Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A mini course and progress reflection

Today was a planned jumping day for Charlie so I took some time to assemble a mini course. No lines, just three different kinds of jumps that I could approach in many different combinations and that would present challenges in different ways (the plain poles, no standards jump from the other day along the quarter line on the long side; a skinnier than normal 2'3" wood rail between two tall standards set along the midline but across the short length of the arena; and an X between barrels on the diagonal). I also threw in some long trot poles along the centerline for warm up.

My goal is to work on building Charlie's comfort zone with all kinds of obstacles like these, make things small and achievable but varied so we have good positive experiences we can build on. I plan to start line work shortly, but for now I want him to jump whatever I point him at from whatever angle and learn to jump from all distance.

We warmed up over the jump from two days ago and Charlie had no problem with that. After cantering it a few times I decided to try cantering the jump with the standards without trotting it first, just to see, and Charlie went right to the center like it was no big deal, even though it was a short approach and it was the highest I've jumped with him. I thought the vertical height and skinniness would create a boxy feel that would make him nervous but he was just fine.

He was concerned, though, about the barrels. He wasn't bad about it, more confused and uncertain. Even though I had made it an X so it wasn't as intimidating, he kept trying to duck out and really wasn't getting the concept of going over. After a few attempts I laid the barrels on their sides to make a smaller, less imposing X and with some steady leg pressure he jumped it like a pro.

"What's the big deal, mom?"
I noticed today that even though I haven't jumped much at all since last summer, I felt super confident and connected with Charlie and things just worked. As soon as I started going around the ring I felt my weight settle deep in my heels, my balance was there and connected, and Charlie was responding as soon as I asked for something. I particularly noticed it at the canter. In the past he kind of lurched into each lead but today I was setting him up for it by taking outside rein contact and as soon as I shifted to add inside leg for support he rolled right into an easy canter. No bounce at all. I pretty much just thought it and he did it. 

Same with the bending lines and turns to set him up for each jump, and there were a lot of crazy lines today. He responded immediately to my leg and hand aides, backing off or steadying himself to round out the turn and not fall in and drop his shoulder, holding his straight line right to the center of each jump. I think my riding is so much better and more balanced in general just from being on so many training horses and so my "connection" with the horse is honed. So even though I haven't jumped a series of jumps since last summer I felt great and in conctrol, Charlie felt great and we were connected. I was really proud. 

I know I have a ton more confidence in both myself and Charlie than I did a year ago. Instead of worrying what he'd do at a jump today I could acknowledge that he might look at it because it was something new but I didn't dwell on it. Instead I trusted myself to react appropriately if he was naughty, and proactively added my leg and a steadying hand to give him the confidence to get over the obstacle without questioning himself. It felt really good to have him trusting me and feel that relationship. 

I've definitely been bitten by the jumping bug again. How will I ever go back to flatwork? And how did I stick with it for so long?? Jumping is so much better Charlie loves it too, you can tell. :)

1 comment:

  1. woohoo! That feeling of trust is so amazing when its there. Glad Charlie enjoyed himself too.