I took one of my young clients cross county yesterday for the first time.
She’s only nine and not been riding that long but she’s progressed to cantering around a small course of jumps quite confidently, so I chose an easy pony for her and we started off in the arena, warming up for jumping so she had to ride circles and transitions to make sure her pony was listening to her and she could easily adjust him around the course. Once she’d done a some canter in cross country position we started using the showjumps that were left out from last weekends competition. The fences weren’t big, but she had to ride good lines between the jumps as they were some dog legs. A big focus for her was looking up for the next fence, which was really highlighted when she cantered a dog leg and wasn’t looking around her turn so ran out of room! She soon picked up after that and organised herself.
Once she’d ridden the course in canter, in a good rhythm and accurately, we retired to the shade of the woods to look at the mini cross country fences.
Whilst her pony caught his breath I asked her what she should be aware of when looking for logs or cross country fences. She walked around both sides of the little logs and we came to the conclusion that we need to make sure the ground on the approach is safe, and not too rutted. Then on the landing side we make sure there aren’t any surprises, such as a ditch or again a big rut. I moved a couple of stray twigs and then she trotted over the trio of logs.
Her approach was positive but not wholly central, which is she’d had a more awkward pony could have caused a run out, so I walked the line she needed to ride so she could visualise it. I asked her if she’d noticed anything about the approach and thankfully she had noticed a slightly boggy patch which had affected her pony’s trot. The logs are only a foot high, so there was no danger to anyone and the boggy patch was ever so slight. We then altered her approach to the first log so that she eliminated the need to touch the boggy patch.
After she’d cantered through the three logs, looking very secure and confident we had a look at the mini sunken road. I explained how to ride it; leaning back but letting the reins slip through the hand if necessary as you go down and then forwards through the sunken road and then leaning forwards and holding the mane to keep yourself forwards, as you jump out. This sunken road is less than a foot drop so quite a nice way of introducing up and down jumps. Unfortunately, her pony was reluctant. I think this was a combination of her being a bit worried and not having him going forwards enough and also we didn’t have the benefit of being able to watch or follow a more experienced rider through the sunken road. Eventually she managed to walk through the complex, and got the idea of leaning backwards and forwards. Then she trotted across the sunken road, which were two banks downhill then uphill so got her riding over terrain without having a big jump.
To finish, she cantered through the little sequence of logs backwards, and got a lovely rhythm and jump through the second two, which are a double.
I think she thoroughly enjoyed her introduction to cross country, and it gave her a lot to think about, as well as making a nice change for her pony.