Hamish got to go on Saturday! He loves to go. He stands by the gate and looks at me when I go with someone else so I gave in and gave him the chance to plod up the ramp into the trailer. We went to school at Olde Hope Farms in Earleville, MD. at the farm of my friend Jane. She has about a hundred jumps set out in her fields and the footing was extra super spectacular!
I went by myself, which is not exactly the correct thing to do, but I am trying to get Hamish to have confidence in me and in going away from others, then coming back. There were a few horses there (I was kind of late, to avoid the heat of the day). I started by walking down the drive, getting my stuff (pinney, release form, etc.) and then mounting from the bench by the stable. We walked to the back field, the elementary side first, and took a look at the tipi — no prob, said Hamie — and watched some ponies trotting up and back of the elementary field. I hacked around the elementary stadium while they worked, then went and hacked around the little elementary fences first. This was trot a log, trot a little coop, trot a little fence, another little fence, trot up the hill, stop and wave at the man in the red truck on the driveway, trot down the hill, trot a little panel, trot a little baby bank. Up. Then down. Then up and down. Then a bit bigger bank, up, then down. Then a circle and down the bigger side. Hamish down with all that.
He was giving everything at first a good look, and looking at jumps on both sides, and jumps we passed by, then when we finished the elementary hop-overs, he started to think a bit more about what was directly in front rather than over there, and over here. Good — starting to focus on the job in front of his nose, an excellent result.
We hacked over to the big field side, watching the group just in front of us. I started on the warm-up side of the field, finding and choosing small, dark, or wider fences, about five or six jumped from the trot; I also worked a figure 8 over the “first” fence, a set of three logs in a semi-circle traditionally Jane starts courses over. I found a red coop and a couple of downhill things. Now it was time to move up to canter, and canter down a hill, and up a hill. Then I added a panel jump on the uphill side, off a turn, to naturally ask him to balance back using the turn and the uphill slope to compress the stride a little. We went over to the ditch – got a look there but did not feel as though we were saying “no”, and he hopped it back and forth, and then did the black pipe back and forth.
We stayed up on that hill jumping at canter, up and down and got over a few bigger, Novice sized houses and coops. Increasing the canter in volume, to more of a gallop once or twice. Down the hill and to the water jump. There was only a bit of a puddle at the end of the water jump but I jumped in and out of the sides with the water, he took a look at the water under his feet but was obedient.
Next, I jumped some of the beginner novice and novice stuff on the top corner, moving with the other group to the area around the water jump and the bigger coops near the driveway. I jumped most of these from a canter, and we had mixed success compacting the stride — Hamish is learning to “pat” the ground in front of jumps but likes to just take the long one instead of pushing underneath for the short one. I am working on ALWAYS wanting the short stride. He requires riding with an eye right now but I am hopeful that he picks up the concept with continual practice. Phillip Dutton calls this, “letting the fence be the bit”, and it is a safe, smart and considerate way to train a cross-country horse.
In all I believe we worked over maybe 30 fences, which was my goal, and rode over an hour. We had a fabulous time, the footing was super. He got new boots, the Dalmar Event boots, for the front legs, and they worked great. Gave him a good bath back at the trailer and he ate the super duper grass up in the parking lot for a while and then we left for home. Got home in the dark but it was a lovely school. I forgot to give him his peppermints at the trailer but I think he was enjoying the grass a lot and probably didn’t miss them.
Jane ran the schooling to benefit the American Cancer Society and all the funds will be donated to help research ways to beat cancer. The driveway had a ton of signs about cancer, and she set up a walking path for cancer for those who wanted to walk circles in the grass. She gave us all neck ribbons and added special colored swatches for the cancers — the color code is at her Facebook Page for Olde Hope Farms — I rode for uterine cancer (my aunt died from this, and Jane recently survived a bout with this), breast cancer (which runs in my father’s family) and thyroid cancer (my mother has a thyroid condition and Hamish’s mommy also has had thyroid concerns). It was a lovely tribute.
Hamish throughout was exemplary and well behaved and it is long past time I enter him in a horse trial and get on with his schooling and it was done. He’ll be in Intro Horse on Friday for the Friday night schooling horse trial at Olde Hope. Wish us luck! (whoops – I have to memorize a dressage test!)