Big Jumps

I am browsing through the pictures for this year’s Burghley cross-country course, in anticipation of watching some crazy, over-the-top jump action by some of the most daring and finessed riders and horses in the world. Burghley is a CCI**** three-day event, so for those who don’t know what that means… Well, it means BIG FICMIG JUMPS.

The best in the world compete there. On North American soil, it is similar to the calibre of Rolex in Kentucky. To appease the folks right now who are going “WTF is she talking about?” I give you the Wikipedia on Three-Day Eventing.

SO, after all that, I can safely tell you this is not the hunters, folks (They don’t have “hunter” per se in England anyways, but you get my point).

The fences for this years Capt. Mark Phillips course look alternately fun-as-Hell and &^%*-your-pants-scary. I imagine the latter would be much more prevalent if I was walking the course in person. Some of them are knee-wobbling just on reputation alone, like the Cottesmore Leap.

I am awed and inspired by these riders, and although I don’t event anymore, nor am I riding at an eventing barn (which is perfectly ok), it still tugs my heart and curiosity forward like moth to flame. The thrill of galloping cross-country, jumping tables and ditches out of stride, and successfully navigating your horse through tricky combinations of jumps at speed is adrenaline addiction cultivated. Achieving precision and obedience of dressage on a horse also trained to be brave and self-decisive on cross-country is a special skill. The mindfulness and patience to navigate a show jumping course with a tired horse on day three requires patience and grit.

The biggest cross-country course I ever walked in my day was at Farm of the Mountain in Napierville, Quebec. I’m not sure there is still a horse trials there anymore, but it was a go-to competition back in the day. On a whim, I decided to walk the Advanced course while I was there to spectate. Now, let’s pretend it wasn’t over 20 years ago. Seriously. Let’s not go there.

The memory that sticks out is standing underneath the back rail of an airy oxer over a shallow gravelled ditch. From the front, the jump looked inviting and straightforward. But when I hopped down into the ditch underneath it, looked up and reached my hand over my head… I could not touch the rail. I was too short. (this is a normal problem for me but here it was exaggerated, let’s be honest).

That fence scared me. Not just in a good nerves “git ‘er done” excited kind of way, but in a “HELL NO” kind of way.

At the time, I owned horses that would never reach that level, and so to be fair, I had never jumped a jump like that. I never have, because I am scared to. I’ve had the opportunity to ride seasoned horses over the years that could leap such a fence, but I never challenged myself to actually do it. It was always just that little too far to push myself, and I would decline. I’m a big chicken. 3’6″ makes my stomach clench. I know I am not alone in this, big jumps can be intimidating and require a certain level of skill that some people can doubt (in themselves and their horses). To jump big jumps, you have to implicitly trust your horse. That takes time and patience to earn (both for horse and rider).

But… If I ever get the chance again, would I like to try facing the *gulp* of trying larger jumps, now that I have perspective and a bit more understanding of how to control my nerves and expectations?

Still not sure. Maybe. I dunno… I am rather happy to be tooting around at 2’3″ and 2’6″ in my lessons, and living vicariously through the live feed on Saturday. 

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