23. 12″ Cross Rails. Clear Round
Our first, nothing-almost-about-it, jumping class. After our good and bad days the week before, there were two questions:
1) How low would they build the fences? Could we trot over them as glorified trotting poles or would Milton have to lift the landing gear?
2) Which Milton would show up? The happy horse from FHF or the grumpy Gus from home [PreShow]? In recent years, Milton’s meltdowns have come with warning signs. We didn’t always heed the signs, but they were there. I was reasonably sure that Milton would not have a come-apart without giving me a few shots across the bow. I planned to pull up at the first hint of the hairy eyebrow.
First Course Walk – Rider
I walked the course. No biggie. Start at the first fence. Follow the track. Look for the numbers. Note terrain questions. Walk a second time visualizing your ride.
The weird part was that it wasn’t weird. I haven’t walked a course in over a decade. It felt as if I had done one yesterday. I had to remind myself how long it had been.
Another competitor was walking the course with his groom, who had a horse in tow. That gave me an idea.
Second Course Walk – Horse
I was the second to go in the first class. I got tacked in plenty of time. We went over to wander around the course. While riding.
This wildly against the rules. It was a schooling show. I figure they would ask me to leave rather than eliminate me. If they did, well, this was what my horse needed. Plus, the class awarded a ribbon for each clear round. I was not gaining an advantage on any competition.
The management kindly pointed out that what I was doing was illegal, as a teaching moment. They let me continue to stroll about as the course was reset.
Milton looked at everything: the standards, the poles, the tents for judge and steward, the horses next door, this over here, that over there. In his defense, there was a lot to look at. The ring was even more crowded that FHF, with brighter poles. Not only our jumps but all the extra standards and poles and flower boxes for the higher divisions.
I was wrong about the area being fenced on two sides. It had a fenceline on one side, with horses turned out in the paddock. Two sides were open. The fourth side was an ominous, looming wall of primeval forest that threatened to engulf sensitive horses.
Milton was quiet, but edgy. One of the ground crew recognized him and said, “Hi, Milton!” He jumped to the side. Very much like his attitude walking around at his first Stepping Stone Farm show. “He was walking so well, that wanted to see if he was overtracking. When I leaned over his shoulder to look, he gave a little hop to the side that said, What? What are you doing up there? So we went back to calm walking.” [First Blue].
In warm up, we trotted several crossrails, both low and high. I seemed to have the happy version of Milton, or at least not the grumpy one.
The course was set as low as I could have wished. A long, bright, twisty, pretty course that was a mouse whisker above poles on the ground. The 10 fences involved five passes back and forth across a field. We trotted at and over all of them.
I can’t honestly say how much he looked at the jumps. They were so low that I had enough conviction for both of us. About halfway through, he got the idea that we would land from one and aim at the next.
We walked twice. Once was my idea; once was his. On the downhill turn into #4, I asked him to walk to give him time to sort out the input. On a similar turn into 8, I gave him a “steady boy’ and he said, ‘Oh you want me to walk again, okay.’ For the rest, he was steady and straight and calm, but interested enough that I felt we were in the right place.
Our first legit jumping class, although no actual jumping occurred.
Thank you for reading,