Birdie and I went to Sharon White’s to school over her ever expanding cross country jumps. She was kind enough to give Diana with D A and me with Birdie a lesson. It’s been a while since I did any cross country jumps with Birdie other than the ones at my farm. As I expected when we rode out onto the cross country course he became very uptight. It didn’t help that there were other riders riding around. Birdie knew something was up. He was a mixture of anxiety and excitement which mixes like oil and vinegar. Except if you shake it, you won’t like what you get.
I tried my “do dressage in the field” system, which was good, but not good enough. Sharon came down on a 4 year old of her own and began by talking about galloping. She told Diana and I to separate and warm up in the gallop. Birdie’s head was higher than high. She told me don’t worry about where his head is, put your hands down and keep your reins longer. This is hard to do when you’re about to have your eye poked out by your horse’s ear.
Now we began by jumping a log which Birdie did well and my new correct way of pulling him up worked like a charm. What a relief. Next we went to a log that’s up off the ground a bit and Birdie didn’t like it and stopped. By the way, D A who’s never done cross country, willingly jumped everything and seemed to love it all. Back to Birdie – I started to kick Birdie and tell him he should have jumped that log. After all, he’s jumped tons of logs. Sharon told me to stop. Stand there and try to get him to look at it. Birdie doesn’t think he’s allowed to look at jumps. He didn’t want to and he snorted his dismay and acted quite silly, but eventually he walked up to it and put his head down to take a sniff. It took nearly five minutes, but once he sniffed that log a wave of relaxation went through his body. Sharon told me to walk around it keeping him as close to it as possible which I did with little trouble. She said that Birdie is scared and this is how I should work it out with him. She was right because he was brave and confident for the rest of the lesson.
While driving home, I thought about what had happened and I realized what she had done was given me a way to give Birdie permission to look at jumps. What I had done was to tell him, it’s okay to look and this ended his fear. Apparently he is afraid to jump without looking and I don’t blame him. I am so impressed with Sharon, she really gets Birdie and I’m excited to work with her again. She has offered to go to Gordonsville with Diana and I. I can’t wait.