Jumped a 3'3 jump something like 5 times in a row ... and didn't fall off! 2 out of those 5, it was an awful jump, 2 out of 5 times, it wasn't SO bad, and once it was pretty ok:) You wouldn't think 3" would be such a big deal, but that can be the difference between "easy" and "impossible".
I rode honorary little sis's morgan boy yesterday afternoon. Sparky (AKA Sparkplug, Napolean Dynamite, Spanky, etc.) is an adorable, sassy little morgan gelding with a long barbie doll mane and a VERY athletic hind end:) He isn't particularly YOUNG, but he is GREEN due to a pretty major injury a few years ago. He jumps in beautiful form, is athletic as all get out, but has a bit of an unpredictable stop/runout. Not to mention that sometimes canter transitions involve a little squeal and buck every now and then. I used to keep track of the number of horses I'd ridden. Somewhere around horse #82 I gave up that little habit, and just concentrated on having a good ride on whatever horse I happened to be on. It was a mental competition; I just wanted to ride more horses than ANY of my friends. Since giving birth to a child and FINALLY getting my own horse, the urge to ride other horses has really gone away. Love my muffin; trust him with my life.
Nicole and I set up a gymnastic; trot pole to a cavaletti, short one to a tall crossrail, slightly more 'normal' one to what would become a vertical, 2 'normal' strides to a crossrail oxer (not a swedish oxer; a crossrail on the front set of standards, vertical rail on the back set of standards). Nicole and I switched horses for the flat. Tiki was wearing his hunter bridle with the hollow D-ring, and I had the straps ready to tie the stirrups with! Upon settling into Sparky's saddle, it became apparent how soft and squishy he is! He is WIDE, and he is COMFORTABLE. Figured out his buttons and had a nice, uneventful warm up. I REALLY enjoyed my ride; some horses (like Mick, Audrey, and Sedona) are NOT fun for me. Sparky and Star were both quite fun and enjoyable:)
Didn't waste a second and allow my stance on "flatting unknown horse ONLY" to be changed, so once warm, I hopped off and ran up my stirrups, lol. Climbed back aboard the Tiki man and trotted into a small cav stack vertical, cantered out over the cabinet. AGAIN with the super soft jump and lovely, slow rhythm. Either it's the heat, or my boy has figured out jumping from a relaxed, soft gait is easier than jumping out of a tense, frantic one. He was so LIGHT! Usually "hunter bridle" doesn't really produce "soft and light". Trotted the coop and worked on staying right with him in the air, then began over the gymnastic. Nicole had me grab MANE and HOLD it the entire time, and let him figure out the jumps and distances. Because I know Tiki has a slight left drift, and I'm so used to jumping with an automatic release, I only grabbed mane with the left hand, and kept my right hand out in an opening rein, keeping him in the center. Didn't even realize I was doing that! Finally got through it holding mane with BOTH hands, and he jumped perfect.
Raised the 2nd crossrail to a 2'6 vertical, and opened out the oxer a little bit, making it wider but not taller. As muffin went through, it felt weird jumping up and over the vertical, then out and over a low but wider jump. He felt really great, though. I approached the jump in my 2-point, and kept letting him speed up coming in, so Nicole had me go through a few times until I stayed the same and didn't let go of the mane. Raised the oxer to about 2'6, and the vertical to 2'9 and went through 2 more times ... he was lovely, and I felt pretty darn good. Nicole had quit with the 2'6 with Sparky because he was honest and straight, and he deserved to end on a good note. I let her put up the 2'9 vertical one more hole to 3'. I totally saw her try and be sneaky and put it up 2 holes to 3'3; I let it go. Truth is, I felt pretty good, and it's always nice having eyes on the ground. So I went with it!
First time through, he jumped so high up over the 3'3 that he put in 2 and a chip to the oxer. He landed off that jump and just FELL to the left, very hard. Came again, and again opened my right rein; again Muffin landed short, and scrambled to the oxer. Well, shoot. Again, and my hand slipped off the mane, but he got the correct striding. Nicole finally just said, "If I just shut up and don't tell you to grab mane, will you do it?" Lol, I said yes. So, she stood silently while I came in a 4th time bound and determined to hold mane with both hands and sit still. FINALLY, he landed off the 3'3 jump and went straight ahead and didn't fall left. Nicole was silent, and then told me to go ONE more time, and NOT let him get fast coming in. Haha, I went with it. Regulated my pace perfectly, trotted the cav, one nice stride to the crossrail, one stride to the 3'3 vertical (HELD that mane), 2 forward strides to the oxer. He was straight, he was balanced, and it felt amazing. Quit there.
Analysis? It is super hard for me to just HOLD MANE:) Once I quit opening my right rein, my horse quit falling left. My position felt good; I of course fell back in the air a few times, but not a whole bunch. I only caught him in the mouth once when he jumped through the 3'3 combo the first time. I love my horse; he really does have a sense of humor. I'm not perfect by any means, but he helps me ALL the time to become a better rider. Since I'd hopped on bareback with a halter and hacked him in his pasture yesterday morning before I did stalls, I counted our gymnastics ride that afternoon as my 5th ride for the week and didn't get up at o'dark thirty to ride this morning. I'll do that all NEXT week:)