Saturday, August 2, 2014

Turnin' turnin' turnin....

We had our first over fences lesson on Thursday night with our new eventing trainer.  The course we set on Monday rode wonderfully when we tried it out on Tuesday, and I was very excited to see what kind of challenges we'd face in an actual lesson.  The goal was to help Soon focus more on what I was telling him versus what he thought we were going to do.  Sometimes having an intelligent horse means having to keep them guessing.  Below is the current layout for the jump field:

All fences except triple bar were approachable from either direction

Fences 1, 2, 3, and 4 form what we call the "box" in the middle of the large field.  The two lines were both set at 60' (four strides), and the middle fence placed specifically to allow turns from any of the four fences in that box (rollbacks, S-turns).  Fence 7 is a tire jump/wall on top of a small hill, which rode nicely as the horses have to maintain pace/rhythm up and balance coming down. Fence 6 is a small box placed on the slope of the hill (jump up or down).  The triple bar is out on its own quite a ways, which offers a chance to have a nice, forward rolling canter right up to it, and plenty of space to get organized afterward to head to several options.  The unnumbered fence is just a little box with no standards that didn't want to stand up and play, so I told it to fuck off and walked away.

I wanted this to feel a little like a derby course, but also some options to make trickier questions if desired.  The four stride lines ride forward and flowing (not huge though), so with those and the perimeter fences there is plenty of room to gallop around.  Working inside the box requires a shorter canter and the horse to shift its weight back.  It also requires the rider to not ride like a drunken monkey.

We did several rollback (ex: 1-5-4 or 2-5-3) and S-turns (ex: 1-5-3 or 2-5-4) through the box.  It came up quick and was tricky because you have to not allow yourself and the horse to get lazy and the stride to be too open as you approach (hard to do in a big field).  Any turn off a fence to that vertical in the middle of the box rode in a flowing four strides, so it happens fast.  Unfortunately at first I was not using enough of my leg and seat to manage the turn, and our ride in some of the rollbacks got backward.  Soon is still pretty green over fences, and with the exception of the one jumper clinic we did back in February, he hasn't done much of this rollback/bending/broken line stuff at all.  It's tough for him to land and turn that quickly, only because it's a completely new question to him.  We did have a couple of stops because I was relying too much on the reins in the turn, and not being soft enough through the arm and allowing him to come forward off the leg.  Once we broke things down a little and did a couple of the elements at a lower height to help explain to Soon how to read and answer the question, he jumped through it all perfectly fine and happily.  Fences went back up a little, and we did the full exercise with great success.  From there on in the jump school was just one awesome jump after another.

Soonie is actually quite a catty jumper.  He uses himself pretty well (when he wants to), and CAN do the quick/tight turns (he just need to know what to do!).  He's like a little sports car.  We ended with a couple little courses, the last one was triple bar (8) up the hill to 7, down the hill turn left and jump the line from 1 to 2, right turn around 8 and 3 and jump 5 left turn to 1 in the bending four strides.  Soonie was AMAZING!  The course flowed beautifully, and when it came to that last turn from 5 to 1, I stayed soft through the arm, let him roll forward in four strides, and we jumped the final vertical nicely.  It's so great to feel him ride both off that more open, flowing stride on some of the perimeter fences, and sitting back/shortening for the stuff in/around the box.  All I had to do with him is bring my shoulders back, hands up a bit, seat lightly in the saddle, and maintain leg and he comes right back.  That feeling is just so, so cool.  He is already super fun over fences, and I am so excited to see how he progresses as he gets more mileage and more confidence.   Some of the jumps were actually up around 2'9"- 3' too (the ones in the box were), so that's the higher end of what he's jumped thus far.  He handled the extra few inches and the redonkulous turns with no issue. 

We went for a short hack yesterday since he jumped twice in three days, and he had an easy walk/trot school today in the indoor.  Felt fantastic, and tomorrow is trail ride day if the rain holds out! :)

Our little slice of heaven

Most awesomest man ever <3

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