Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jumping lesson at WRR

I had the best jumping lesson in the world last week. I hauled Kat down to White Rock Ranch and took a jumping lesson down there. Keep in mind, crew, that this little mare of mine has NOT been jumping for very long.

Kat briefly forgot how to get into trailers

At all.

Bless her little pinto heart.

We warmed up first with a figure eight on about ten meters at the trot. The catch was that the change of bend happened with her facing the judges box outside the arena, and Kat had determined that this building was GOING TO EAT HER. She'd keep moving if I allowed her to just bend any which way and not really conform to the circle, but CM wasn't cool with that. We must ride correctly! He said. So Kat would stop and tremble the second I took my inside leg off to switch legs and get the new bend. CM coached me through keeping my outside leg on in a way that encouraged Kat forward through the final stretch of the circle to facing the scary barn, and then using my knee and thigh to get the new bend. Not in a "this is how we should ride all the time" sort of way, but more in a "this is a tool to use if you really want to take this flighty animal cross country some day."

Then we worked over trot poles. You'd think trot poles are fairly simple, but they're not when the entire goal is to have the horse balanced and relaxed in the turn and then you have to ride very, very quietly over the poles. The horse has to make the mistake and learn to come back underneath you for the poles.

Meanwhile, my dressage coach's voice is ringing through my head "an effective half-halt is cheap! They're free! Use them all the time!"

Ack. So we worked coming to the poles both off the short turn and the long turn, and coming off the short turn was definitely easier for me to just go silent in the aids department.

so sweaty. so gross.

Then we worked on applying our "get balance and rhythm and keep it over fences" philosophy to the following exercise. (I apologize for my inability to create diagrams.)

The first exercise was to ride off the corner over the two stride combination, then loop around to do the other two stride so that you came out of the corner for both sets. The more advanced version is to ride directly from one two stride off to the other, but Kat wasn't quite ready for that. We worked on getting our leads. We worked on me trusting that a balanced 12-foot stride would take us where we needed to go. We worked on using the first fence to set us up for the second. We worked on me actually riding the two strides between the jumps. 

It was a big arena, there were dogs running around outside, there were cars everywhere. And the longer we cantered, and the more I actually applied my aids and rode, the better Kat went. She just kept getting better, and calmer, and more rideable. It was an incredible feeling. I had to think about me and about my riding but there wasn't a lot of thought about her as being entirely separate because when I got it right, she was there and she did it with me. She didn't make a single mistake, it was all me. 

It was an amazing feeling. 

Then we opened up to riding the bending line out of the combination. 

He let Kat smell the wall and the planks before having us jump them out of the trot which I really appreciated. She really hasn't seen a lot of styles of fence, so it was wonderful to jump some other stuff away from the farm, but it was also a bit intimidating because of how keenly aware I am of her green-ness.

And so away we went, with the whole tight turn, keep your balance thing. We worked on almost leg yielding through the bending line to be certain we ended up perpendicular to the wall/plank.

She did so superbly well I can't even begin to describe it.

The only whoops that happened was one time we came through the corner towards the first combination and Kat sat down, stretched over her topline, and relaxed into the rhythm. I stayed in my light seat and she came down the line perfectly straight. I turned my head to look at the wall. She stayed super light in my hands, totally balanced. And I stared at the wall. She locked on, ears up. I kept my legs against her sides and also kept staring at the wall. She started to open out to it and I gave her a little half-halt to try to keep our rhythm steady. I also kept staring at the ground right in front of the wall.

All the aids were perfectly in place, and Kat floated to an excellent, square halt right in front of the wall.


All in all, I desperately wish I'd had someone to videotape us for me. We felt totally unstoppable. (unless of course I stare at the ground for too terribly long.)

Notes for myself:
  • Keeping a steady rhythm with legs against horse
  • using outside aids to turn to help balance over the hindquarters
  • Keep eyes up or horse refuses
  • Shoulders back
  • If the pace stays the same then distances will come
  • Look at the jump well in advance
  • Think about leg yielding onto lines when looking at bending lines
  • Use thoughtful exercises to help defuse scary objects (figure-8)
Horse and trailer in the rearview and the ocean out to the side. (Holy cow, I am lucky!)


  1. awesome lesson! i love that feeling of having the horse right there with you through everything too. using the outside aids to turn has been a priority of mine lately too - makes such an awesome difference!

    1. I know, right?! The worst part is how much time I actually spend shouting at my kids about using their outside aids... You'd think I'd learn.