I can't remember if I've mentioned it on the blog (I've mentioned to everyone I see in real life including my incredibly not interested, not horsey, barista..) but the big mare is going off to a (little, tiny, baby) Hunter schooling show this weekend!
Being a total chicken, I've delegated the entire show to S for the rides, because I haven't navigated the shit-storm that is a warm-up ring at a backyard-jumping-show in approximately 15 years. This is where some of you might mention "But, didn't you ride hunters in college?"
Ohhhh, yes. yes I did. In that esteemed organization known as the IHSA. Yes... "hunters." Of course the neat trick there is that there is no warm-up! Just plop a Hunter princess on a 3-legged lame horse, disqualify her if she picks up the contact before she starts her course then slap the donkey/large dog/muppet on the ass as they trot into the ring for their opening circle....
Brilliant really, it's shocking that there weren't more casualties..
BUT, that whole nonsense did spare me the horror of careening around insufficient warm-up space with wild eyed ponies, crying children and wannabe jumper hotshots...
So yes. For Prairie's first time in that lovely scenario - S gets the ride :) kisses!
Anyway, knowing that P2 needs to be ready for baby (we're talking groundpole) courses on Sunday, we've been upping the ante and stringing together jumps in a course like fashion. So far she seems to be loving it. yesterday I helped set jumps for S and got to watch my mare from the ground.
(I've gotta say, that every time I get the chance to watch the mare go under S... I get goosebumps. P2 is muscling up so well, finding her balance and is just hypnotizing to watch. I don't think I'm supposed to be so boastful of my own horse but I just loooooooove watching her - when she's being good that is..)
Anyway, S warmed up and looked great. P2 was listening, light and flicking her giant ears at all the jumps. It would be her first time playing with some fill under the poles.. So we added:
|Scary Blue Flowers under a skinny X|
P2 didn't bat an eye. She was forward to all of them and aside from a slight spook when she whacked the gate with a hoof, she bounded over all three with her big, unnecessarily large jump that she uses over plain jumps too.
She was still wanting to rush after fences, but instead of leaning with all her might on S, she was light(er) in the bridle and capable of stopping without looking like a runaway locomotive. By the end of the ride S was stringing together a nice round (line, diagonal, line, diagonal..) with a decent amount of rhythm and balance.
We quit while she was being good and tortured her with a bath.
This morning I had the joy of the ride and S reset our outside line, a diagonal with the gate, then moved the scary blue flowers to a small vertical on the other long side.
OMG I LOVE MY HORSE.
We trotted through everything as groundpoles (LEAPING over the flowers) and then cantered everything individually working on our brakes.
All this baby-jumping has done wonders for out canter. P2 is getting really good at a) coming back to me b) patting the ground like a balanced, happy jumper and c) sitting on her butt. All things I like.
What's crazy is that at this point she is growing my leaps and bounds. Her brakes were even better than they were with S just yesterday, and even though she was still wanting to land-and-run. We could stay in the canter and have a lovely, measured, balanced stride by the time we rounded the corner... so that's tangible improvement.
Also, I am trying very, very hard to adjust my comfort zone. I need to "be ok" with Prairie taking off from a (slightly longer) spot and not hold-hold-hold her to the base of the jump. it makes her anxious and what feels long to me, is really quite a nice distance when you see it from the ground. So today I really had to not micromanage her. And guess what. When left to her own devices she stays calm, even and relaxed to the fence.
Here's what we set up:
|(when I get fired for blogging at work, I'm totally going to be a graphic designer)|
We did lots of little mini courses. Line going home, gate going away... flowers home. Gate home, line away, flowers home... Flowers away, gate home, line away... etc etc
For the most part P2 stayed with me. We worked through some land/bolt issues, but the only one we didn't totally master was the damn gate going toward home. I think it just looked so "open" (the scale is hard on my "drawing") that she sorta just rocketed away. So, to emphasize the need to chill, S threw in a rollback coming off the gate. First we rolled left (around the flowers). Then we rolled right (back to the X). This helped.
We ended with the flowers (going toward the scary end) Gate going home, rollback to the X closest to the scary end, then all the way around taking the line away from home. The first time was good but lacked some polish. The high points were that we cantered all our fences (P2 was breaking to the trot in a response to my constant "holding"), she balanced back to me in a happy light canter before each fence, and no one died.
We almost quit with that, but a second time through saw serious improvement. P2 got her lead changes (yay!), and we found a nice rhythm (!!). I let her open up a touch and stayed off her, which gave us even strides to all fences and a nice distance in the line. Also, when we finished, we had a nice closing circle at the same canter and everything felt very in control.
For her success, the mare is getting a hunter bridle. and maybe a martingale. Because lord knows when I'm good I get new outfits. So the mare does too! Also, the ride made me super excited to do baby hunter shows. And I don't want to look like a goober.