Early Days

First XC Outing

This Sunday was Hemie’s 7th birthday! To celebrate he got extra carrots in his feed. But to be honest he worked really really hard on Sunday so he more than earned it.

I tacked up and longed, an especially forward longe given Saturday’s antics, then Laurie decided to hop on first. Fine by me. Kind of already answers my question from a few days ago about whether to start having training rides put on him. Answer is yes.

Hemie was a bit sassy. He got stuck several times, and was googly-eyed several times as well. Still feeling his oats, I believe. After getting stuck for like the 3rd or 4th time, I asked Laurie if she thought he was evading. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that he is not evading, as that term implies that the horse knows what to do and is being naughty. Rather, he is doing what he was taught. Racehorses are not asked to do a fast walk nor an extended trot. They slow walk, jig, trot for a little bit, then canter and gallop. IE, Hemie is interpreting cues to increase speed and motion as cues to upward transition. Okay, that makes sense. I was interpreting his frustration and confusion as naughtiness. Nope. I stand happily corrected.

Well by the time Laurie did her training ride, he was covered in sweat. We hosed him down (with saddle on >..<) for the 1/4 mile down the road to the Meadows. It was time for Hemie to meet nature – logs and ponds and hills and such.

Hemie was a little nervous at the new facility all by himself, but was a true gentleman and was very well behaved. We started off in the facility’s warm up arena, and I had a mini lesson there, including a small stadium jump. Here are my main takeways:

  • Do not combine the bending-right school with any other lessons, such as getting past googly-eyed things. Tight turns are okay. Make sure I can feel the bend in the body, not just a hip swing (which he is good at).
  • USE OUTSIDE REIN for turns. Outside, not inside. Square and straight = balance (for now).
  • When approaching jump, use DIRECT REIN. Do not “close the door” on the drifting side. Laurie would rather me turn him directly and have to jump sideways than see me “neck rein” for directing him. I learned this the other day but needed to learn it again, apparently. Sheesh, self!
Then we moved into the XC area. We went directly to the pond to teach him about water. Walking through the field to get there, he was definitely tense and googly-eyed. It was mildly entertaining that he thought the flowers and trees and solid jumps were all potential threats. Guess they don’t have much of those at the track!

I’m truly blessed to have a trainer with so much OTTB experience. I’ve read books and articles, but I really need her to tell me the same stuff in a lesson, when the actual ride is happening. Laurie has been emphasizing that he is a trained horse and that those jockeys and exercise riders do not tolerate shying or disobedience. Therefore, it is important that I keep that up – force him past those objects, just as a jockey would force him past a hot-dog vendor for the first time.

Okay, back to the water. There were swarms of bees and I was a tad nervous about getting stung (I’m allergic), but more concerned about Hemie getting stung (he hates bugs), but luckily we avoided any pest trouble. Hemie was a tad nervous, but he never got light up front and with a helping hand from Laurie and a “lead in” from her dog Zen, Hemie was soon tromping around like a pro. In fact, after a minute or so, he even liked it!

We were feeling quite accomplished for the day, but one of the owners of the Meadows reminded us that we could school stadium jumps that are out in the field. We picked a tiny little one with wooden slats so it looked a little more cross-country-ish than the standard white jumps. Unfortunately Hemie was getting nervous and trying to exit stage right. We worked on it for a bit, but there were some younger gals riding and we were kinda disrupting their flow, so Laurie just had us pick a different jump out of their way. Actually, it was a small little log, so it was technically a cross country jump. =D

We had to jump it from a walk the first time, then he tried to exit stage right again (towards home). My instinct was to try to keep in straight, but Laurie told me to turn him LEFT. She stressed that when he wants to go one way, I need to tell him to go the exact *other* way instead of trying to keep to my original course. Must keep in back pocket for future use.

We circled back and did the log 2 or 3 times at the trot. =) I’m counting it as our first cross country jump. Hooray for us!

Hemie had Monday off but I’m gonna go see him tonight, then a lesson tomorrow. 

1 comment on “First XC Outing

  1. Sounds like so much fun!!!!!!!


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