As exciting as Presto’s version of our weekend adventure was (at least the water jump parts of it), Henry’s was a little bit more grown up and serious.
He is such a grump about sharing his trailer, I swear. Every time I looked in the rearview mirror to check on them, Presto was blissfully tearing chunks of hay out of the net and Henry was just standing there staring straight ahead, ears half pinned. He likes to act as if he doesn’t like Presto, but let me tell you who was the first one neighing for his long lost BFF when we got there and I left Presto tied to the tree.
First up on Saturday was a quick and very sweaty dressage lesson. Since bringing Presto home I’ve temporarily stopped our regular every-other-week lessons at the dressage barn near me, just until I feel a little less squeamish about writing that double board check. It’s been a couple months since we had a lesson, and a really really really long time since we had a dressage lesson with my regular eventing trainer. I swear, she is meaner than the nice dressage trainer man at home. He is really good at making me always stay calm and patient, but she doesn’t let me get complacent. It’s kind of a nice balance.
The main focus of the lesson was getting Henry extra forward and in front of my leg, something that has kind of always been an issue. I know I don’t always ask him for as much as I really can, and he’s perfectly happy to bumble around putting forth as little effort as possible. She made us trot and canter our big jiggly butts off. It’s almost like I need to get him a little too forward for a while, until he’s seeking to be a bit more forward-moving on his own. He was definitely in front of the leg, and shockingly (I know, right?) everything was a lot better. We’ve got homework. It’s called impulsion.
After that was when we went and grabbed Presto and ponied him over to the water. Honestly I can’t decide if my favorite part of that whole scene was watching Presto flop himself down in to the water repeatedly like a baby hippopotamus, or seeing Henry’s face on the video.
Poor Henny. His life is really hard, y’all. Somebody call the ASPCA.
Sunday was the “clear round” jumper show, which started with crossrails and went up throughout the day. In the morning I just hung out and watched and helped jump crew a bit, and stayed within eyeshot of Presto hanging out at his tree. He was hardcore glaring at me while I pretended not to notice. Y’all think Henny has good mareglare… you ain’t seen nothin yet.
Around 11 I went up and grabbed Henry to tack him up. The plan was to do one Training round and one Prelim round. I haven’t really been jumping him at home much at all… the ground has been a bit too hard for my taste, so we’ve just been hopping over a handful of little fences once a week, at most. It would definitely benefit my riding to be able to jump more, but it’s more important to save Henry’s legs and feet. He knows his job pretty well by now. It does mean I’m a bit rusty though, especially at full Prelim height.
It was hot and humid by the time I got on, so I did a very short warmup. Like 5 mins of trot, a few laps of canter, and then I jumped the little 2’6″ warmup oxer twice. Henry knows the deal by now. He seemed pretty happy to be jumping, too, after that dressage torture the day before.
This was my first time jumping real courses on him in his new PS of Sweden hackamore, with the plain leather curb strap. The first hackamore test run last month at the Scissortail show was in the other mechanical hackamore, with the chain strap. The mechanics of the PS are different too, since the “shank” part of the PS hackamore is swept back much more than a traditional hackamore. It hangs differently, further back from the mouth, and there’s less leverage, which I like because it makes it feel more like a middle ground between the sidepull and the regular mechanical hack. I thought that the mechanical hack with the chain strap was a little too much whoa, but I wasn’t sure if the different mechanics (ie lessened leverage) of the PS would mean that I might need the chain back. I also wanted to get Trainer’s opinion of how he jumps in it (I love it, but ya know…) so I waited for her to finish giving a XC lesson and then went in for our Training round.
It was probably the best round we’ve had in a while. In the hackamore I’m really able to ride Henry a bit more “up” in front, and he doesn’t feel like he wants to just ball up and go up and down like a carousel horse. He’s more forward, in every good possible way. And because of all those things, I feel like he really pushes off the ground a lot better and uses his body, especially his hind end, much more correctly. He still rubbed a few, because Henry is the most minimalistic horse in the world, but they stayed up, and the clear round was good for a blue ribbon. Trainer gave her thumbs up to the hackamore.
I was the last Training round to go, so all the jumps went up right after that. There were only two of us waiting for Prelim rounds, and as soon as they finished with the course I went back in. We had our choice of two different courses, but I just stuck with the same one we’d already done. My brain doesn’t need any additional challenges, thanks.
When I went in and picked up the canter Henry even gave a very sassy little head twist, despite the heat and humidity. I think he was happy to be back at it, doing something fun. Since it’s been a while since we’ve jumped some height, a couple of the oxers looked maybe a little big to me, but not too bad. I guess I’m getting used to the size now. Of course, I tipped my shoulders just a teeny bit at the base of the first vertical and he ticked the rail with his front toe. Whoops. He was really good though, even when he locked on to another fence in the rollback and I really thought he was going to try to jump it sideways. He ate that course up and jumped the crap out of some of those fences. Enthusiasm. He has it. Well… for jumping, anyway. Maybe not anything else. Except food.
I did find a bit of a big distance into the two stride oxer-to-oxer in and out, which did not make his job the easiest, but he self-corrected and hopped right through with no problem. He jumped the bigger fences better than the smaller ones. Knock on wood, but Henry feels really good right now… strong and capable and happy. I know I always say that he’s worth his weight in gold but I think he’s actually worth at least 3x that. How many horses can pack their amateur’s butt around a Prelim stadium course one minute and then the next minute be ponying his dumb little yearling brother around the field? Henry is perfection in a plain brown wrapper.
I ended up having to load them and haul home in the rain, but I’m glad we got our rounds in before the deluge started. What a great weekend for both of my boys!