem, a simple fly jump. Solo's already sniffed the brush anyway.

I gallop off with a smug little smile, thinking, We're so awesome. My horse is awesome. I am awesome. Everyone is going to watch us do this jump so easily & they will wish that they were us!


We roll around the turn & I put my eye on the jump. I half halt, balance my horse, & casually gallop up to it. I'm so busy thinking about how easy it all is, I only barely notice Solo's front feet tap the ground for takeoff & I lean forward for his jump.

Only there is no jump.

The next thing I know, I have cartwheeled over Solo's head as he ducked & spun to the right as he is wailing, "OMG, HORSE SPEARING STICKS OF HORRIBLE DOOM!!!!" I am flat on my back on top of the jump with a hearty whack & I think, Cool, this vest is awesome, I can't feel a thing! Then I slither backwards & land conk! on the nice baked clay on top of my head (that helmet's pretty sweet, too).  Finally, I am sitting on the ground with a bridle in one hand (I always wondered how people did that) & a fly bonnet in the other. Damn, I wish there were pictures.  Oh besides that one on the right.  Yeah, that's what I totally looked like.

I look to the right & I see a shiny chestnut butt & tail hightailing it into the woods back to the stabling. I think I can hear a distinctly equine snicker.

I look to the left & I see Becky walking towards me. "Well," I say, "that was unexpected."

"Now do you understand why we emphasize staying back before the jump?" she admonishes.

"Yes, ma'am, yes I do!"

Unfortunately, now I must do the Walk of Shame with bridle in hand to fetch my very naughty horse. It's a long way to stabling (remember that sandy path I mentioned), so they are kind enough to give me a Gator ride. A few minutes later, Solo ambles up to me as I exit the Gator with pricked ears. Hey, mom, whatchyou been up to? I just had a great gallop!

I resist the urge to call him a very nasty name. Or at least I resist saying it out loud.

He has a bloody mouth & it appears he has either bitten his tongue or hit his nose on the jump.

I don't feel very sorry for him right now.

The bloodflow has stopped though & he cheerily accepts the bit, so I swing back up & we trot down the path (again) to rejoin our group.

With my ego thoroughly deflated back down to proper levels, we gear up to have at it again.  We must do the little jump & we are given our choice whether or not to do the Big Kids' jump.  This time, I am sitting on the back of my saddle & my legs are well-wrapped in place.

And the shiny bastard refuses it, clearly terrified that the plastic sticks will stretch up & grab his little wussy hooves in mid-air. I am ready this time though & we whip around with a snarl.

Now I am seated approximately on Solo's tail & the spurs are fully engaged. There is no option; he WILL go over or go through, these are his choices. Wisely, he opts for the former with all the grace & beauty of an orange goat.

And damn straight, we are DOING the Big Kids' jump!!  Solo considers & finds this aligns with his best interests.

And after that...things went smooth as warm butter.  I most certainly did NOT get ahead of my horse (funny how I had zero further temptation to lean forwards) & Solo took everything as old hat (it's amazing what proper riding can do).

As we work the bank complex, I hear Becky telling our newly-converted classmate to watch how we go up the bank because "she's riding great now."  Ha.  Ok, that was pretty funny... 

Oh yeah, & that second picture? That's us going up the DOUBLE BANK. WAHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The Red Machine gets a well-earned drink after we finish at the water complex.
As always, we ride back to the stable with a big stupid grin on our faces (well, at least mine).  Oh, & our classmate whom I warned about the habit-forming properties of cross country?  Yeah, she can't wipe that shit-eating smile off her face, I'm afraid her cheeks will pop.  We have a new convert!

The Wisdom Of Becky With Respect To The Ego-Maintenance Tool That Is Solo:

-STAY BACK when jumping at speed.  Sit down on his tail & push him forward with your seat & leg, especially at slower gaits. Stay very strong in your core & don't let the horse pull you forward & compromise your position.

-If you keep your position, when that stutter step in front of the fence happens (you know which one I mean), you just wait & let him jump up in front of you.

-When galloping, put your hands down on his withers & keep them quiet until you need to make a correction; don't carry them up.

And I must add a huge thanks to Morgan, for all the pictures!! She worked hard all weekend to get some shots of everyone enjoying this fantastic opportunity & we are so grateful for it. Great job, kiddo, & thanks again!


  1. I know EXACTLY what you're talking about with regards to the frothing and jumping bit. That's what I have been doing for ages about the Training trakehner at Inavale...I will not be complete until I've jumped that fence. Mmmm. I was so excited when they put a little Novice trakehner on the course this year :)

    And I feel so bad for you for your fall but that was a great description! He looks fantastic flying over that big one once he got his head in the game, though.

  2. I haven't done cross country for many years - maybe 40 or so! But your descriptions brought the feelings back again. Sounds like fun (except for the hitting the jump part - those vests must be nice) and the lessons were good ones.

  3. You guys look awesome in the pictures! And I've got the bug all over again!

  4. I think it should be mandatory for all beginner eventers to do a cross country course with you.... There would be no chance of anyone ever thinking about doing another discipline as your enthusiasm is infectious!

  5. Oo, mm, I had trakehner fever too (mixed with not a little terror) but I got satisfy that beast earlier this year since Carolina Horse Park has one on their Novice course.

    Thanks, Katie and Amanda!

    Hahahha, molly, I can't help it, it's so dang awesome!!

  6. great pictures -- and I now know the vest was worth every single penny! Good thing I don't ever have to worry about you NOT wearing your helmet.... I can feel the gray hairs sprouting.... but, I also know that you are doing something you truely love -- living my dream, girl....