With Fiona's complete retirement from jumping, I'm back to the rotation of borrowed horses game. I can't get too terribly rusty. It's bad enough now when I look at the jumps and want to throw up. It's amazing how big 2'6" looks when you've been struggling to get over cross-rails for six months.
Today's mount was the infamous Ruffles. That's not really his name, he's Rufus, but Ruffles fits. Ruffles have ridges. This pony's got some serious ridges. He's a sturdy Quarter Horse, probably 15.3 or 16.0 hands and bay roan. On the ground, he's far from a cuddle bug. He'd rather you leave the treats in his feed tub and just kept walking. No touching, no petting, and certainly no grooming or tacking. He wears a red ribbon in his tail for a reason.
However, once you're in the saddle, he's a saint. Pure and simple. Point him at a fence and you'll get to the other side. It may not be pretty, but he's a game pony. His usual rider is fairly timid and is still working on her confidence over fences. This means that Ruffles is used to approaching small fences slowly and chipping in rather than taking a longer spot.
The first thing I did when I got on him was to get him up and moving. No, no poking about, time to engage and go. He also competes in Cowboy Mounted Shooting, so once the engine kicked in? I had a lot of horse to work with. That pony can turn on a dime and he almost turned out from underneath me when I asked for a turn and got more than I expected.
I was in with some of the more advanced students, so after a couple cross-rails, the fences went right up. 2'6" looked HUGE. I was pretty much ready to hurl, especially since I wasn't sure when Ruffles last saw something that size, but the pony was game. He jumped through everything. Once we were rolling, he was taking on the two stride, the one stride, the wicked bending lines, and everything else that was tossed at us. I'm pretty sure those fences were 2'9" by the end of the lesson, since they had to keep moving up and down between me and the other two. They were going about 3'3", then he would lower it two holes for me.
He forgot to lower them at one point and I saw my life flash before my eyes, thinking I was going to be doing the big fences with the little QH. The he realized they were still big and lowered them. Thank goodness. Ruffles probably would have gone for it, but I wasn't up for it while this rusty.
So at least some of the rust is off. I survived my return to jumping in group lessons. It felt good to canter into a one stride, followed by a bending three strides to a square oxer, and feel confident that I was going to get out the other side unscathed and without overwhelming my mount. I think it would take a couple rides, but if Ruffles and I got to know each other, I'd feel pretty darn confident taking him around a Beginner Novice course. Of course, he's pretty booked between his eventing day job, his shooting night job, and the many people that like to kidnap him for rides.
I talked to my trainer today to set up the plan of action around Fiona. We'll set the plan in action next month with an eye toward momentum picking up in April when my trainer is back from Aiken. I've decided to let my trainer handle this completely. I won't be showing Fiona or around for those rides. I'd be too much of an emotional wreck.
I'll be hiding in the tack room. Under a table. Cuddling a stuffed animal. Possibly nursing a flask.