I didn’t realize it until yesterday, but there was a reason for my fear of jumping that had never crossed my mind. I had written the fear off as something that develops as you get older, or just being rusty from the track. It never hit me that there might actually be a concrete reason for why I literally contemplated turning my poor long backed, long necked hot dog of a horse into a dressage horse (that would be Aidyn for those who don’t know. He was built the opposite of what any dressage horse should look like, but I had a feeling I’d never be able to jump him without crapping my pants, so dressage horse he would be!)
Well yesterday the light bulb went on. And now that I know the problem, C can go about fixing it.
Pop is amazing. He has such a big heart and I feel so, so safe on him. Yet for some reason cantering over little 2’3” fences yesterday, I felt like I just wanted to go back to shoulder-ins. And I had flashbacks to when I was competing my lifesaver of a gelding, Koter, near the end of his career. Come around the turn, canter canter canter, get two strides out and panic because you have no idea if he’s ACTUALLY going to jump or not. But you pretend he’s going to because you don’t want to get left behind. If he doesn’t, well….nice knowin’ ya.
So Pop canter, canter, canters to this little red wall. And I get two strides out and don’t see a distance. Pop backs off and I throw my body forward praying he still jumps from the very awkward spot I’ve put him into. Then we land in a heap and I shamefacedly look over at C.
“YOU HAVE TO RIDE HIM FORWARD TO THE BASE.”
Oh. Right. That’s what we’ve been working on on the flat for the past week. And that’s what you work on with every horse you ride and every student you teach. I KNOW THIS.
By the end of the ride we had 2 out of 4 jumps that were smooth, forward, round and pretty (on a little course). The first two were the good fences. The last two were the product of poorly planned turns and fatigue on my part to keep riding him to the fence. But we’ll get there….he was super game despite my indecision and the two good jumps? Perfect. He is so stylish over fences and he seemed so happy. I truthfully couldn’t be happier to be riding him….he’s a dream come true.
I have to keep him up in front of me and forward but NOT fast. The second he starts getting low in his neck or running I need to half-halt and re-establish the shape I want for him to jump successfully. I have to ride forward through the turn and then settle a few strides out. I have to trust him. I have to avoid micromanaging him because he does know what he’s doing.
I’ll keep you updated…he will probably have a flat session tomorrow and I can’t wait. I look forward to riding him every day. He is such a true blessing and joy in my life!
Also quick note: We took four to the Lumber River Starter Horse Trials today and everyone was super. Ardy had two much improved and beautiful tests, including one Prelim test that he’s never done before. Val had one rail in SJ and was super on XC, Flag just did a CT and was the best I’ve seen him, and Cory had a lovely test and jumped the heck out of the stadium course…he actually got oohs and aahs from the sidelines and despite having the last fence down was MUCH improved from last time. Good kids!