Last Saturday, Hannah and I took the boys to Scarlet Hill for another cross-country school. We got there a bit late - my fault, I had an hour in my head as the travel time and it was closer to an hour and fifteen - but tacked up quickly and were over and warming up by ten minutes after our start time.
We shared our lesson with a woman on a big, powerful, brave Dutch mare that looked like a tricky ride - very eager! Not my kind of ride, I think, but clearly quite athletic. She and I ended up doing many similar patterns and courses.
Tris and I followed up on our work from the last school: land and go, and work on setting a pace between the fences that would help us to build confidence, jump fences out of stride, and maybe not get overtaken at our next event. After some of our galloping practice in the back fields at home, I was feeling more confident about pushing him for more speed.
We started with a few big loops of straightforward soft BN fences, and I urged Tris forward after every landing. He felt great right off the bat - clicking in with me, going when I asked him to. We had one squirrely moment at our second fence of the first course, a fairly straightforward coop. It wasn't anything to do with him looking - it was just my lack of focus on the center of the jump. Once I locked in, he did too, and jumped it just fine. D. suggested that for the first few fences on course, I actually sit back down and bring him back earlier than I would otherwise - as many as ten strides out instead of five or six - just to make sure I had his attention.
Really, I was thrilled with him the whole day. The only rough spot was when we did some slightly more technical work, slicing some fences and then coming back to do them as an in-and-out. We're not great at related distances anyway; Tris has a shorter stride, especially when I haven't really gotten him forward. Our first run through gave us an awkward 3.5 stride with a launched takeoff in what should have been two. We resettled and sliced a few more times, and then were tasked to run it again, then turn left and go up a decently steep hill and jump a BN house fence at the top.
This time, we did it in a nice smooth 3 strides, and I really pushed him up the hill. He dug in for an extra gear and got to the top of the hill chuffing and excited, and once I found the fence, he shot right toward it and jumped it in style. It was probably our best bit of the day.
We had one more big loop run, which had some pieces I wasn't thrilled with; he was getting tired, I think, and I slacked off on the land-and-run imperative. We finished over a ditch, and he jumped it nicely though I need to work on my form over the ditch.
We stood while Hannah and Tucker jumped some very impressive, very large jumps in style, then cantered through the water a few times, then home! Exactly what we needed: confirmed our previous lessons learned, and built in some confidence going forward.