Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Jump With Your Legs, Not Your Shoulders

I had a lesson last night with my eventing trainer just as I do every Tuesday night. We warmed up on the flat for a while. Our flatwork was okay, his rhythm was kind of inconsistent as always and in turn, he was inconsistent in his roundness and being on the bit. We're working on it and he's much better when he is working alone. Good for dressage tests, bad for dressage warm-up.

So we trotted and cantered over a teeny little crossrail to warm up. That was all fine and dandy. Then our trainer gave us a course to do. Mind you we are still in the small indoor at my trainer's place so the jumps are MAYBE 1'6". Not that I want to be jumping 3 feet every lesson, especially not in the tiny indoor, but it'd be nice to maybe be able to jump 2'3" - 2'6" consistently. Ben thinks all these little jumps are boring and he thinks that he can just flail his shoulders over them if he gets a bad distance. In fact, he knows he can just flail his shoulders over them if he gets a bad distance. Another thing about Ben: he doesn't like to be adjustable. At all. He is the king of getting a half-stride on related distances 98.7% of the time. Ugh.

So our course was pretty straightforward and simple: vertical on the outside, turn up the diagonal to a skinny, down the other outside for a long three/short four stride line, back to the first outside vertical in the other direction, bending line to a little oxer. The first jump was good, we got a nice distance to it. The second jump was a little short but he jumped it just fine. Come to the line, jump in, ask him to half-halt for the four...yeah right. More like jump in, barrel down the line on his forehand for three strides, then add a half-stride, hanging his leg, throwing his shoulders over first, flail over the second fence of the line. And of course it stayed up. He is the most frustratingly athletic and agile horse ever.

So my trainer made us do the line three more times before we were allowed to continue the course. We still got three longs and a short down the line, but they were much more balanced and he was listening a lot better. We finished by jumping the bending line pretty nicely.

Then we did the course again. First jump nice, second jump awful. Gets a short distance, doesn't know what to do with himself, throws himself through the rail of the fence...ew. So we had to start over understandably. The second time was much better.

 We need to get out of the indoor. My trainer's outdoor is huge and he jumps so much better when there's open space. He also needs to jump a little bit bigger fences. I know that sounds strange because he's jumping over tiny fences like crap, what makes me think that he's going to jump better over fences that are even bigger than that? But here's the thing: he knows very well that he can fling himself over the little fences but when the fences are up he knows he has to jump them well enough to clear them. He also loves to jump the bigger fences and we are much better about getting the distances to them then the smaller fences. Also, I am fully aware that this is not all him. I need to find the perfect balance of helping him out more and staying out of his way at the same time. I think later on today when I ride, I'm going to run him through some gridwork to hopefully improve upon the jumping from last night.

And so you can see the difference in when he's jumping well and when he's jumping like crap here are two videos of us to watch:

This is Ben jumping well at Mystic Valley Hunt Club Horse Trials going Novice. Excuse the awful turn from 7 to 8, that was completely my fault. We placed 2nd here with two double clear jumping rounds:

And this is us at the Kent School Fall Horse Trials at Novice. Of course this was the first really cold day at a freezing 39 degrees, he was a nut in the warm-up, and I'm not exactly helping him what with my allowing him to counter-bend, not FOLDING at ALL, and jumping ahead of him... This was when he went through his phase where he was bucking on the landing of every fence, so I rode very defensively. This was the only rail he'd ever had at an event. We placed 8th here with a double clear xc round that moved us up from 11th:

Thanks for reading! 

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