Coming off of IEA, I was relatively down about well, everything. I knew I wasn’t ready to give up on Archie, but I was frustrated and tossing around multiple ideas for what to do next. My barn was hosting a Tim Bourke clinic that weekend, but I hadn’t signed up since we’d been doing things back to back for so many weeks. Come Friday, I’m looking over the schedule to see what I might like to audit and I notice one of the juniors is riding in the Starter group… but only Sunday for XC. Long story short, I end up splitting with her and taking her Saturday SJ spot.
Tim asks about each of our horses and how everyone’s been doing (benefit of a clinician who comes multiple times a year, he knows us and our horses) and I tell him how I’m frustrated and even debated selling Archie. With that, we start jumping around – twice over a little crossrail, onto a small vertical and then he adds in a grid.
It started as a low oxer, two strides to bounce ground poles, three strides to a vertical out and built from there, eventually becoming a big (to me!) oxer to bounce crossrails and three to a vertical. He added a course as well, full of twists and turns that plenty of people had issues with, both in our group and in others.
And Archie? I’ll be damned if he didn’t step up and jump around every single fence like an absolute pro. Of course it wasn’t perfect, hello amateur rider on sassy pony, but there wasn’t a single moment of nappy pony attitude. In fact, at the end of the lesson, Tim looks at us (and everyone standing there) and goes, “And you want to sell this horse WHY?”
We all laughed, that knowing, ‘oh you haven’t seen it yet’ laugh. Which somehow turned into, “find her a spot to ride XC tomorrow.” Say what? I was absolutely thrilled with Archie (and myself for RIDING DAMNIT), but knew XC would be the real test.
Turns out, the only spot for me Sunday was in a Novice group, but the nice thing about XC is being able to do similar exercises, changing the fences to appropriate heights. We started with the same exercise, swapping a Starter rolltop for their Novice one, but otherwise everything else the same, including a solid N bank and handful of BN stuff. Wouldn’t you know it, Archie said, “GAME ON” and didn’t put a foot wrong. We ended up jumping nearly all BN that day and he made absolute easy work of it.
Even when we moved out to the bigger field, he tackled a BN half-coffin without a second thought, jumped a BN rolltop into and out of the water and just generally did everything he was asked – happily.
I’m not afraid or ashamed to give myself some credit here: I sat up and rode the damn horse. I took no excuses and told him he was going OR ELSE. But you know what? He never even needed the threat.
I left Sunday with Tim telling me I’d be stupid to sell this horse, that he has great potential and we’re going to be just fine. And even if he hadn’t said that? I felt it. It felt like, well damn, maybe this work is finally paying off. Nothing out there felt big or hard and best of all, it was fun for both of us.