Saturday, August 2, 2014

On horses maturing

First grid!

I went through it with Tiki, and now I'm goin through it with Jade ... maturing :)  I believe maturity has nothing to do with age; it has everthing to do with "getting with the program".  When I first sat on Jade last year, the thought of jumping never even crossed my mind.  I remember vividly with Tiki watching a friend jump a haybale at Joyce's and wondering if we would ever get to that point.  When the horse underneath you is so inconsistent on the flat, it's hard to think about all 4 feet off the ground, but when you're an eventer that thought eventually crosses your mind!

I'm not afraid of flatting horses.  Unless they're flat out dangerous, I feel as though I can ride through most anything.  So over the past months, Jade has pulled every evasive trick in the book; spooking, bulging, above the bit, behind the bit, under the bit, fast, slow, jigging, etc.  But through it all, I've remained consistent in my treatment of her.  Leg on, insist she take the contact, don't take "no" for an answer ... and it's paid off!  S can comfortably w/t/c/jump her now, and when we first began this journey, she was actually riding her in a western saddle for security!  I think it's been a combination of consistent riding, warmer weather, and supplements.

When I get on her, I put on my leg and push her up into my hand.  No jigging, no curling behind the bit, and a MUCH improved work ethic :)  I wear my spurs now to help really fine-tune control that right shoulder and it's certainly helping.  Now that S and I have been able to get her back in work, the bulging is beginning to minimize again.  That is always going to be her achilles heel, for sure.  This past week, I continued the idea of ramping up her jump work and jumping more "real" jumps vs just puttering over 18".  I actually cantered figure 8's over a crossrail, and she was super, even offering up a few flying changes.  I rode the canter to the crossrail trying to think about which lead I wanted to land, but she is still pretty strong at the canter, so just focusing on a rhythm was my primary objective.

There was another person in the ring with me, so I could only have 2 jumps "up".  I made one of the brush boxes a tall crossrail, and I put a pole over the brick.  I also dropped a trot pole in front of the little gray box to work on her trotting to the base.  I still don't do much jump cantering, that will come with time.  After cantering the crossrail in the figure 8 pattern, I moved on to flatwork, trot a jump, flatwork, trot a jump.  After every jump, I halted straight then flexed her right and moved her off my right leg.  All was pretty good until I was trotting the little box and I felt it; the right bulge.  She landed and DRAGGED me to the rail, nearly running into the other horse in the ring.  It has been MONTHS since she pulled that little trick so I jumped her case HARD.  I circled, growled, and gave her nice bump with the spur.  We then proceeded to jump that jump 5 times, with slight improvement each time.  I gave her a break, then did a little course involving a right hand turn after EVERY jump.  She did that well, I was proud.  Not a bulge to be found!

Today, she did her VERY FIRST grid :)  Yay!  It went much better than I even could have hoped.  I set a trot pole, crossrail, 9' to a brush box w/ no standards, 9' to a pole, 9' to a crossrail, 9' to a brushbox, 9' to a pole, 9' to a final crossrail.  S helped me, and we built it gradually.  She took everything in stride, pardon the pun.   I even approached in my 2 point, which I have NEVER done w/ her before.  The distances were actually more like 8'; I'd set everything short w/ the hope of making her wait.  Predictably, by the last she got a little on the quick side, but I chose not to jack the final jump up to back her off.  That will come next time ;)  I was so pleased with her understanding of how to handle it; there was no stops/bulges/runouts/bids/awkward moments.  Once or twice she was so nice and light and foot perfect I was just thrilled.  I believe she has really gained confidence, which is translating into maturity ... I'm excited to see how she does once the days get shorter and the winds kick up.  I hope we continue to move forward and progress; she's turned into quite the fun horse to ride!

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