I said I would get around to this today, and I finally did! As I mentioned briefly last night, Monday’s lesson was a pretty good one. I rode this little man:
Meet Scooter! Scooter is a little tiny strawberry roan pony jumper (and I love me some pink ponies~) who is very green and also very speedy and excitable. In fact, we didn’t even bother walking when we got into the ring – we just took off at a trot. (Normally, I am very strict about my walking warm-up… but that was clearly not going to happen with this guy, and after a few minutes, he did start to settle down. Trainer had said that would happen, so it wasn’t a huge shock. Little Pony has a lot of get up and go!
After maybe ten minutes of trot work (including some circles, sitting trot, two point, and a bit of bending/”baby lateral work” to teach the pony) Scooter was working much more where I wanted him to be – he was less tense after two or three minutes but at this point he was a lot more relaxed and less “WE ARE RIDING NOW GO“. At the canter, he was much more controlled in general than at the trot. Still speedy, especially for his size (I wish I had a comparison shot! xD He’s something like two feet shorter) but absolutely not running all over the place or anything like that.
Today we started with just one jump and then gradually added more until we had a larger course. Our warmup jump was the ice fence, which was a small vertical plank. We did it in both directions, trotting in and cantering away. Because Scooter is so green, Trainer said, she didn’t really care if he broke from trot to canter a few strides out, as long as it was controlled and not a crazy canter. We did manage to keep our trot until takeoff over these warmup fences!
After that warmup we added the blue star (it’s labelled as jump #3 in the diagram). The issue here was landing the lead over the jump – Scooter doesn’t have changes and he’s speedy, so it’s hard to simple change sometimes when he just wants to run. We went around the turn on a cross canter once – probably because I tried to ask for a lead change! 😉 – before we could fix it and the star ended up being not such a great jump because we were off balance.
You may remember that last week I was getting pretty big distances to the star. It’s in the same spot this week, and I did a lot better! It’s still a little bit of my sort of characteristic “flyer” but at a much more reasonable speed and distance.
Then we added the second element of the bending line (the mint green “shamrock” oxer, #2) in between. The turn between the shamrock fence and the star is tighter than you think it is. I also tend to have a little trouble with left-handed turns – partially because I have very little vision in my left eye (pretty much just vague shapes), and partially because I’m crooked to the right when riding. Because of those things it’s a little harder for me to judge turns to the left, especially on a speedier horse with a more jumper-y course. So I definitely had to concentrate harder on staying straight away from the shamrock and keeping my turn both square and at the right moment – too late or too early and the star would be all crooked. Scooter is still a wiggly green baby so straightness is very, very important!
Trainer told me that the bending line would probably ride in about a seven trotting in, and that is exactly what we got, although it was a bit short. I actually counted the strides – good job, self! But as we went again it turned out that the seven was getting tighter and tighter, and I was having to swing out further to make the striding – it became a very “huntery” bending line, instead of a direct one, and Scooter ran out. I immediately circled around without stopping and went straight back over the shamrock and then to the star – it was a pretty great correction, if I do say so myself! 😉 After that, we elected to push for the six, even if that meant breaking into canter before the first jump, but that one small change made the whole course ride better.
That solved, we added the rolltop! The rolltop turn was another turn that wasn’t immediately easy for me, because so much of me wanted to go ALL the way to the end of the ring when it was actually much more neat and efficient (not just faster) to have a bit of a tighter turn. The second time through, we nailed the turn and got a GREAT jump over the rolltop – it definitely felt bigger than it actually is!
Finally, Trainer told me to “go Swedish!” (Actual quote. Ironically, I used to have a massive thing for Swedish Warmbloods – I still like them now but I’m not quite so obsessed – so this is something I have said many times before!) Swedish oxers are, uh, not my favourite thing… they trick your horse into thinking the jump is somewhere it’s not! (Trainer concurs.) Nonetheless, we went for it….
…and Scooter promptly knocked it completely over.
Okay, so some of it was definitely my fault for not really jumping it in the ideal spot. Those bending not-a-line type of things are always tricky because you can’t really ride them as two completely unrelated fences but it’s also… not related. But Scooter definitely had no idea what he was being asked to jump and took a good look at it before (attempting to) go over. Poor Scoots! I don’t think anyone had really expected him to clear it, but he was a good sport, considering.
Of course, now that he’d hit the jump, Trainer and I both knew he was definitely not going to be hitting it again… so we went through the whole course one final time and had a lot of really nice fences… and we left the Swedish oxer up! Good job to us and to Scooter for being such a good sport.
I treated Scooter to a nice long walk out and was pleasantly surprised when I got off ten minutes later and found…
Look at that beautiful mouth foam! I was really happy to see it because I had been definitely trying to work on getting him to come onto the bit and accept contact a little more, and the foam definitely made me feel like I had accomplished at least a little of that – plus the fact that during our cool-down, he was actively seeking the bit. What a good pony!
As y’all know, my riding the next day was less than stellar. But I still feel great about what I accomplished during this lesson!