As things have been a bit hectic recently I’ve been behind in documenting my latest adventures! Back in early Spring I headed over to local yard Redhills Stud for a cross country clinic with eventer George Russell. Prior to the clinic I had been XC schooling and knew that skinnies and technical fences were an area I needed to work on so my friend Dani recommended this to me as an ideal way to learn more.
The clinic took place on sand in the venues arena and I can honestly say thank god for that because on grass we would have been up to our knees in mud! When I say it rained on the day I don’t mean drizzle or a shower I mean torrential relentless lashing rain. Regardless of the weather we got going. I was in a group of five and after a quick intro with George we were sent off to work in trot and canter in the light seat and asked to vary the pace of the canter. We progressed to canter on a circle over raised poles keeping the canter rhythm.
Next, we worked on a grid which worked up from a simple bounce to a bounce followed by a distance followed by a bounce. This exercise was a challenge and there were a few knocked poles from us all as we worked through it but in the end you could see a marked improvement in each horse and rider. My main challenge was keeping the horse steady enough while also staying behind not in front of his movement.
Riding various rustic obstacles was the next challenge. Given that I was on a new horse and green enough over fences after a while off I had a simple strategy of go first for everything before someone else has a problem and you start to over think it. First up was a hay rack which I over rode a bit so we went again starting off with a better canter so that I didn’t need to shove on the last three strides. Next we did two rollers which we pinged over without issue. The next fence was a concern for me as it was an inverted narrow triangle accessorised with plants. I got a straight line and made myself sit up and look up and the horse was a saint and popped it which was a great confidence boost. A skinny was up next and I had a stop or rather a slow to a halt at my first attempt due to a lack of leg so that required another go and once my leg was on funnily enough the horse jumped.
We finished the class by riding a course which included our grid, some small skinnies, the rollers, the hay rack, the bigger skinny and a double. At this stage the rain had soaked clean through every layer on me and had also poured down my hair and down my neck. I had limited grip on the saddle or the reins but off we went and my little chestnut cob delivered a keen if a little fast clear round over everything leaving me with a big smile on my face.
The key points I have taken from this clinic to use in training include setting up a good forward canter before approaching the fence, paying close attention to the turn into any skinny to ensure a straight approach and staying behind the movement. That last point is important for me because I have a tendency to get ahead of the movement and George explained to me that if I feel like I am left behind I am probably actually in the right place! I would definitely recommend this clinic to other riders and its an ideal way to introduce horses and riders to XC fences within the sand arena with guide poles and wings.
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