A Forward and Open Jumping Lesson

I should probably start this recap with full disclosure that Kentucky surprised us with second summer that day, AND I was riding in a new-to-me saddle. To break that down, KY went from 80 degree, beautiful fall-like days to a 99 degree day with 60% humidity… just in time for my lesson. Fun time.

As for the saddle, a friend of a friend is trying to sell her Barnsby Diablo saddle. When she mentioned it was an 18″ seat and a generous MW tree (that needs the flocking adjusted), I was semi curious. Then, I found out that it was already on the property that my trainer was at and… I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a try.

 

Awkward angle, but you get the idea. Much deeper seat with much larger blocks.

Again, the flocking needs to be changed to fit May, but I was fairly happy with the shape on her. Honestly, getting in a saddle like this was such a weird feeling. It is CUSHY and COMFORTABLE and has big blocks in it. So different from my fairly minimal Stubben. I warmed up quickly on the flat, just getting a feel for getting into and out of the new saddle. May seemed comfortable in it with no sucking back or crow hopping.

We warmed up over a very small vertical, just looping back and forth over it. Then we made it a big bigger and all seemed to be going well. The first exercise was the first jump of both my courses. It was an oxer set kind of awkwardly off the rail with a placement pole three strides out and then another on stride out.

At first, I was a bit like… ummm what? with this exercise. It just seemed really random. Then I rode it and oh hahaha ok. So the point of it was that  you really had to come FORWARD through the corner and maintain your own straightness to get the distance/line/jump. You couldn’t turn and then get straight because then you would miss to the first pole. You also couldn’t suck back and then go forward because of that pole. Man, this one really instilled the whole lesson in one little exercise. You have to love that.

Once we nailed that, it got put up a bit, and we went and did our first course. Again, we started with that oxer exercise then moved into a straight line then a bending line. Fairly standard stuff.

Things I did well… we are working on moving May more forward and open between jumps and then just regulating the balance and straightness too the jumps versus still trying to create energy as I jump into lines. Overall, I felt like this honestly gave me much better distances (except to the last fence, which I conveniently cut out from the insta video… gif just for you).

Things I could have done better… I struggle with not just getting out

of the saddle and cruising. Is this a weird thing? Like I get up… and then don’t know how to use my leg lol. I am not sure if this feeling is partially the saddle being so much more than what I am used to or if this is an ingrained habit. Something to work on.

Also, since I am jumping in with more impulsion. I don’t then need to CHASE her down the lines like I did over the last fence. If I had just maintained balance and rhythm, it would’ve ridden better. Oh well. Good horse.

The second course was similar, but we bent to the right after the pink and then did the liverpool the other way to finish up over the blue and purple oxer.

Not totally sure what was up with that first line… She went to fade right on me. I corrected and pulled her off the lead in front. Oh well, all is well that ends well. The yellow&orange and red,white&blue, jumps went up a bit, but they still rode great.

My line from pink to orange&yellow wasn’t maybe the best line, but after she blew me off turning to the pink, I really didnt want her to just keep falling through that right shoulder. That change set us up almost TOO well for the liverpool to oxer line…. since she moved off my right leg better than I was expecting and we faded left… making that line a bit long.

Honestly though? I was super happy with it. We feel more than ready for BN next month. As for the saddle? Jury is still out. I think it is better than what I have, but it doesn’t make my butt sing like the bliss monoflap did. That being said… it’s well within my current price range, AND I did feel more secure when things weren’t quite right… vs. feeling thrown out of the Stubben and having to scramble to get back into it. I would like a saddle fitter to see it before I make any decisions, for sure.

So lots of change this lesson, but I think we handled it really well. Do you feel like making changes in your riding/equipment leads to immediately improvement? Or does it just always feel kind of weird at first but better later?

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Cue Internal Squeals of Joy

Typically, when I tack up for a jump lesson, I find myself battling some internal demons. It is usually a process of dragging myself to the barn and forcing myself to grab my jump bridle. Not because I don’t like jumping. Honestly, I LOVE IT. There is NOTHING better than the feeling after a great jump school.

However, I battle a lot of anxiety around jumping. Most days, that anxiety makes me want to run to Dressage. But then, last night happened.

Last night was the worst set up. I got stuck at work a half hour late (but have an amazing trainer who DIDN’T EVEN CONSIDER canceling on me….  is it too early to start thinking of Christmas gifts??). Then the pressure had me sporting an INCREDIBLE headache. When I finally got tacked up, it started down pouring. Annnnnd I forgot my regular jumping bit in my show trunk because I had switched to a gag bit for the hunter pace.

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Oh, and yes, that hunter pace IS the last time we jumped.

However, I am not sure if it was the combination of knowing we now have a show on the calendar, the cooler weather, or the brand new jumps in the arena… but I was DYING to jump. Luckily, Mandy was cool about waiting even LONGER to start my lesson as we waited out the rain storm. SO. SO. THANKFUL.

When we got out there, the footing was perfect, but all the jumps had that “shimmery” quality jumps get when they have water sitting on top of them near sunset. No big deal.

We warmed up through an exercise that focused on moving May off my inside leg and connected with my outside aids for canter/trot/canter transitions. This went mostly ok.

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You can see the puddle on these boxes

We warmed up over a small course that, honestly, went really well. I had a bit of trouble getting May really in front of my leg in the bigger bit (UGH), but figured it out by the end of the course and my second attempt was good.

Then, we moved onto a longer course. Single diagonal, triple line, skinny vertical, bending line to oxer, roll back, then sharp bending line to a vertical. WHEW! The first attempt was good. The second attempt tho, was EVEN BETTER.

Not only was the second attempt better, but the jumps were bigger. And you know what? I really wasn’t nervous. The entire lesson. No nerves. WHO AM I?

Are there things to fix? Of course. Am I going to get nervous in the future? Of course. But last night was FUN from start to finish. I might write a more in depth post about this lesson, but for now, I am just going to bask in my love for this little yellow horse.

When It Clicks – Jump Lesson Recap

Once again, I walked into a jump lesson feeling totally dumpy. Stress and hormones were taking their toll, and as I warmed up, I felt like my body was loose and unwieldy. Why couldn’t I sit in the saddle or put my leg on right or do anything right? The world may never know.

As usual, I debated about telling my trainer (can we just call her Mandy now?) that I wanted to keep it easy and simple and whatever. Also as usual, I didn’t. I took the hour of time to lay myself at her feet and let her do what she thought was best. Sometimes, that is oddly therapeutic.

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I finally managed to jump the middle 😉

Our first exercise was a classic… but something that I realized I had never done with May. We trotted into a 4 stride line. Halted, and then cantered out over a low, wide oxer. It got… better… but we never really nailed it. May think that whole idea is dumb. We should just jump the thing and then the other thing, no stopping needed. She did, however, jump the stuff out of the oxer EVERY TIME. Seriously, this is probably the best thing we have ever done to help strengthen her back end.

Since it was so hot (mid 80s with humidity and no breeze, yuck), we didn’t want to push things too much, so after doing the line exercise a few times, we moved onto a course.

Almost asked Mandy to make this one smaller/narrower…

The course was a short approach to the pink vertical, bending right to the oxer, loop left over the corner fence, long approach to another wide oxer, right turn over the plank vertical, then a long approach to the triple bar. I do not doubt that the reason both approached to the long oxer were off the left lead is because I tend to let May fade right on that lead.

This time though, I didn’t! For years, we have worked on getting the right balance and rhythm. Now? We are adding the straightness, and it is clearly making ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

I honestly got a bit lost going to the first jump, so I just put my leg on and got her straight. She jumped it great but a bit big… and I panicked and cut my turn to the oxer. It kind of surprised her, but she jumped the snot out of it.

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The left turn to the corner was great. We got a bit close, but I would rather do that then take a flyer to a corner. I kind of just let her coast around until we made the turn to the red black and white oxer. I really pushed her off my inside leg. While she was surprised by the slightly bigger height of it and tapped the rail, she landed on the right lead. Yay!

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Almost asked Mandy to make this one smaller/narrower…

I should’ve kept her moving through the corner but didn’t, so we had a bit of a long spot to the plank. The nice thing about the plank is it looks a bit more solid, so she jumped it night. Then the triple bar. Mandy specifically told me to just keep my leg on to it and DON’T PULL. So I didn’t I got her straight off my leg, kept my leg on, and she jumped it great!

So was it hoof perfect? Nope, but it was the best I have ridden a course on the first try in a LONG TIME… like maybe ever. And, it’s a long way from this Way Back Wednesday Post!

Since it was so good, we decided to just end on that. No point in making a pony tired when she just laid down a trip like that!

A Lesson in Adjust-ability and Balance

Have you ever felt like you have been eating really well/clean, and then you track your food and it turns out you are basically eating like a 18 yr old their first week of college? No? Just me? Well, I feel like we have been super consistent with our lessons, but as always, the blog is here with the truth.

 The truth? Our last jump lesson as 5/15… which was our first jump lesson since 4/23. Oops. Part of this was my wonderful and much needed Florida vacation… and part of this was us being derailed by our super fun XC schooling at KHP. Worth it.

Knowing this gap, I had actually jumped May on Friday afternoon. I don’t jump when we are totally alone, but the woman doing evening barn chores showed up just as I was considering ending my ride, so we popped through the cross rail line and then some vertical gymnastics. The problem? I had my Dressage bit in instead of my jumping bit, so May kind of dragged me around. Oh well. We would fix it on Tuesday.

AND FIX IT WE DID.

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I don’t think my trainer specifically set this course to fix all my issues… but damn if it didn’t go a great job of it. We started with three crossrails set in the middle of the ring at angles. The distance between each crossrail if you rode straight through them (center to center to center) was two strides.

We started by just looping through the crossrails, taking the long approaches. And you know what? It was pretty bad. May wanted to just rock along on her forehand and drag me to distances that weren’t there. This issue always becomes a bit prevalent whenever we do accuracy exercises over small jumps.

Ahhhh the right shoulder drift. My favorite.

Over larger jumps, she rocks herself back a bit. But when they are little, she treats them like the suggestion of a speed bump. Sooo I wrangled back control, and we did a lot of halting, leg yielding, backing exercises after fences. NT wanted me to focus on getting a lot of control over her shoulders and balance.

We then added to the three crossrail exercise. I looped through with the long approaches, and then jumped the first jump, did a circle to the right, jumped the second one, did a circle to the left, and then jumped the last one. I struggled to get May to land on the left lead over the second one.

Eventually though, she was listening and landing in a better balance for me. Sooooo we then moved to what was, honestly, the hardest part for me. Jump in, bending three strides to right to the second cross rail, then bending three strides to the left over the third crossrail. The first time through… I got a big distance to the first… made the second happen… and then missed the third.

Ugh. Second time? Got the first one, took down one of the rails in the second jump… and got two strides to the first jump. UGH! Finally, we nailed it, and I really felt May rocking back on her hind end and wrapping herself around my inside leg. Sweet!

So then we moved to jumping straight through the exercise. Two strides between crossrails. EASY PEASY! May lined up and went. I worked on staying tall with my body and keeping her shoulders lined up nice and straight.

 

Much happier to just go straight through

At this point, we had a pretty long lesson, but hadn’t jumped anything of height. Sooo we put together a course. Bending 3 crossrails, long approach to middle crossrail, straight through crossrails in 2 strides, loop around to the left and grab the oxer, then loop around to the right for the barrel jump, bending 6 strides to the other oxer. (sorry the first jump got cut out below… damn 60 seconds on instagram)

Super happy with it! At this point, she decided she didn’t want to land on the right lead anymore. Oh well. We fixed it pretty easily. The 6 strides were easy peasy, even when she sucked back and jumped a little round over the barrel. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had my horse back. Forward to the fences and easily getting the distances without her flinging her head around or me having to chase her around.

Room for improvement? Always! But definitely something positive to build on next week.

Grid Redemption – Jump Lesson Recap

I’m not sure if you all remember my last grid attempt, but I sure do. In case you forgot, it went something like this:

So when I saw a long grid set up in the middle of the arena (complete with guide poles), I found myself a bit hesitant. You have to turn away from the barn to it off the short side, so again, super important to control the shoulders while keeping the energy coming forward. Soooo similar to the last grid. Fun.

I warmed up quickly with a focus on getting May supple. Supple both going forward and coming back, as well as from side to side. We actually had a bit of an argument about that right shoulder on the flat. Cue some more nerves.

So I had a quick chat with my fear bird, and then turned on the helmet cam.

The grid started pretty small, so it ended up requiring a super quiet ride for me as May thought about just plowing through the whole thing.

We approached from one direction, then the other. Down the long side, I tried to just get out of the tack and let May coast along a bit (like she would through most of XC) and then sat and rebalanced before the turn. I do like taking opportunities to let horses carry their own balance as much as possible, and I like to think it’s a habit that has helped improve May’s balance over the last few years.

We only went through it once at this lower height since… well it just went really well. We popped the rails up a bit, and I went through it again. Same results, so we moved onto courses! Since the gymnastic is obviously a bit tough on the horses, the courses were fairly short with an emphasis on riding accurate lines on a forward step. You know… show jumping haha.

A for Effort from Ms. May!

For our first course, the gymnastic was first.( I made the ground poles light blue and the actual jumps dark blue). Right turn to an oxer set on a turn off the rail. You know, the type I LOVE to cut the corner to. Left turn to a 7 or 8 stride bending line from the swedish oxer to vertical.

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Tuesday was also the day of needing the second try for me. Both times, May landed from the grid on the left lead (probably because that is how we turned while warming up).

First time through this course, I pulled May around the corner to jump two, pulling her off the counter canter in the front. The jump was fiiiiiiiine, but we didn’t get the lead over the jump (because I was pulling right). Sooo the swedish came up super awkward, and I slipped my reins. As a result, I rode with super long reins to the pink vertical in 8 squirrelly strides.

So then we tried again. The second time through, I kept the left lead to the square oxer (yay), but just didn’t see anything coming to the swedish and didn’t insist on the forward and straight, so she chipped and fell right. (Leave it to us to jump the highest part of a swedish oxer) Falling right made the bending 7 strides to the vertical a bit long; however,  I rode forward and straight (hah), so it was fine. You can see that round in the first slide of the below insta:

The next course is in the second slide of that insta. No grid this time, so had to set our own rhythm right off the bat.

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First jump was the pink vertical bending to the swedish, which rode great. Then… she jumped a bit right and faded right after the swedish, so our turn was super awkward to the square oxer. Again though, forward and straight. The LONG (see below for how long) distance towards the rail ended up with May cross cantering after the fence

I had basically…. 12 strides of complete indecision. (future self, just let her get straight). She fixed it (with no help from me) when we got straight to the fence… but again, I saw nothing and kind of did nothing. The awkward distance to fence four meant the four bending strides to fence five came up SUPER quick… and I didn’t do anything to fix the distance. So it was also awkward. (Yay for consistency?)

I am proud of the fact that I didn’t just throw my body at her when things got weird. It helped her keep a bit of confidence and get over the fences without any rails coming down. I circled around (also in the video above) and did that line again. It rode great, so we finished on that!

Honestly, my nerves are starting to feel WAY MORE within my control at this point. I didn’t have that numb, panicky feeling before every course. However, I did make a note to let NT know when I was getting towards the end of my physical limit, since I think the accident a few weeks ago was partially due to my own fatigue.

Either way, we already feel ready for our move up to BN in the beginning of June, so I am excited to fine tune my issues before then.

2019 Spring Bay Horse Trials – Show Jumping

While my background is completely hunter jumper (from ages 6 – 23), somehow, show jumping is the only phase that wants to give me pause. However, this time I was armed with some new rider psychology tips via the Brain Training for Riders. (Big thanks to Amanda for the recommendation)

I did have one advantage on Show Jump day though. We walked the course when it was set for Prelim. In case you are wondering, walking a course when it is set for Prelim makes Starter look REALLY small. Still though, it was a complicated course with 0 straight lines in it… I wish I was kidding.

However, I had a plan. I was going to ride May forward enough that I wanted to pull… and then not pull… Other than that, I was going to get her body straight and square to ever fence. I wasn’t going to worry about distances but concentrate on my pace, line, and balance.

Spring Bay Show Jump

I also got the whole thing on video! (Sorry for Youtube killing the quality.)

All photo credit goes to Vic’s Pics. They had an AMAZING deal at the show to get ALL your pics for $50 on a USB. And honestly, they got so many great pics, especially in SJ, that I put in my order before I even ran XC (and when I was questioning if XC was even going to happen). Oh and that cambox you see? I forgot to turn it on for SJ. >.<

Jump 1 was the best jump 1 I think I have ever ridden in my life, and May jumped it so well. (It’s the top pic of this post). Then, we bent around to get a great jump at 2…. and again to jump 3. It felt AWESOME. Usually, my first three jumps on course are me getting into a rhythm and don’t flow great. This time, I HAD the rhythm, balance, and line, and they jumped GREAT.

So here I am. So super excited about how things are going. I made a great turn to Jump 4… I got her square… and she suddenly decided to RUN at it. It’s really hard to see in the video, but she wanted to get flat on me. I halt halted, but it threw us off enough to tap 4 pretty hard (I am shocked it didn’t come down). That also meant that we didn’t land as balanced as we needed to in order to get a good turn to 5. I didn’t put my leg on as soon as I should have, and the distance came up ugly. She jumped that one awkwardly but kept it up.

The turn to 6 was seriously what jumping dreams are made of, and she jumped it out of stride. Then an easy bending line to 7. Despite our cross cantering, the rhythm and line were good, so she popped over it easily. Then… we made kind of an awkward turn to 8, so she jumped it kind of funky. Oh well, it was still easy for her.

Jump 9 just came up out of stride, and we made a sweeping turn to jump 10. I had to put my leg on for the big spot, and she jumped it great.

Obviously, I was super happy to have a double clear round. I think that it, honestly, would have rode BETTER if the jumps had been a little bigger. May was super unconcerned with distances to the point where it actually made things more difficult. She was also very unconcerned with what any of the jumps looked like. There was no peaking or over jumping. Just happily cantering around.

However, I am VERY VERY happy that I managed to execute my plan. I am also happy that, in the pics, when the distances got ugly, I kept my shoulder back and my body over her center of gravity… instead of throwing my whole body up her neck.

As a result, we maintained our 29.3 score and 2nd place standing going into cross country on Sunday!