Students trickle into the arena with their horses including Lisa, a spoiled girl who rides and owns Betty, a 13yr old Quarter X mare.
Betty stumbles over the arena footing and falls to her knees, snorting.
"Is she okay?" I ask, watching Steele to make sure he doesn't stray far.
"Yeah, she's alright."
Jamie enters the arena on her mare, Ruby Red aka Ruby, a 17.2hh Warmblood mare.
Three more students enter, one with Rain, and the other with Scout, a Paint Tennesse Walker Gelding.
Everyone mounts and we all warm up on the flat and over fences.
Steele is much more fluid in his trot and canter while his walk is stiff. I bend him around my inside leg in 30 metre circles to relieve the stress in his hind joints.
Everyone else straps on a Cross Country vest and horses get fitted for boots. In a single file line, we all trot down and out of the stable-yard. Steele spooks at a chicken running across the gravel.
We all line up before Jessica on Shadow. Steele snorts at Betty who's trying a little too hard to win him over.
"Hello, class. Today we're starting our Cross Country unit. I've invited Elsie along on Steele. She'll be demonstrating how to properly ride over xc jumps. To start, each of you will ride either by her side or behind her and go over the jumps, then returning back to the group. Whenever you're ready, Elsie."
"Jamie, come with me." Ruby perks her ears at Steele as she's pushed up next to us.
"I'm ready if you are." She says, looking to me.
Steele pushes off into an in-hand gallop. Ruby stays a few inches behind my leg.
I could feel Steele starting to lose impulsion so I smooch him up into a faster gallop, aiming for a brush on the lower side. He hops right over it. Ruby's hoofbeats sounding right after on the soft ground.
We return to the group and Jamie dismounts to check her skilled mount.
After the class I wanted to sleep, but I had to work with Amy, so I grabbed a bareback pad and her lead-rope.
The mare sniffs the pad before I lean over her. She doesn't buck until I get on her and it's not for very long.
I sit on her, then ask for a walk. She lowers her head and breathes out. "Trooot," I drag out the gait and squeeze my lower leg against her as she breaks into it.
Wanting to end on a good note, I dismount and remove the bareback pad and lead rope.
Sophie's sitting in the passenger seat with the music turned up loudly.
"So, how much did you get done with her?"
"She's letting herself relax and I trotted on her."
"Yeah, but I need to get a canter before the end of the week."
"Try not to die, Elsie."
"I won't. Amy is pretty steady."