It was Paddys Day, it was not p*ssing rain, I was off work. There was only one thing for it, road trip time. Given the proximity of Abbeyfield Farm to the yard it was the perfect place to go for some cross country schooling. I’d been at the yard before but only while hunting so had no idea what the course looks like when you are not going full tilt in a group. I contacted Abbeyfield Farm a few days beforehand and arranged to go over for a spin.
My little companion and I had the course to ourselves when we arrived so we tacked up and headed out to the warm up field where a group of small fences were set out. By contrast to recent cross country derby type venues I had been to. Abbeyfield is on grass rather than sand but the fences have surfacing in front of them. This was ideal for me as the horse is not as confident on grass as she is on sand so having done a bit of practice on sand I wanted to work her on grass and build on it.
After a canter around the field and over the small warm up fences we picked two solids to start over and my friend and her pony took the lead as we set off over them. After that positive start I decided to tackle a chicken coop by myself and almost came a cropper as the horse approached, stopped and then jumped from a standstill leaving me wobbling about on top with no reins and one stirrup. Thankfully our second attempt went a lot better. On we went over some more solids and we came upon the first water complex a run through with the option of two steps up and down. The schooling at Grange Farm stood to us here and the horse walked happily through the water behind the pony – one small step for most people, one massive step for the orange train who has never previously been keen to get her toes wet. I decided to take a chance and walked her up to the steps which she nonchalantly went down and into the water in walk!
Next up was a set of steps that dropped down over a bank. The horse saw this, the ears went up and for the first time that day she locked herself on to the fence and jumped it happily without much if any assistance from me. This seemed to click her into cross country gear and we went on to jump tyres, some more solids and a treble combination. Many of these were too big for the pony so I was delighted that the horse was willing to take them on solo for me. While she immediately locks on to banks, steps and logs she still requires a good bit of strong of leg and encouragement over the other solid fences but her calmness and happiness to take them on is great to see. We will never be going out eventing or hunter trialling but I want to help the horse to be confident to take on a working hunter track on grass or to jump cross country fences on ride outs. The second water complex involved steps in and out and once again we were in and out without a lead and without any resistance or issues. We finished up with my friend pinging a solid upright on top of a hill and with me taking on some more solid fences. While we didn’t meet them all perfectly my approach was leg on and give the horse the rein and the horse sorted herself out and got us to the other side.
The course at Abbeyfield spans acres of land and while we tackled a fence or two at a time the course is ideal for getting up a good canter and taking on each fence that comes up to you. The positioning of the fences along a track with surfacing in front of fences means you don’t have to worry about the take-off and landing surface and the fences are positioned far enough apart to allow you kick on while still close enough to allow a horse to lock on to the next obstacle. Height wise apart from the smaller warm up fences at the start, the fences on course were novice and open height with most fences incorporating an open and novice option (it’s safe to say we stuck to the novice options for now!). Having put in the basic schooling at Lullymore and Grange Farm I found Abbeyfield to be a great next step for us and would imagine it to be ideal for schooling up before eventing or hunter trialling.
Abbeyfield Farm is based near Clane and is within very easy access from the Straffan / Clane / Naas / Maynooth area. In addition to the equestrian side of things they cover a variety of country pursuits from clay pidgeon shooting to archery. You can view their website at http://www.abbeyfieldfarm.com/ or contact them at https://www.facebook.com/abbeyfieldfarm?fref=ts
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