Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jump Monster

Prairie and I wrapped up last week with a few more jump schools where I learned that the mare needs to have her brakes serviced.  Or perhaps installed.

It's one or the other.

Our first day of grid work was pretty great, but the two successive lessons saw the mare get more, and more.... AND more forward as she worked through her lines.  What I ended up with was a freight train capable of a 26' dinosaur stride and jumping anything from anywhere.  A technique that only somewhat totally undermined the goal of "teaching the mare to balance herself."

We tried lots of bounces.  Bounces make horses sit back and balance.  Not Prairie!!

We tried halting on a straight line after our jumps.  Halting usually backs them off you hand a bit and gets them ready to sit down...  Not Prairie!!

We tried all but walking into the line trying to turn down the energy we entered with, hoping for slightly less energy on the far side...   Nope!

Finally we dropped the jumps to cavaletti sized little-raised-poles in order to make them less exciting.  

.... and that seemed to help.  Mostly.

Here's a picture as we were "halting" after the line (but about 80 yards down the ring) and starting to lower the jumps to make the mare less exuberant..

Next stop.... Timbuktu!
(please note the HORRID heels... If I recall, I was *trying* to sit up and balance the mare but she was all but ripping me forward out of the tack.  If she magically froze in the air I would continue to somersault over her head and tumble to the ground)

I still couldn't canter in to our line without the mare turning into the Oriental Express, but trotting in we were able to come out the other side in a nice light canter that I could maneuver.

Two times through like that and we called it a day.

 I am having a lot of fun with these jump schools.  I forgot how much I enjoy working over (small) fences, but it is reminding me of all my bad habits in spades.  Prairie has a huge power plant and can jump herself out of any problem (so far), but her lack of experience is forcing me to really use my brain (and my body) and set her up correctly.

(but omg, it's so much fun.)

After a week in the jump tack, I threw the dressage saddle back on yesterday for a quiet hack while the barn was deserted on a warm, sunny, Monday evening.

I felt a bit guilty since the grain cart literally rolled by as I was bridling the beast.. but I was hungry too so I didn't cut the mare much slack.  You may recall that "rides at dinner time" haven't been a strong suit of ours, especially inside (where the sweet, sweet shade is) with everyone clanging their grain bins around while the barn boys scurry around finishing up chores for the day...

But I figured we needed to practice on our focus, so I stayed inside (in the shade) and started off by reviewing all our lateral work at the walk.  Starting with a slight shoulder-fore, with free walks across the diagonals every two long sides to switch directions.  Then we moved into a full shoulder-in with me really focusing on the difference in feel between a proper (gasp!) shoulder-in with a inside hind stepping up and under.. and a cheating shoulder-in where the mare just pops her butt out.

P2's big, swinging, huge walk makes these things very easy to distinguish, which is helpful for big fat cheaters like me.

Then we worked on our first level leg yields (meaning, 10m half circle, leg yield to the outside rein..)  Both directions, then we did a 10m half circle with a half-pass back to the inside rein... That was neat-o.  They weren't as fluid but P2 was very respectful of the difference in bend.  (love her).

All that took about 20 minutes and left me with a very focused, very drool-y, very soft mare.  I was feeling pretty good about ourselves.  So we picked up the trot, repeated the exact same list of exercises (with less focus on the half-passes... I didn't want to be greedy) and basically got the same result.  Soft, licking, chewing, and with me.

Before our canter work I let the mare walk on a loose rein (it was hot out, we were tired.) and I played with how much of our lateral stuff we could do on a loose rein.

P2 was confused for a bit as to why I was fussing about with my seat and my legs during her break but she sorted it out and it turns out we can manage our shoulder-ins and our leg yields sans contact.  wahoo!  they aren't as even or as pretty, but I loved the relaxation and response I was getting.  So again.  Love this mare.

Finally I picked up my reins and we worked on our canter.  I kept visualizing a buoyant, uphill, handy little stride, and we worked toward that.  Transitions weren't as clean as I wanted but our quality of the canter was a bit better.  at the very end I worked on our walk/canter departs trying really hard not to ask until I felt like I had everything right where I wanted it.  When I was vigilant about the set up - our departs were amazing.  When I wasn't - there was some slop.  So that pretty much means it's on me to package the mare up.  Not so much on her to listen better.... note taken.

Afterward I hosed Prairie off and threw her out in a big grass field where she got some bucks out and grazed a bit before coming back in for her dinner.

I left feeling like we were accomplishing things we were struggling with a few months ago, and like I got a focused, productive ride at a time when previously we would have had a spooky meltdown.

Happy Mare, throwing Happy Bucks


  1. We haven't been able to do jumping grid work because my schedule hasn't worked out with my trainers for that, but I've been doing ground pole exercises to try and mimic it. And even though I'm tooling around in half seat in a swanky dressage saddle, I LOVE doing the exercises. The focus is so much more external! It cracks me up that your pony lets out bucks AFTER you ride! My pony always wants to nap when we're done...unless there's a wash rack involved. She always has energy to throw a tantrum in the wash rack.... :)

  2. Monster P2 stride! :D Love it. Excited for your first jumping show--how cool is that?

  3. Looks like a bunch of fun. You both look great.

  4. Love that jump pic! She is simply beautiful :) Sounds like you two are coming together to make a great team.

  5. Perhaps the jumping/grid work is helping her find balance again at the canter? Sounds like you two are having a great time and that she especially enjoys the mix up in her routine!

  6. I love the photos! That bucking one is awesome, as is the jumping one. It sounds like your dressage ride went freaking awesome!!!! Maybe you both just needed the break and the jumping is a great way to take a break. It also sounds as if she's getting stronger and as things get easier she's fussing less. Can't blame her lol. I don't like learning new, hard stuff either hehe. :D


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