The first time I went down a bank it was on my first horse, Sheena. I had trailered in to a friend’s barn to go trail riding. Instead, being young and stupid, we went to play on their XC course without permission. (I know. I know.) They had a bank complex and Sheena, who was not willing over anything higher than 2’6, dropped down a huge training bank with no questions.
The second time I rode a bank it was with Dandy. It was his first XC school and I wasn’t just asking him to go down his first bank, I asked him to go don’t his first bank into water (granted, a small bank). Dandy was a very brave horse but he went cautiously down the bank his first time. Dipping his foot in cautiously which led to one of my favorite pictures.
So when I started working with Gus, I didn’t give a second thought to going down banks. I had had two horses who didn’t think twice about it, why would Gus? Oh but Gus did think twice and thrice and even a fourth time about going down banks.
We would school it one weekend and be fine but the next time we saw a down bank it would be like he had never seen it before, even if it was the exact same bank. So I think it’s a little understandable that I started developing a complex about them. I just didn’t know what I was going to get at any one time.
Then at our XC schooling before Full Gallop we came across a small bank complex. While getting Gus to move out of the way I asked him to step down the most baby of baby banks there ever was. It was basically a pole with an extra two inches on one side. He balked. And continued to do so until we got a lead over with another horse.
What. The. Hell.
So we schooled it. Over and over again. Moving up to the next size as Gus got more confident and was willing to go down at a trot and then at a canter. And I got schooled too for not leaning far enough back and not keeping my legs on. All very fair criticisms but I was just more frustrated at Gus more than anything. Why do we constantly have to redo this? We have no problems going up banks. (Or, at least, Gus has no problems, I’m a mess and can’t coordinate myself, but he takes care of me.) But with down banks I feel like we start over at stage one every single time. It’s frustrating and it certainly puts a dent in my confidence.
At least when Gus does get to the going down part he at least jumps down nicely instead of launching himself. Small victories?
Eventually we were going down the Novice size bank and LT moved everyone over to do a Novice size Training Question: downhill to a brush fence and then three strides to a down bank. She told me I didn’t have to do it unless I wanted to and I did not want to, did I? I mean it looked kind of fun but it was a down bank after a downhill jump. Oh, what the heck, I told myself. Worst case scenario is that he stops again.
But he didn’t! Because I actually rode the fences Gus quietly hopped over and then down for me.
I was pretty pleased with myself. We can ride banks! At least for now.