The Reality of Riding the Corgi Horse

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other week about May. There are often times where I wonder if I am pushing her unnecessarily. I have always heard people worry that they aren’t showing their horses to their true potential (aka jumping high enough, showing at a high enough level, etc etc)

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Buddy – An OTTB I rode on and off for 11 years (11 YEARS!). I showed him at 2’6″ when he was younger and in the pleasures when he lets us know that jumping was no longer for him. 

However, I don’t know many people who are concerned that they are pushing their horses past where they should be. Maybe this is because most people have a predisposition to buy a horse that is beyond a level they will ever achieve (as was the case with my first horse). Or maybe it’s because people are confident that the horse will tell them when it is too much.

Buddy
Same horse – about 6 years later

Either way, it is something I have pondered more than once with my friends. I have heard it in clinics, lessons, and on the internet, “your horse isn’t built for jumping.” Yet here we are… jumping. We aren’t the most talented pair and experience our fair share of poles falling in stadium, but we get around safely. May has only ever stopped at two jumps and both times were because I completely refused to ride properly. Other than that, she has made decisions that have helped us clear some serious air (despite my best attempts to shove in and leave out strides).

flying

So I brought this up to a friend of mine, one of my few friends to have ridden May. I pondered if May should just be left alone to pack someone around the starter levels. She is fairly easy around jumps 2’3″ and under and is the same horse at shows as she is at home.

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My friend’s response, “May isn’t as easy to ride as you seem to think she is.” She pressed the point that May has been trained to the point where she is reactive and light to the aids. If your outside leg swings back, she’ll either give you a haunches in or move into the canter. Sure – I can ride her around in two point with big loops in my reins, and she will lope around a 2’3″ course. However, someone without body control and balance would probably struggle… a lot.

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First Show – Packer Status

My friend also had another point. May LOVES her job. She gets bored with Dressage and small jumps. Some days I give up entirely on trying to Dressage or ride small jumps. She’s just not interested. Jack them up to 2’6″, and I suddenly am riding a horse who is 100% listening. Not tense or scared… just ready for a real challenge. She’s that way over a BN XC course too. Ready and eager. (unless it’s water, but that’s another story).

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Too bad she can’t jump at all 🙂

When she decides she doesn’t love it anymore, then we will change our plans. Until then, onward and upward!

In other news – Tomorrow is my first real Rolex Day! Hope you see some of you there!

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The Best Made Plans…

This was supposed to be a lesson update post, but on the day of my lesson before I left for a weekend vacation, I got a text from my trainer. It went somewhere along the lines of, “May ripped her shoe off. We are leaving her in her stall tonight.” Mmmmmk… If the shoe is off, why can’t we turn her out in her soft grass pasture?

This is why:

Oh Hey Wings…

Luckily, I have a great farrier who came out the very next day and managed to make the foot look more like this:

 

I guess I was right when I told him there would be nowhere for him to nail another shoe into….

Needless to say though, no shoes for May again for a while. Due to my trip and work, I haven’t been able to make the trip to the barn to see if she is sore at all. Planning on going up tomorrow, and I will keep you all updated.

Even if she is sore, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It would be inconvenient, and I would be upset about missing out on riding. However, we aren’t signed up for any horse trails and don’t have anything coming up on the radar that we have been aiming for.

However, I have been really enjoying my lessons and the progress we have been making, so here’s hoping this is just a short bump in the path of progress!

Why I Need Lessons

Since moving to KY, May and I had been able to fit in/afford 1 jumping lesson in the Fall and 2 Dressage lessons (1 in the Fall and one in early Spring). That is, until last week when we had our second jumping lesson ever with my new trainer and the first jumping lesson in pretty much 6 months.

But let’s backup first. I was putting a bit of pressure on myself before my lesson to increase height, difficulty, and length of our jumping sessions on our own. Luckily, the first weekend of April there was a clinic at my barn, so the jumps were moved all over the place in a way that promoted a lot of turning and related distances. Also luckily, my awesome fiance was there to take video. I figured I could watch myself after and figure out where my problem areas are.

 


There were some awesome moments where May stayed soft and light and practically jumped me out of the tack. I even left the oxer at a pretty decent height and a good width to force us to really jump it. Looking back now, I think it was the first oxer we did all season. Oh well, it went fine. 🙂

However, turning and finding jumps has always been a pretty good skill for me. Sure I miss, but I am usually just added on a 3/4 stride or leaving a tiny chip out. The long approach to a jump has always been my nemesis though. I just want to do SOMETHING, so I usually end up doing the WRONG thing. Does anyone else do this? Anyway, I was riding to the oxer off the long approach, and I Could. Not. Find. My. Distance. Below is the video. Can you tell what I did wrong?

 

 

Our pace wasn’t changing around the corner, she wasn’t losing her balance, and I was really looking past the jump and not pulling. I was, however, forcing her to keep her balance. Buuuuut I didn’t keep my leg on, and we didn’t have enough power from behind. It becomes really obvious in the video between the 12 and 13 second marks, where you can CLEARLY see her fall behind my leg… Damn…

I reviewed the footage and decided came back to jump again on Sunday. Jumping back to back like that is rarely my plan, but I figured we would pop over just a few fences. I didn’t mean for it to be literally a few fences. I think we jumped a total of 3 fences. She was tired and just not into it. I figured it wasn’t a big deal, and I would give her Monday off for my birthday. (I need to do a post on all my horsey-related birthday gifts!)

 


Then I had a very, very early morning for work on Tuesday and started feeling sick. Ok fine, I went to bed early on Tuesday… then had to travel a bit for work on Wednesday. That’s fine though. I can power through. I didn’t power through. I went to bed at 8:30PM on Wednesday. Thursday was my lesson. May hadn’t been ridden in 3 days. How was she? A bit spicey, but mostly perfect. Of Course. 🙂

What did we work on? Well… going forward and turning. First turning, which involved jumping a single, low jump on a 20 meter circle. Then jumping a small jump and making a tight roll back to an oxer. All of that went fairly well. Then we put together a small course, which involved this:

Our first corner. I had ridden some VERY small corners before, but nothing quite this wide, and definitely nothing that had been made narrower by a tree… My trainer asked how she was with corners. I told her she had never really done one, but she would be fine. We then got a short lecture on how to ride a corner:

  1. Stay straight
  2. Ride as if there were a pole in the middle that you were trying to jump straight across
  3. Keep my outside leg on and keep control of the outside corner
  4. Don’t push too far in the middle
  5. Controlled but forward and “bouncy” canter

Ok. Sounds good. Let’s try it. We did the rest of the course fairly well, came around to the corner and… never got straight. I mean this was the longest approach ever. Maybe 15 strides from the last jump and this one, and we rode the whole thing with her left shoulder popped to the outside. Better yet, while trying to correct this, I ended up pulling all the way to the base of the jump. We got there with no impulsion and on a half step.

May’s reaction? Ignore mom and jump the damn thing anyway. Needless to say, my trainer agreed with me that she is good about corners. However, what we were not good about was getting the strides. Remember that trot in/canter out in 4 strides jump line from earlier in the week?

Well apparently, we really like doing it in 4 strides… even when it is going the other direction and a vertical to an oxer. No surprise, but trainer found this unacceptable. She reminded me that we should be getting the strides as not doing them was leaving us a bit under powered (see video above of us being under powered and practically eating an oxer). Then she said, “unless you think she can’t make the horse strides.”

“Oh… oh… No. She can make them.” And just like that – foot in my mouth. Now I had to get the strides right. First attempt was just to get her in front of my leg and let her flow through it. We got 3.1 strides and demolished the oxer. Front pole, back pole, got them both. It was an accomplishment in a weird way. It also took a lot of pressure off. Like ok, I had made my first BIG mistake in front of my new trainer, and she wasn’t upset. Just told me to add more leg this time. Luckily, one of my fellow boarders apparently had faith in me, because she took this video:

 


Was it perfect? Not at all. Did we commit and execute though? Yes, and that is a big thing for us. Since she was then a bit spicey, my trainer asked us to jump a skinny in the middle of the ring off our right lead (the same lead we just did the line on). May was… not having it. She started throwing her heard around and sucking behind my leg.

In a weird way, I was so happy to have this argument with May in front of my trainer. I have been struggling with her randomly pulling this stunt for a couple of months now. I wish I had video of it. Basically, she starts flinging her head around so there is 0 contact with the bit and then sucks back almost to a stop. I had been solving it by sending her really forward, like spurs in sides forward. This was, and still is, the correct reaction, but my trainer took it a step forward.

She recognized that our issue wasn’t really with going forward – it was with the transition between going forward, coming back, and going forward again. In that serious of adjustments, she was building up this big resistance. Why? Mostly because we hadn’t really been practicing it outside our jumping.

Fun Fact: The worst time to practice something is when there is additional pressure. Aka – don’t try to put flying changes on a horse at a show, don’t try to teach a horse to tie on the 4th of July, and don’t try to teach adjustability in the middle of a jump course. Those skills should already be installed because taking them to a more advanced level.


However, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Instead, my trainer had us practice coming forward and coming back at the canter for a couple of circles before asking us to take the skinny jump again. May popped over it without a fuss. Then it was back to the corner. This time, I rode aggressively and definitively. I pushed to the jump, and we took a big, XC style step to it and over it. May got lots of pats both from me and from my trainer.

It felt good to come away with homework and solutions. I can’t wait until our next lesson! Heaven knows, I need them!