Or maybe you just know me personally and know that I moved May to a new barn! The “reasons” are pretty mild, as far as these things go. I wanted to be with a trainer that had more of a “team” going to the local shows like the one I did last month, I was also looking for someone who was around for at least most of the winter months, and I was looking for a program where a bit more of the horse care was on the trainer instead of the owner. This is 100% a preference thing, but I think this type of program just works better for my lifestyle.
The new barn!
The barn is part of a 40 acre farm, but NT only manages the small barn in blue. May will be turned out in the field that is circled in green. The other part of the property is rented by a Dressage trainer who has her Silver medal and is an L graduate. Both sides get along well, share both arenas, and share some general barn duties (like dragging the arenas). I liked this mostly because it means that, even if NT is away, there is another professional keeping an eye on the arenas/general barns. New Trainer (NT) goes to Aiken for a couple of weeks before the start of the season in KY and travels a bit for shows, but that works for me. The barns are completely separate, so that keeps both programs from bumping up against one another.
The covered building next to the small barn is the indoor. This isn’t my picture, so sorry it is in a weird format. The interesting thing, for me, is that this is the first “open” indoor arena I have ever ridden in. They don’t close it in the winter, so it might be a bit cold. However, I figure it shouldn’t be much colder than a stand-alone, closed in indoor. In fact, it might even be warmer, as sometimes that stand alone indoor is like a fridge!
The indoor and outdoor arena are right next to each other (see the pic below). Next to the outdoor arena is a big open field, which most people use to either warm up, cool out, or do some fitness. The property next to ours is also open to us to go trail riding. I am pretty excited about getting to explore those a bit more!
The barn May is in has an interesting setup, with a main barn aisle with stalls, tack room, feed room, etc and then a line of stalls that just open to the outside of the barn and back up to the feed room, tack room, etc. May is in one of those outside stalls, and she seems to LOVE being able to stick her head out and watch what is going on out in the fields. While the barn gets a nice crosswind with all the doors open, here are also ceiling fans that keep the air moving. Since the horses are in during the day, May seems to be really appreciating this feature.
So far, everyone I have met at the new barn has been super warm and welcoming. It’s definitely a very social barn, which I realized I had been missing more than I realized. I think that is pretty much it! May settled in really well. Although, she was a bit of a beast for our first ride on Tuesday. I think this was more due to the fact that I had barely ridden her the week before vs. the stress of moving. Either way, I have my first lesson tonight, so stay tuned!
It is probably fair to say that about 90% of people do eventing because of cross country. It is just… fun. May and I had gone xc schooling once since moving to KY, and we hadn’t really done a full XC course since our last horse trial. Again, due to the late start, we didn’t get a chance to walk the course ahead of time. Luckily, most of the jumps were visible from either the Dressage arena or the SJ area. There were 13 efforts in total. I didn’t wear a watch, so I have 0 idea how long it took us.
There was no formal start box. I decided to pick up my canter a bit before the start line so that we could have some momentum into the first jump. May, of course, wanted to throw herself on her forehand instead of creating power from behind, so we had an argument all the way to jump one.. and then onto jump two…
Jump 2 was a bit downhill, so again, I had a conversation with May about how that was not permission to fall flat on her face. Either way, we were up and over it.
You can see us trotting at the end of the clip, as I tried to find my way to jump 3. Jump 3 was a small down bank, but it was in line with a bunch of other banks through the trees. Of course, I lined up with the larger bank that we had schooled the other week, so I had to correct my course. Either way, May dropped down like a rockstar.
Immediately after jump 3 was the water. The water was flagged generously, so you could go around it on the left. I took that option, since I didn’t have enough time to land off the bank, get May squared up to the water, and create impulsion towards the water. Either way, May bent her body so far away from the water that we almost missed our flags.
We galloped through a fence line and up a small hill to the 5th jump on course, this little red house we had schooled the week before. (somehow, this venue managed to move all the jumps around in just a week. It was really impressive.)
I galloped to the end of the field, looking for the only jump on course I hadn’t been able to find when I was scoping things out. It was described as a “stack of logs.” Cool, I thought, it will just be a little pyramid of logs on the ground. No big deal.
The approach was a bit odd, as the fence line kind of curved away from the jump and then back to it. I managed to find it on google maps, so you all can see what I mean!
Of course, what I didn’t anticipate, was that the “stack of logs” wouldn’t be sitting on the ground. They were actually raised about a foot off the ground, making this both a bit of a looky jump, and the biggest jump on course. Cool. I didn’t look at it too long, just found my line, looked up, and kicked. May popped over it beautifully.
We had a bit of a gallop to fence 7… which I honestly can’t even remember. I am pretty sure it was just a small, brown coop. Then… I got a bit lost… I almost jumped the BN number 8, before I found my number 8. It looked tiny, so I cantered over to it. As I came upon it though, I realized why it looked so tiny. It was at the bottom of a very steep, short hill. Maybe two strides down the hill to the log. May could care less, and we were over.
We came back through the woods to number 9. Jump 9 was a cute, baby roll top.
However, you can see May land and start drifting back toward the trailers (towards the camera.) Our approach to jump 10 was a bit crooked, and then we had to re-balance, turn left, and go down hill to jump 11. As a result, we had a bit of an argument over jump 10, and a not-so-flattering moment. Oh well. It was fine.
Jump 11 and 12 jumped great, and we had a nice stretch uphill to jump 13, so I asked May to give me a bit of a gallop. She did, and I got lots of compliments from people after about how much fun our course looked. Jump 13 was the last jump. It was a cute train jump, which May popped over, and then got lots and lots of pats for.
The event still had several hours to go, and the barn was only 10 minutes away. I decided it would be best to cool May off, take her home, and then come back for the final results. (especially since May decided that any of the water presented to her at the show was poison.) May hopped back onto the trailer and was all settled in at home again within an hour. I drank lots of water, and we headed back to the show for, hopefully, a ribbon.
And we got one! We finished 6th out of 19 horses, adding just 4 jump penalties to our Dressage score. When I went to get my ribbon, I told them I came in 6th and asked for my ribbon… then thought about it and asked what place they give ribbons up to. Tenth! They give ribbons up through TENTH place at a schooling show! Awesome. Definitely, 10 out of 10, will be returning. 🙂
After Dressage, I had nearly 2 hours until Show Jumping. I took a look at both the show jumping and cross country course, but I wasn’t able to fully walk either due to the late start we had in the morning. Oh well, show jumping was 8 jumps with 1 related distance, and XC was basically one big loop.
May got to hang out in the shade and enjoy the breeze and grass, while I got to actually eat some real food. It might have been 10:30 in the morning, but I needed lunch! Once we were about a half hour to my SJ time, I pulled May off the trailer, threw on our jumping stuff, and got back on. Given that XC was running immediately after SJ, I just put all of May’s XC gear on and wore my vest. And then promptly forgot my armband. Whomp Whomp.
The husband ran back to the trailer while I warmed up again. It was a short, but good warmup, so I cut it a bit short. I wanted to watch a couple of rounds before I went in. Unfortunately, May had other plans and wasn’t super interested in just standing at the in gate, so while I caught bits and pieces of other rounds, I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing through. I do not think I saw anyone go through the related distance line (remember how I didn’t get a chance to walk it?)
Entering the ring for the round was a bit awkward, as you had to check in with the volunteer at the in gate, and then trot to the other end of the SJ field to check in with the judge. I also wanted to trot by 7 because, for BN, there was a 7B. As a result, right after 7 there were a bunch of poles in the grass, and I wanted to make sure May saw them before we were at the base of 7.
So once we checked in with the judge, I trotted along past 5, since that was a couple of hay bales and sometimes hay bales are scary. I picked up my canter, and May immediately started throwing her head around. Ugh. I got her attention back somewhere around 4, as I made my turn to jump 1. Unfortunately, our lack of focus meant my line wasn’t as crisp as I wanted, as May drifted behind my leg and towards the in gate. What does this all mean? It means we pretty much clobbered jump 1.
I kicked forward and got a slightly better rhythm and line to jump 2. We jumped in a touch weak, so I decided to balance up and do the add. Except I HADN’T WALKED the line. SO I got 3/4 of the way down the line, and I realized it was SET SHORT. It was also too late to chase her for what would have been a MASSIVE distance, or just faster shuffling corgi steps toward the nothing distance we already had lined up. Oops… we got to the oxer with no step, no impulsion, and no distance. Cool. May HEFTED herself over it, somehow leaving it up. Seriously, there is video evidence of this that I need to upload for you all.
By this point, I was pretty angry at myself for riding the first 3 jumps like a monkey. I kicked on to 4 and actually had a pretty nice jump. I keep kicking to 5. I am DETERMINED to have almost a “hunter gap” to this fence. We. Will. Not. Chip. For some reason, I had it in my head that she might look at that one, so I needed to ride strong. It was an oxer, which I hate, and it had some hay bales under it. Now, I am not sure we have ever jumped hay bales, but I know many horses that have taken offense to them. (I got an awesome nose bleed once after a horse took serious offense to some hay bales.)
I think it went fine though. 😉 It ended up probably being our nicest jump on course. Jump 6 I don’t even remember jumping. I probably stopped breathing that point. At 7, I was determined not to have the same issue I had at 1, and I rode more determined through my line. As a result, 7 was a non issue. I turned to 8. Kicked on, and was over. So SJ finished with just one jump down, but I was pretty frustrated for myself for not starting the round well.
SJ was pretty messy for a lot of people, and I later heard that the first jump when down a lot for people. Overall, we moved from 4th to 6th out of 19. No matter the score though, I was determined to go out and attack XC.
Of note, all the professional photos were purchased by me from Bluegrass Equine Photography for digital use. I am a big believer in supporting horse show photographers, so I was more than happy to pay for these happy memories!
Let me start my saying, my horse is a magnet for attention. More than once, I found myself surrounded by multiple girls, as they asked questions, petted May, and even gave her kisses. The horse, who is usually so aloof, really loves all this at shows. Go figure.
Our day got off to a bit of a rough start, as a scheduling conflict at the barn meant that we couldn’t get on the road until 9AM, vs. the 8:30AM I had been planning on. Luckily, the show venue was maybe 10 minutes down the road, so we weren’t in danger of missing my 10:06 ride time. I did, however, change into my boots, my hairnet, and my helmet while we drove.
As soon as we got to the venue, I sent my husband off the office to get my number and whatever information he could glean from the staff there. This was the same place we had went to for XC schooling the prior week, but I wasn’t sure where everything was set up for the actual competition. While he was gone, I pulled May off the trailer myself. For some reason, she isn’t a fan of my trainer’s 2+1 trailer, but she was patient as I worked out how to get her off of it myself.
The husband arrived back in time to help me finish tacking up, and then May decided to be a total beast to get on. Now, my husband is not a small man, and May full body shoved him out of the way as I was swinging a leg over… I guess It’s truly time to get serious about the standing at the mounting block thing at home.
I then wandered aimlessly around where SJ and XC were, trying to figure out how one gets to the Dressage arena on the other side of the pond. I finally found someone to ask, and it turns out you had to go down what looked like a private driveway, take a right onto a dirt path past a hot walker, walk up into a random field and around the fence line to the dressage arena. I am not going to lie, being lost like that and on a bit of a time crunch really stressed me out.
Whew! When we finally found the Dressage warm-up, it was broken into two areas: a big grassy field that was mostly flat, and an actual dressage court. I rode around in the field for a while before the Dressage court emptied. Then, I moved to the court. Of course, as soon as I got in there, someone else, let’s call her Competition Crazy (CC), decided she needed to run through her WHOLE test in that little court multiple times in a row. Maybe I am naive, but I feel like there is no scrubbing a test right before you go in. Practice the movements to get your horse as connected and tuned in as possible, and then go into the ring. (more on CC later too)
With a couple of riders left to go, I just let her walk around in the shade for a bit, hoping that would help relieve her of some of our combined tenseness. As I was watching the last rider go before me, a couple of girls came up to pet May. It’s amazing how just talking to people about my pony helps keep my nerves at bay. The rider before me wasn’t ready, so I happily agreed to go a bit early.
I wandered down to the arena and gave the judge and scribe my number. ANNNND they couldn’t find me. They asked for my name, and I gave it. They said my number didn’t match my name… cool. Then I gave them my horse’s name, and they were like “OOOHHHH. We thought YOU were May”. I may be a bit short, a bit round, and quite pale, but I am definitely not May.
We got it sorted out, and I got to trot a bit around the arena before they honked the horn, and we headed down centerline for the first time in 2 years. Below is how it went.
(a copy of the test can be found here, I am just going to give the scores and comments for each movement below)
8.0 – No Comment
8.0 – Nice Energy
7.5 – Slight Head Tossing
7.0 – Could Have More Balance
7.0 – Slight Loss of Bend
6.5 – Could Have More march
8.0 – 2-3 jiggy steps, but very nice stretch (This was VERY generous)
6.0 – Could March More. Slight Tension
8.0 – No Comment
7.0 – Could Have Been Cleaner
6.5 – Losing Bend. Slight Loss of Balance
7.0 – No Comment
8.0 – No Comment
9.0 – No Comment
Overall Comments: Well Matched Pair. Lovely Test. Work on Canter transitions and tension.
Final Score: 24.1
So my thoughts? The scoring was CLEARLY generous, but it was equally generous for everyone. I was happy with how May stayed connected and engaged throughout the trot work, and I thought the canter work was a lot less scrambly then the last time we competed. However, the tension in the walk is definitely something we need to work on, as it comes up at home too.
The score was good enough to put us in 4th place out of 19, so that was very encouraging. Either way, we had about 2 hours to cool off. Then it was going to be time for jumping!
Last Wednesday, I received a text from my trainer, “Thinking about going XC schooling on Friday afternoon. Are you interested?”
Excuse me? Interested? I was DYING to go. My immediate response was, “I’d love to!” Cue panic. See, I work 8 – 5, M-F, and I really don’t have extra vacation days sitting around this year for various reasons. Luckily, it was Derby week, and I live in Louisville, KY. As a result, the whole city shuts down at around 12PM on the Friday before Derby; however, I work at a company that is heavily tied to the stock market, which DOES NOT close on Oaks Day.
So what does a still-pony-crazy, 20-something do? She slyly asks her boss and the rest of their team what their Friday plans were (after she had already committed to the XC schooling with her trainer). Luckily, everyone seemed to have plans to either take Friday off or leave around lunchtime. Woohoo!
So on 1PM on Friday, I packed up my bags, changed into some of my nicer riding clothes in the bathroom, and hopped in the car on a mad dash to the barn. I got about halfway there before the thought of, “I should really eat” popped into my head. A quick stop at a nice gas station, 1 protein bar, and 1 giant bottle of water later, and I was off again! So eager in fact that I was at the barn about an hour before anyone else would be ready to go. Oh well, May could use the extra grooming time to try and get MORE HAIR off of her.
But then, of course, my mind wandered, as I have never actually trailered off the property with my current trainer. Would she want May’s saddle on for the 3 minute drive? (no joke, that’s how far we were going) Should she wear her XC boots for the trip? Should I used the lead rope with a chain or without one? Etc. Etc. Etc. Turns out, I don’t really think my trainer cares much, as long as I have some kind of plan and logic. Ultimately, May shipped sans-saddle, but with boots.
When we arrived at the XC venue, I had another thought. My horse hasn’t been off the property since we moved there more than a year and a half ago. Would she be a total beast while I was trying to get ready? Nope. She was perfect. She hung out by the back of my SUV, eating grass while I tacked up. She even stood mostly still to let me get on. Then, she pranced her way towards the XC jumps.
We started at the water, an old nemesis of ours. The water was big and dark with whatever grows in those ponds. I put my leg on. I kept my eyes up… and May wandered into the water as if she has never had a problem with it… Cool horse. Real Cool. We splashed around a bit, as our XC partners for the day were my trainer on a thoroughbred and another boarder on her standardbred. Neither of those horses had ever gone XC schooling before. After splashing a bit, my trainer walked her horse out of the water and over one of the smallest log I had ever seen. It looked fun, so we followed.
We then headed to the main field with jumps, and we walked over a few more really boring logs. My trainer explained that, for the less experienced horses, we didn’t want to make XC a big deal. It should just be like trail riding with things in the way that you go over. May and I hung out a bit, while they continued to familiarize themselves with the itty bitty logs.
Then, my trainer told me it was my turn. She immediately gave us a small course of 4 jumps. We started at the bottom of a hill, did two jumps, climbed up the hill, jumped a jump, then proceeded on mostly flat ground to the last jump. Feedback of the day? Don’t throw your body with your horse. Let the horse come up to you. I am not sure I mastered it at all the whole day.
We ended up adding the red house to the mix, a small combination (that was set for a nothing distance, and then two slightly larger green houses (which were actually set to a real 4 stride line. May didn’t look at anything, took me to each jump, and cantered politely in-between fences. The biggest feedback was to try and get May’s balance back WAY before the jump, like 8 – 10 strides. This way, I could get the balance back and then allow up to the fences, instead of getting into a fight at the base. I think it worked!
We only did it a couple of times as the big hills took a lot out of May, and the whole point was to just have a positive experience. We walked around a lot while the other riders put together a course with some smaller jumps and easier terrain questions. Once everyone was feeling especially confident, we went on a long trot to the ditches. Now, this venue is great because it has the baby-ist of baby ditches. I mean, this thing is about 12″ wide and 12″ deep. I pointed May at it, not making a big deal about it, kept the eyes up, my hands forward, and my leg on.
What did May do? She stepped in it. Just very politely, down into the ditch, and then up out of the ditch. My trainer just stared at me for a second and then said, “well, that’s not really right.” We tried again, with more leg, and she stepped over it. I even popped over the larger ditch a few times. We might have 99 problems, but a ditch ain’t one!
Overall, I was over the moon with Ms. May. She, as usually, was the exact same horse off the property as she is at home. Have you been able to get off the farm and do anything fun lately?
As the best weekend all year starts up again today, I figured it was a good time to provide some context to all those interested in what has become, in a lot of ways, a pilgrimage for eventers. This will be my second year attending the XC day with the hubs, but I encourage everyone to watch and learn from these athletes who are truly masters of our sport! (all media is from last year)
To Watch Online:
Online coverage is FREE this year through USEF. You can view it through this link, and get a free fan membership by using the code LRK3DE. If you have never watched a horse trial before, try to tune in on Saturday from 10AM – 4PM to watch the XC. Link to View.
The full schedule of everything happening at the Kentucky Horse Park can be found here. Below are the competition highlights:
Thursday, April 26
9 a.m. Dressage Test Ride (presented by Hylofit) — Rolex Stadium
10 a.m.–4p.m. Cross-Country Test (Horses start every 4 minutes.)
Sunday, April 29
1 p.m. Jumping Test Begins — Rolex Stadium
3 p.m. Presentation of the Awards — Rolex Stadium
If there is anyone in particular you want to see, I would recommend checking out the ride times here.
The Returning Champ – Michael Jung returns this year with fisherRocana FST to defend their title. With the removal of the Dressage coefficient, there is a lot of talk of him falling out of the top spot this year. Should make for a nail biting competition when SJ comes around on Sunday!
The Newbie – This year only welcomes one new competitor to the Kentucky Bluegrass and that is Sara Gumbiner and Polaris. Her first ride time is Dressage at 1:32PM on Thursday. Make sure to cheer extra hard for her! More information about her journey can be found on Eventing Nation’s piece: Sara Gumbiner Never Gave Up on the Kentucky Dream with Polaris
The Youngster – At 10, Johnny Royle, ridden by Joe Meyer, will be the youngest horse in the field. He’s a young horse, but he has 2 CIC3* under his belt this year (after running his last 2017 CIC 3* in November). This horse has since been withdrawn.
The Oldie But Goodie – Simply Priceless ridden by Eliza Wallace is back this year. The 17 year old thoroughbred might be the oldest horse in the pack, but let’s not forget that Phillip Dutton and Mr. Medicott were the highest scoring team last year, when Mr. Medicott was 18. Also, no one can watch Elisa’s various helmet cam videos aboard Johnny without seeing how much this horse still loves XC. Check out the latest here.
The Proven Warrior – The pair with the most four-star completions is actually NOT Michael Jung and fischerRocana FST… It’s Lynn Symansky and Donner with 8 starts and 8 finishes. Did we mention that he is also an off the track Thoroughbred? Cheer for them EXTRA hard!
The Favorite – No one! With the Dressage coefficent gone, it seems people are more willing to think of other LRK3DE winners this year… Although, I have seen Phillip Dutton’s name thrown around quite a lot aboard Z. He also gets the benefit of a super quiet Dressage test time at just 9:54AM on Thursday.
On Monday night, a bunch of the ladies from the barn got together for margaritas and horse talk. You know, standard stuff. One of the women sought me out, and blurted out “I am so thankful your horse is so good. I almost lost her the other day!” I stared blankly at the woman… what?
She was out in the mare field to get her horse in an attempt to squeeze in a ride between the time the sun comes up in the morning and the time she had to be at work. She moved all the mares away from the gate, got her mare, opened the gate, and May (politely) RAN through the gate. Trotting down the path to the barn.
(for those that didn’t see my barn post, here is a diagram of the barn. May goes out in the teal field and lives in the bright green barn. The only road is the one at the very bottom of the picture.)
Now, this needs some context. A few months ago, a boarder was covering for someone on one of the morning weekend shifts. No big deal. On Saturday, she says to me, “I know May turns herself in and out, but I had to lead her myself.” News to me.
Apparently, May has trained everyone into knowing that, once her muzzle goes on, she can take herself out. And once breakfast is ready to be served, she is quite happy to let herself in and wait for her muzzle to be taken off. And that’s just… May for you.
At first, I was ready to be upset when I learned about this. Parts of me screamed about how unsafe it is, how something could happen, how horses need to be led everywhere. But you know what? Last year she got bit by a horse fly while standing in the grooming area. What did she do? She basically levitated in the air, spun herself around (carefully), and trotted the 10′ to her stall. She is far more likely to be kicked by another horse being led with her in and out of turnout than she is to hurt herself walking back and forth to her stall. (or even trotting when she knows she wasn’t technically being let back in)
It works for her, so it works for me. (Although, I continue to lead her from stall to field and field to stall… Maybe I’m the sucker because May gets an extra treat this way.) Are there any “rules” your horse breaks?
So yesterday was my birthday, so I am not going to apologize for the lack of media here (although, that should be changing soon!). It was one of those birthday that just happens between the time you can legally drink and the symbolic “decade” birthdays. Solidly out of my Mid-Twenties though and into my Late-Twenties. As an extra special surprise, I got a text from my trainer on Monday morning. All it said was, “Lesson at 6:30 on Tuesday? Jump? :-D”
Obviously, I answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” (followed by about a million smiley faced). Then, I sort of panicked. See, May and I have only kind of loped around fences super casually, and I didn’t get the weekend at all to prepare. Saturday we did some long and stretchy stuff, and Sunday we did some walking.
We also have only had 3(?) jumping lessons with this trainer over the course of the year and a half I have been at this barn. The last jump lesson was a year ago. (I am not counting the impromptu lesson we had where I jumped around tiny jumps in my dressage saddle… but I guess I could.)
Most of my trainer’s clientele are either actively competing or planning on competing at the Training/Prelim levels this year, so sometimes, she cranks the jumps up. So, in a totally normal reaction to stress, I polished my boots up, wiped my saddle down before my lesson, and worried about having forgotten to grab a clean white pad to replace my teal, fuzzy, and now very hairy saddle pad. (I don’t think my trainer cares about any of this in reality, but I needed to do something to “prepare.”)
I got on about 20 minutes before my lesson to let us warm up before the lesson started. Unlike trainers of my past, my current trainer likes to get right into jumping or Dressage or whatever it is we are working on that day, so it is best to be warmed up before we get started (unless we are working on building or fixing a specific warm up routine for whatever reason).
While I was warming up, another lesson was going on. This woman at my barn competes Saddlebreds in the breed competitions, but she has fallen in love in eventing and is retraining her REALLY successful Saddlebred mare to be an eventer. I think this was one of their first jumping lessons, and let me tell you, that girl has hops! My trainer was laughing about the variety of horses in her barn, going from training a Saddlebred to my little draft cross mare. It makes it fun and interesting, and it shows just how many tools she has in her tool kit.
Onto my actual lesson! Below was the general set up of the arena. There were two outside lines that aren’t shown on the below, but we didn’t jump them, so I didn’t include them. I think it’s busy enough as is!
So where did we start? Well, we started with my trainer explaining that this would be a gymnastic-type lesson to see where we’re at. Works for me!
We started with trotting that single orange pole at the top. Literally. One pole on the ground, at the trot. My trainer had me establish rhythm and had me focus on NOT pushing May past her rhythm, which was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. We ended up having to do this twice, each direction, to get it right. Then, we moved to the set of three, teal, poles next to it. Each of these were raised on one side in an alternating fashion.
Again, the focus was keeping the rhythm even and a little slow. To get the power and push from behind without the horse trying to run through the exercise. Thanks to the first exercise, this one was pretty easy. We got it quickly, and were able to move on.
We moved onto the “Circle of Love”, which is the circle of blue jumps and blue cones in the above diagram. (my trainer REFUSES to call it the Circle of Death). Either way, it was a 20M circle with 4 jumps, and 4 sets of cones. At first, she only had 2 of the jumps up, but we were able to do that with absolutely no problem, so she made it up to all 4 jumps after 1 circle. Moral of this story? I do not need to throw my body over fences, and I need to be more comfortable with correcting quickly after a fence. I would say the first time through in each direction was rough, but once I got over the idea of letting May lift me out of the tack instead of throwing my body around, it got a lot easier.
My trainer explained that the goal of an exercise like that would be to first be able to get through the exercise comfortable in both direction. Then, to get the same number of strides between each fence. Once that is established, then you can make it more difficult by going outside the cones and adding 1 additional stride between each fine, and then weaving inside the cones and getting 1 fewer stride between each fence. She said this is something you would build over time, and wasn’t something we should try to drill into the horse in a single session.
She was pretty impressed with how quickly we figured it out, and was even more impressed with the fact that May wasn’t huffing and puffing after it. Fitness is working! (for her… this was the hardest I had worked in the saddle in a while, and I was feeling it!)
So what was next??
Next was an exercise in adjust-ability. We moved onto the three purple poles in a straight line down the middle of the arena. Not sure if any of you remember an earlier post, but I had jumped through these in a super open 3 to try and jump from a more open stride. Yeah… not the focus of this lesson. I was told to jump in and just let it happen in 4. We did that once in each direction, and then my trainer told me to do each of them in 5.
Now, May now knew that these were a 4, and turning an open 3 into a 5 is a pretty big ask from the big lady. The first time in, she blew off my half halt before the first fence, blew it off between the first and second fence, and my trainer told me to halt before the last fence. We did, and then we tried again. It continued to be REALLY difficult for her, and there was a told of dramatic head throwing. However, she was completely capable of doing it. For my part, I had to think of getting a real Dressage-Like canter. I mean, I was visualizing the canter I need to get a solid leg yield across a diagonal type of Dressage canter. I needed to keep May really high through the poll and shoulders. I don’t think I have ever asked this horse to collect her canter this much, and you know what, I should be. A couple of times, we close momentum and ended up in the trot, but I just circled and asked again. If she went through the jumps correctly, she got to canter on a more forward stride and looser rein as a reward.
So how do you build on that? You jump a very technical course with very low jumps!
We were instruction to come down the purple line of jumps in a 5 to a 4, go around the 9 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go between the cones, jump the 6 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go through the next set of cones. Then, we had to complete the S patter, by jumping the gray diagonal jump, turn to jump the last 2 jumps of the purple pattern in a 4, and then make a right turn to jump the oxer. After the oxer, we had to keep our line to fit through the super tight opening between the middle purple jump and the teal, raise poles.
So how did it go? Well, the first time, I wasn’t able to get the 5 to the 4. I didn’t push May forward over the second jump, and we just didn’t have the power to get 4, so we started again, and we nailed it. I came around to jump 4, which she jumped a bit big, which left us big to jump 5… and then I promptly forgot where I was going. My trainer told me, “I knew you forgot because you were looking at the wrong end of the arena.” whoops!
We restarted at jump 4, since May seemed to really understand the purple exercise. I rocked her back for jump 4, kept the bouncy canter for jump 5, demolished jump 6, cross cantered to jump 7, got my balance back around the corner, and jumped 8 beautifully before easily keeping our line through the small opening before ending our course. Was it pretty? Nope. That’s why you do these types of things with small jumps.
We decided to end on that note. Sure, the 4,5,6,7 line could’ve been cleaned up a bit, but we kept our rhythm and our line, which was the whole point. Since she jumped 8 so well, we through that was a great note to end on.
And today? I am so sore! hahaha. Can’t wait for the next lesson! (we also might have put a local schooling horse trial on the calendar for next month. Stay tuned!)
I was scrolling back through my posts to see if I could confirm this, but I am pretty sure Sunday was the first day I did an actual course of jumps in my new jumping saddle… I have popped over a few single fences here and there, but hadn’t actually strung a course together… nor do I think I had jumped an oxer in that saddle… and I know I wasn’t jumping oxers in my Dressage saddle… so how long had it been since we had jumped an oxer… Oops. Oh well.
(I think that might have been our last oxer… 11 months ago) Sunday was actually really beautiful in KY. We had about 18 hours of dry weather, which was enough for the amazing footing in our outdoor arena to dry up. So I begged and pleaded for the husband to come take video for me. (Really, I just asked since the weather was finally nice enough.)
Hindsight? I should’ve brought my crop with me. The horse with the carriage was out there when I went to get on, so I got on in the indoor and then walked over to the outdoor. No reason to get dumped because I didn’t want to bother to walk an extra 50 feet to a less busy arena. May didn’t seem to have a problem with the carriage this time, which was definitely improvement, but she was definitely just preoccupied with thoughts of what the cart was doing. I couldn’t really get her totally in front of my leg, but she was relaxed and obedient.
Since the jumps were set pretty small, I figured I would just warm up a bit and hope she woke up a bit. (This is terrible horsemanship, but… oh well… I had a relaxed horse.) There was a small box (maybe 12″) set up so that you could canter a 20 meter circle over it, so I started with that. I worked on establishing rhythm without losing suppleness through her body.
After a few times in both directions, I asked the husband to turn on the camera, and I pointed out the few jumps I was planning on doing. The footing nearest where he was filming was a bit deep and wet still, so I just avoided that line, but I wanted to pretty much jump everything else. haha
My original plan was to get through the course and then clean up the parts that I felt were messy. Mind you, early in the week I had tried to jump a few fences, and I missed to Ever. Single. One. I COULD NOT find a distance. This time, I shortened up my reins a bit, and focused on keeping my hands a bit higher than what I am used to (but what is probably correct), and keeping my reins short enough that my hands were about halfway up her neck. Below is what we got:
Overall? I am really happy with that. The biggest issue is obviously pace. Our pace should be closer to what we have in this clip:
However, the most important thing to me when reintroducing a horse to jumping is to make it as nonchalant as possible. It should feel like no big deal, just popping over a few fences. I can always light a fire under a horse’s butt if I need to… It’s a special skill of mine, so a quieter than expected jump school is a good place to start. Our simple changes were pretty good (although very numerous), and our only small argument was coming to the oxer, where I wanted to hold for no reason coming around the corner. I was wrong, she was right, and I had to pony-club kick for the long spot. Enjoy our small fail photo below:
It is probably also worth noting that I was testing a different bit in this video. A Myler D ring with hooks. No chain, but hooks. Jury is still out on it, but I clearly don’t need the pelham if she keeps going like this! So how do I feel about my jumping saddle around a course and over an oxer? I am pretty damn happy with it still. It doesn’t rock over fences like other saddles I tried. May clearly seems relaxed and happy giving me the long spot in it, and I felt my position was fairly solid given how long it has actually been.
WHEW! Just happy to be doing more than fancy prancing and trot sets though!
Also – who is going to the event-formerly-known-as-Rolex, aka KY3DE, aka Land Rover 3 Day… AKA who knows what they’re calling it now? I will be there for XC with the husband!
So as May and I have been upping our fitness lately. There is one aspect I have let go. Lateral work.
After getting May’s teeth and joints squared away and getting our fitness back up to a respectable level (still not where I want it, but much closer), I figured it was a good time to see where our lateral work stands. If you read this blog at all last year, you know that, without a jumping saddle, almost all of our lessons were Dressage lessons where there was a strong focus on lateral work. Why? Because as my trainer describes it, May is a body builder… not a ballerina. She needs more yoga before we can achieve real collection.
It makes sense to me, and I did see a lot of progress in her way of going throughout last year. So, I started with the old 40 degree angle, nose to the wall, at the walk exercise.
This one… Black is wall, yellow line is horse (who should be straight) and arrow is direction of travel.
She was really good. She moved off my left leg, held herself mostly straight, and finished the move by straightening out and marching forward through the end of the arena. Awesome. I repeated it a second time with the same results, and then we switched to the other side.
I got nothing. I set her up for the move, closed my outside rein, but my outside (right) leg on, and she threw her hind end through my leg and snapped into a straight line along the rail… No.. not what I asked. I made a small 10M circle,and asked again. Same result. She got a tap with my spur and reluctantly moved her hind end over. Eventually, we mostly got there, but she was still a bit of a pretzel. I didn’t want to drill the move, so I moved on to walking leg yields.
I thought about my trainer’s advice last year. Ride the horse like a table. If you had a table around you, and you picked it up and moved it along the diagonal, without turning, the legs of the table would trace the line your horse’s hooves should follow. It’s a weird visual, but it works for me. Again, I started with having her move off my left leg. We started with the quarter line to the rail, then the center line to the rail, and it was something sort of magical. She kept her body straight, moved at the angle I requested, and I could simply hold the contact with the outside rein. She got a big pat and lots of praise.
Then, I reversed directions and asked for the same from the right leg. Again, I got no response. Cool. I rolled my spur into her, and she moved on her front end. Even more cool. I tried to hold her with my outside rein, but she sucked her neck back, popped her shoulder further to the outside, and twisted her neck to the right. Ugh. Mare. I straightened her out, rolled my spur into her, and asked again. Same response.
Of course, I didn’t have my dressage whip with me (which only really makes her tense and might not have helped anyway), so I reached back and patted her just at the hip. It was meant to be a “hey, you need to move this part too”, and was definitely not hard enough to cause any pain. However, May took serious offense to the whole thing. She flung her head around, threw her body sideways, and gave me a giant huff. Maybe I just surprised her? I have no idea. It mostly seemed to work though, and I was able to get some correct (albeit very shallow) leg yield off my right leg.
The rest of the ride continued in mostly the same fashion. She moved easily off my left leg and tried to ignore my right side. (This is probably the root of my issue of getting her on the outside rein and was probably exasperated by the wolf tooth) I think the issue is still likely related to some general stiffness issues, so I am adding in some carrot stretches and her Back on Track sheet to see if those help. I am also going to continue with the pony yoga to see if it improves.
I think my next ride (hopefully tonight) will focus on stretchy circles where we leg yield in and out. I think that will help with the stretching and moving over issues. All the mud probably doesn’t help any stiffness of muscle soreness either. -.- In fact, it is supposed to rain 10 out of the next 15 days. Pretty sure KY is going to float away at this point.