After the first schooling weekend (to refresh your memory, see “Getting Schooled at Pine Hill”) I was so blissed out (and, let’s be honest, sore and exhausted) that I could barely concentrate on anything other than the afterglow of my first ever cross-country ride and how amazing and natural it felt to be out on the course. After this school, I feel a little more grounded in the reality of my abilities and excited about the learning opportunities ahead. Also, thankfully, I’m not nearly as sore as I was the first time! Hooray for fitness (that’s a post for another day.)!
This school was chock full of significant firsts for me, including a moment of hitherto unfamiliar self-doubt in the saddle (gasp!). But let’s start with the positive: my goal at the beginning of our outing was to take a few novice fences and to work on my position. It’s probably a good thing that I haven’t committed the levels and their attendant colored markings to memory yet because Lisa pointed me at a few training-level fences and sent me on my way. Novice schmovice, I say! When you ride the Spotted Schoolmaster, nothing’s too tall, too wide, or too deep. Well . . . almost nothing.
We started with the usual warm up: trot, canter, gallop, take a few low fences. Then we moved on to the water complex where I tackled my first drop, and first drop into water. Despite not feeling comfortable “driving from the backseat,” as they say, I didn’t feel phased by the “question” (I’m trying to adopt the eventing jargon, can you tell? Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?). Then I added the log pile to make it a combination, and sailed through! I’ll keep working on this driving from the backseat position, as well as my position in general. Taking so many unfamiliar jumps might have overshadowed any ability I had to focus on my position!
I was feeling pretty full of myself from the water complex, and I think Lisa was chuffed that the crew was game for anything. So, on we went to the double up-bank, which doubles as a double down-bank. (Did you get that?) I really thought the first down-bank would ride just like the drop into the water. But when Mickey took a second look, I got my first look, and it scared the brave right out of me. Wow, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that feeling in the saddle! But Lisa knew just how to handle it, and she got me right back to it and then right down. And then she made me do it again! Thanks, coach! I hope my facial expressions made it all worth your while!
On we went to take the double up-bank, which was really a piece of cake after that single down-bank. Then we jumped a narrow ditch (well, really, we just kinda cantered over it), and our group was done riding for the day. We watched the second group ride like the pros that they are and then loaded up for the return home. These cross-country adventures have been the highlights of my last few months of riding and I am so excited (and a bit chastened) about my future on-course.