We began as we always do, with walking around on the flat, then a little trotting and cantering in a big circle to settle the horses and riders.
Once everyone was warmed up we began walking around the first log jump, letting each horse see it out of both eyes. I always start slowly like this to introduce cross country jumping as mellow trail riding with the occasional jump to go over. With this being Silver's first time schooling cross country jumping I wanted to make sure he thought it was super fun and not at all stressful.
After they had all seen the small first jump and walked around it, we then walked over it. It's about the size of a log on the trail you might have to walk over, so it was a great first obstacle.
After the horses had walked over it we approached it at the trot to help build everyone's confidence.
Silver was thoughtful about his first jumps, but seemed to enjoy them.
Rain really loves jumping, and she was so excited to have Gillian aboard who also love jumping. Rain felt her out during the warmup, and when she realized Gillian wasn't a beginner rider you could see something shift in Rain's face and she morphed into this super happy jumping machine. I also want to call attention to the fact that Rain was started under saddle at ten years old, and she is now twenty. She is sound, loves her job as a lesson horse, and takes amazing care of her riders when jumping. Rain knows when to pour it on and really enjoy herself over fences, as well as when to tone it down and take care of her rider. I'm so incredibly lucky to have her in my barn.
Beauty had a good time, too. She's done quite a bit of cross country jumping in riding lessons I've taught, but this was Alice's first time doing it with her. One of my favorite moments was when something clicked for Alice and she suddenly got the sensation of "landing in her feet" after a jump.
Silver caught on to the idea of what we were doing really quickly. He was calm, confident, and really tried hard. He doesn't have enough jumping experience to find his own distances to jumps yet, but as long as I told him where to take off he was easy to take over just about anything! We even schooled some novice level questions including a corner and the training level ditch.
This is the intro level corner, you can see the novice level corner just to the right of his nose.
And this is Silver jumping the novice level corner with no problems.
I love how introducing jumping carefully and slowly like I've done with Silver creates this confident jumper with amazing bascule and natural form over fences. Because I don't interfere, just stay out of this way and give him a verbal cue for when to take off he is careful and thinks it's super fun.
These are the two ditches Silver jumped. I let him walk around each of them both directions, and then asked him to trot over. He hopped right over with no hesitation, just listening for me to tell him how to do it. He then cantered up the hill like an old pro.
Because Silver is somewhat green having had minimal training off the track since he stopped racing a year and a half ago I had to do some rebalancing for him when going up and down hills. Racehorses have a tendency to get flat and fast, which works on a groomed racetrack. On varying terrain with lumpy footing however this will end with you and the horse plowing headfirst into the ground. I've taught Silver breathing halts, which means if I sit up and exhale audibly he will rock back on his haunches, slow down, and start to pick up his front feet better. He was a little confused when I first started asking for this while schooling, but figured out quickly that if he did it galloping on the hills became much easier. This is also how I teach my green horses to go cross country with just a simple snaffle bit, or no bit at all (Rain for example).
In between jumps and at the end of the ride Silver was just as relaxed as at home. He walked around on a loose rein and enjoyed watching his friends take turns over the jumps too.
We had such a fun time. We're looking forwards to another trip with the folks who weren't able to make it on this one! As always, big thanks to Kimberly Hale Photography for the amazing pictures.