This weekend I took Saga XC schooling down at Pine Hill. I invited Ziggy to come with me, since his dad had never taken him XC either. We set up a lesson with Toni, since I wanted to have some eyes on the ground. She proved to be very positive and had some excellent things to say.
My goal was to keep things low-key and very positive, since I wasn't sure what Saga would do with all the funny fences. We started off warming up over in the stadium area with a few cross-rails - I shortened my stirrups two holes, and looking at the pictures, they could have come up another hole or two. The warm-up was short since neither of our horses are very well conditioned, and we wanted to save both horses for the fun stuff.
We got out on course and started with the very inviting GAG fences. Toni had a way of showing a fence to a horse that I'd never seen before but really like: she lets them walk along the fence, first on the right side, then on the left. If they want to stop to sniff it, that's fine. Neither Saga nor Ziggy were concerned about any of the fences, so we just went to jumping them cold.
Holy monster coops, Batman! (I am fairly sure we could not have gotten a bigger spot if we had TRIED!)
I discovered that Saga jumps new stuff BIG. Very, very big sometimes. I was out-of-synch with him on almost every fence, but he jumped everything like a champ. Some of it was certainly prettier than others, and you can see that I'm all over the place. I need to shorten my stirrup, close my hip angle more, and STAY IN TWO-POINT after the fence. It's not obvious in these pictures, but I sit up really quickly on the way down.
Pretty flat jump from him, and our distance is still long. I wonder what my leg thinks it's doing all the way back there?
I STILL have a problem waiting for my fences. I'm jumping so far ahead of him here, it's amazing he's still under me!
We're more together here but I'm just not folding my body well enough to stay with him. All of my angles are too open. Shorter stirrups would definitely help.
We also schooled all the "booger" fences: a Novice ditch (we actually ended up going over another Novice fence that was just after the ditch, he was great and never batted an eye), banks up and down, and of course, water. He was a bit hesitant into the water the first time, but by the time we had finished, he was really attacking it.
Good strong canter through the water. He was really tired by this point but was still paying attention.
Overall, Saga exceeded expectations. He was very ratable and quite bold to the fences. He obviously takes a big spot but I need to ride him to the base and be more decisive about it, rather than just praying that he will go. I rode him in a french link loose ring snaffle, which was plenty of bit, although I think I need a bigger one as the 5.5 inch seems a touch too small. He did lean on me in the downward transitions sometimes, which I think is due to lack of strength on his part and good riding on my part. He definitely needs to be worked on uneven terrain, up and down hills, to get his balance better. I'm not sure where I'm going to do that since there's really no place to gallop at Ramaker, but it needs doing.
As for me, I've gotta get fit. I need more time in two-point so that I can stay with him better. I need to pull my stirrups up so that I can close my angles better and be closer to him. I think we both need to do a lot of gymnastics work so that we learn to wait for each other and stay together better, but that will come with time. Certainly we've got our work cut out for us, but the beginning is beautiful!