Alright, time for the fun part. If you suffered through yesterday’s recap of the flatwork portion in Part One you deserve a cookie. Instead you get to read Part Two. Sorry.
Our warmup fence was a little green astroturf covered coop, about 2’6″. We were to canter this off the left then off the right, etc etc repeatedly until something good happened. The first time over I got reprimanded for chicken wings, which I definitely find myself doing sometimes on this horse. I needed to make sure I was moving my hands forward in the release, not just laying my body down on top of them. I also was still turning my head in the air – I DON’T KNOW WHY I DO THIS but I’ve been tying to stop for years. Seriously, why is my head on a swivel? If I don’t 100% concentrate, it never stays straight. And of course subsequently my body doesn’t stay straight either. So – sit up, hands forward, head straight.
My friend Amy was both photographer and videographer so she did the best she could. I tried to cut out all the excess.
We cantered that jump a few more times with marginal success so we got to graduate to a different jump, a big oxer crossrail. The center was still little so no big deal although it looked a little impressive visually when you were cantering up to it. Off we went again jumping it off both directions repeatedly. A theme started to emerge here… jumping off the right never went quite as easily. Remember what I said yesterday about him carrying his haunches to the right? That of course translates into crooked horse and crooked approach to the jumps. So, I had to focus on controlling those wayward haunches.
It also became apparent that I’m making a twofold error in my adjustments.
1) I’m waiting too late after the jump to re-establish my pace and balance. This should happen before the corner, not in it. Once I’m in the corner I should just be maintaining, because it’s too late to still be trying to get my rhythm and balance back. Yes this is common knowledge, but it’s a really bad habit of mine to wait until the corner and I really need to be more aware of it.
2) When I do make an adjustment I should always use my seat first. Henry is pretty sensitive and needs very little aid to make these minor adjustments, so it’s very rare that I ever need to use a lot of leg or hand when jumping this horse. When I do, it usually creates an over-adjustment. So always try just the seat first.
We got those things ironed out a bit better and actually had a few really lovely jumps in a row, earning several “good”s. Those are hard to come by.
Then we moved over to the white box with a pole over it, which was maybe 3′. In trainer’s words “still a tiny jump” (easy to say when you’re a six-time Bolivian National Champion, former president of the Bolivian National Federation of Equestrian Sports and member of the Bolivian National Olympic committee, I suppose) but I’m just a peon and it looks a little bit on the bigger side to me when I’m on what is still a pretty green horse. And of course since it looked a little big to me, the first thing I did was try to attack it. Because that helps.
Trainer immediately nixed that behavior and had me practice waiting, waiting, waiting and just sitting up and supporting the horse all the way to the base – something my Certified Leaner self is not good at. We also practiced landing and immediately making a turn rather than continuing straight ahead, without me letting my body get crooked in the air in the process. This tied in what we’d practiced earlier about getting him back before the corner to ensure better turns. We did it, and it actually wasn’t heinous, and by that point Henry was breathing pretty hard so we quit while we were ahead.
Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps. I’m so excited about this type of work, I really thrive on the little details and I think this is what we really need to start moving up to the next level. I’m getting so much out of these lessons!