I can’t stress this enough. Other riders, yes. But people who think 2’6” is big, that solid fences are all lethal and you’d have to be an utter nutter to attempt them… no. Just… don’t. Seriously.
Many years ago I walked one of my first season’s Novices in a group which included someone who was, frankly, a total wuss. We go to a nice trakehner, the usual angled-log-over-a-ditch thing, and even though my mare was a tad ditchy I barely glanced at the fence, just registered it and kept walking. Miss Wussy went over and pointed out loudly to everyone that if you took off from here (far left of the jump beside the flag, virtually underneath the log, where no sane horse, or rider whose arms and legs were still working, would ever get to) and landed there (pointing to the far side of the ditch, at its widest point there, of course) then it was HUGE. Oh dear. “Normal trakehner” became “Eeeek humungous trakehner” in my mind and of course I rode it badly, and was lucky that the mare humoured me and jumped it well.
I learnt from that, and from then on, any non-eventing friends were politely asked to stick to the time-honoured mandate “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, say nothing”, and even if they thought a trakehner looked like a sequoia slung across the Grand Canyon, to keep it zipped. 😉
Possibly my best ever helper-groom was Smurfy, who unfortunately emigrated to get out of any more grooming duties, and is hugely missed. Being smart, she took this mantra on board, and even when walking big courses with me she politely averted her eyes from the yawning chasms, and made bright comments about now nice the ground/flowers/weather were that day. If she went really green and gulped a lot just before I set off for the XC, I knew she was slightly worried about ever seeing me alive again.
Mattie occasionally came along too, and I could tell by how big his eyes got exactly his opinion of the fences, but he was smart enough to keep schtum too, at least most of the time, just occasionally blurting out helpful comments like “Oh, that one’s fine, I think the one at Badminton is MUCH bigger.” Erm, right Mattie. Thanks for that. I should chuffing well hope it is!
Obviously Mothers are also included in this stricture. I love my mum to the utmost degree, she’s very supportive, but she has been banned from even looking at a XC fence until after I’ve ridden round, after one too many wide-eyed “Dottie can’t possibly jump that, can she?!?!?” comments. (I am not kidding. That is verbatim. Does absolute wonders for the confidence.) Luckily she’s much happier doing the Hunt For The Best Coffee At The Event with a little Serious Credit Card Abuse thrown in, so I can usually keep her away from the solid stuff (as it were) till I’m done.
So, there you have it. Walk the course alone, or with an experienced friend, or your trainer, or other riders. Tag along with a top rider if you are feeling brave, and if they smile and look approachable you could ask for tips, but if they look in a hurry and preoccupied, maybe not. But for the sake of your own nerve, confidence being everything and all that, Avoid The Wuss…
Happy course walking!