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.

XC Schooling x2

Since Area III Champs I have gone XC schooling at Chatt Hills twice and blogged about neither. Both times we’ve gone LT has stated that the goal for me is to “continue being confident” but truthfully, the real goal was to jump bigger and better. She’s sneaky like that.

But, I was successful at both goals during both sessions. Not only did I jump confidently and strongly, I also tackled some bigger questions. The big success for me was jumping my first corner. It wasn’t the fact that it was a corner that was bothering me, it was the fact that it had been the C element in the championship training course just a week before.

Gus of course thought it was no big deal. I’ve got to remember that I have a different horse under me than I did at the beginning of the season. He’s not confirmed by any means but he’s confident now and he loves his job. Still cautious but more than willing to work with me now.

After jumping all the novice fences and even a few small training questions successfully, I was feeling a lot better about this whole XC thing. My goal is to move up to novice soon and this first XC session went a long way to making me feel like that wasn’t a stupid idea. The only thing I was still worried about were down banks.

Every time we have gone out XC schooling, we have gone down banks. Every time we have gone XC schooling, Gus has balked at going down the banks. This first time schooling after Area III champs though was the worst I’ve ever ridden. He hit the breaks hard and it was a battle to keep the leg on an wait on the edge for an explosion. It came, eventually, and we went back around to keep schooling it until we weren’t stopping at least. It was never pretty though.

So I was a little worried when LT has us go up and down a bank complex without doing the down first. But I put my leg on and Gus quietly slid down the bank. And then we did it at the trot and he quietly slid down the bank. Then we cantered it and he quietly slid down the bank. Miracle!

It feels a lot better to slide down then it does to jump off the bank…


XC Schooling at Ashland Farms 10.8.16

I almost started this post by saying that this was the first time I had been able to take Gus for a real XC schooling with coaching. But then I remembered we have done that before with Stephen Bradley. Oops! This is the first time with New Trainer though, so that counts. Right?


The story of how we actually ended up at Ashland is kind of funny. We were supposed to go to Poplar to school which would have been perfect since I have a schooling voucher from when our XC was rained out. Then New Trainer found out that Poplar had already put away a bunch of their jumps and since the whole point of this was for her to school her 1* horse, she came up with a new plan: Aiken. I was not really looking forward to the drive up to Aiken so I wasn’t too upset when Hurricane Matthew came and ruined those plans too. Finally, we decided to go to Ashland, which is local and has smaller versions of a lot of questions. It may not have been what she needed originally but it would be great for the green beans.


We ended up being out schooling for almost three hours, way longer than we realized. While Gus and I both started with a ton of extra energy, by the end, it was a push for both of us to get over the fences and we called it a day before I started getting refusals from anything other than my bad riding.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.


The water was no issue. Gus used to be terrible about going through water but I have always made it a non issue but also have not allowed a no. Going forward and through the water means the pressure comes off but going backwards means I put the pressure on. This was a pain at first, but now I have a good boy with the water.


Most of what we did with the water was going through and then riding to a fence a few strides out.


We even did a bank into the water!


The down banks were where we really struggled. Gus did not like them and it took us several times over the baby bank for him to get the idea of sliding down. Eventually we moved to the bigger BN/N bank and thankfully Gus was very willing though still not happy. I’m going to have to go back and do a lot of practice on my down banks.


Thankfully the up banks were no problem for Gus. Me on the other hand… yeah, we need to work on that.


The question I was most worried about were the ditches. I have never ever done a ditch. Never. I mean, I walked over the faux ditch at Foxberry but that is not the same as doing a real ditch. New Trainer walked us through how it should be and got us walking over the baby ditches. Before long, Gus and I were both going over them like they were no big deal. As long as I keep my eyes up and shoulders back, we should be able to conquer these ditches.


When we were over working on ditches, New Trainer had us do a small series of fences. We came in over a ditch, turned right to a small hanging log, back around to a coop, and then over a trakehner that was in the shadows.


We had no issue with the ditch, or the small log but when we came around to the coop it was HUGE. Hard to tell in the pictures but that was actually probably a novice level coop. I sat up put my legs on and said we are going over. We did. It was awesome.


Then we came to the trakehner. Gus was having trouble reading the question and was generally unsure because, again, it was big! He started hesitating a few strides out and I put my legs on. He paused at the base of the jump and I dug my spurs in. Gus lunged over the fence. But we did it. And then we did it again.


I’m really proud of some of the things we accomplished at this schooling. There were definitely some hard questions for us and there were some fences that really scared me. I tried to ride boldly to every fence and I think that helped both of us. I have a lot of technique issues to work out but those will come with time and more experience.


The plan is to go to the Chatt Hills schooling show in November. I need to see if I can get enough of my act together to make that worthwhile. What with all the house renovations Gus has sadly taken the back seat. Hopefully though that will change soon!