The Ginger Wonder Horse and I have a list of things that set us into a mad panic. The type of panic that makes the hands sweat, the tummy explode with butterflies and flight mode goes into over-drive. That type of panic. Actually, aside from the Ginger being an extremely good alien spotter, the nerves are entirely my own. The Ginger's first priority is food. Always.
As we are progressing on our Wobbleberry Challenge, the owner decided it was time to cross country school at Keysoe Equestrian Center as one day soon, I will have to ride a cross country course in a competition. Oh my nerves.
A trip to the school requires a trip in the lorry. This means loading horses. I am claustrophobic. This means more panic.
The General( wanna-be boss) + the Ginger( the actual boss) were our equine companions for the day. The General is a class eventer also loves his job and is very good at it, even at the age of 18( hope for us all!) He and the Ginger are old buddies which made me feel better about travelling.
I have zero experience with loading horses. Not only is this my first time loading, there is also my first time taking a horse to a schooling session and my first trip on a big lorry. I took calmers and didn't drink coffee before I left the house. I'm not kidding.
I have learned in previous loading clinics that you have to load like you mean it. I marched up that ramp like I was marching for Britian keeping a calm demeanor outwardly while inwardly freaking out. Frog is a superstar and didn't even blink. I think he may have even yawned.
As we pulled in, my butterflies went into over-drive. Oh god, it's happening.
In our warm-up I held back, not putting enough leg on nor not getting Frog engaged. If I'm totally honest, I was so nervous as I've never been schooling for cross country. My experience with these type of jumps have been on hunts where you close your eyes, pray like hell, keep your legs on either side of the horse and hope you and your mount are still standing at the end of the day.
The reality sunk in, this is it. This is cross country training, this is real. Those are the jumps you will face. You are an eventer now. This ensued a little conversation with myself that went something like this.
Don't be an ass. Ride exactly as you would at home. Settle, exhale. Go. Move on. He's done this before. Be the leader. You won't die so settle the fuck down. Leg on. Work every stride. WORK EVERY STRIDE. Better. Nice. More. Ahhhhh.
In no time, the owner, now officially in trainer mode had us popping over the jumps.
Insert more freaking out here.
The trainer does something which is quite helpful. She says "Head over that piddly jump, then that other piddly little jump and that tinky little thing there. " Otherwise according to my brain, they are all are Burghley size.
As we got going around and popping over some piddly jumps, I realised something very important.
The Ginger has some power.
Like the type of power that where the words 'holy shit' arise. We started to sail around the course getting faster and faster which was both exhilarating and completely scary. The trainer did not hold back or introduce this to me gently. She wasted no time showing me what I would encounter on an actual course from the water element, the ledges going both up and down and the ditches. I'm not a fan of ditches and the Ginger is suspect of them too.
The Ginger however, was a champ taking a lead off the General until he decided enough was enough. He was the actual leader and must demonstrate as such. Then the trainer had us taking jumps in combos and I was thinking 'I can handle this, this is kinda fun'. 'Progressing nicely', I thought, 'way to go!' down through the water 'easy' and up the ledge. 'Fine, no problems'. Back down the ledge, canter through the water element and over the tire jump
THEN HOLY SHIT, YEE-HAW!!!! WAS THAT A BUCK AND ANOTHER? AND A RUN AWAY RIGHT TO THE ACTUALLY C*3 SIZE JUMPS AND WOULD YOU FRIGGIN STOP?!?!?! AND ARE YOU REARING NOW WITH EXCITEMENT? OH LORDY.
We stopped. We exhaled, me particularly. We walked back to the Trainer whom I'm pretty sure was delighted that I a) didn't come off and b) didn't crash into the dressage competitions. Once she saw we( me) calm-er she had us DO IT AGAIN. And so we did and it was brilliant. The owner can't remember the last time the Ginger had been out schooling so his excitement was to be expected. I was excited because I felt like I was evolving into an actual eventer rider. I didn't panic like I normally would have and I wanted to do more! This was huge for me.
I came away from this experience with even more trust in the Ginger; he may be strong but he is also respectful. He goes from Yee-haw to Yawn within seconds. This is the greatest confidence booster a wobbleberry can have; he looks after me too.
We crossed quite a few things off the nervy bucket list and I left feeling quietly accomplished. The whole experience was super and I look forward to more trips out getting closer to achieving eventing success raising money in the Wobbleberry Challenge for Willberry Wonder Pony!