My Mum and I took a trip down memory lane this weekend, and I was telling her about my first few cross country lessons. She`d never heard the full story so here it is.
I was ten or eleven and riding my 11.2hh loan pony. She was an ex riding school pony but because she was cold backed and quirky I had her. I think I had her after a period of lameness and they didn`t think she could cope with riding school life. She was of a very fine build too so it was easy to overload her. I loved her and had spent the winter riding a couple of times a week and now it was the spring term and I was old enough to go up to the yard with the girls after school. It was only my friend and I who were in primary school. The rest of the girls, about eight of them, were picked up by our riding instructor in her 4×4. One girl in the front, four in the back seat and three in the boot. I always thought it looked great fun! When I started secondary school I started off in the boot of the car too, but gradually worked my way up to the elusive front seat.
Anyway, we used to help with the lessons after school, and on Mondays my friend and I were allowed to ride with the older girls in their lesson. Their lesson was called Top Group, and they all rode big ponies/small horses and jumped very big. My friend and I started off on our little ponies and usually just did the flatwork or the little jumps. We felt very important though!
The lesson I`m thinking of at the moment took place in the large cross country field, and was one of the first times I`d been out there. I enjoyed warming up in the big space, somehow managing to get into the way of others, and then we lined up in the middle to do some jumping.
The little logs and tyres, uphills and downhills were easy, and I managed to navigate them acceptably, even cantering over the jumps, my legs going like windmills.
Then our instructor gave us a long course, which reached far out to the top end of the field and over the other side of the stream.
“Over the logs, straight on to the tyre, then over the ditch. Over the next tyres. Don`t do them” she added looking at me and my friend (it was probably the biggest I`d done) “over the pallets, down the stream to the right, up over the little cross on the other side and back through the stream and canter over the trough and up the hill to the top corner. Then you can walk back down here.”
Easy! We all thought. I watched the first one go. I always had difficulty getting my pony down the path to the stream. I think it was because I wasn`t sure of the route so had a good look at the floor which meant she did too. There were also so many different ways to the stream I never knew which rabbit path to follow.
Then it was my turn. Kicking into canter I went straight for the first jump, onto the tyre and then we scrambled over the ditch. I turned past the big tyres, and aimed straight for the pallets. As I neared I realised they were pretty big … But I kicked anyway and my little 11.2hh pony leapt her socks off. We made it. Unfortunately I fell off upon landing, and she cantered back to the ride without me. I got up and dusted myself down before doing the walk of shame back to everyone.
My instructor helped me back on board and said “I didn`t tell you not to do that one as it was bigger than the tyres and I thought you wouldn`t want to do that one!”
Truth be told, I hadn`t particularly wanted to do the big pallets but as it was part of the course and I hadn`t been excused I felt I had to give it a go. Hats off to my little pony as I don`t think she`d ever jumped that big in her entire life!