Friday, May 8, 2015

A field walk and some little logs

After giving both myself and Charlie a day to recover, I am ready (both physically and mentally) to get back in the game.

Today was a hot one, around 81 by the time I got to the barn late morning, and I happened to wake Charlie from his mid-morning snooze when I arrived. I was planning to lunge him over some small poles/jumps in the ring, but the poor guy hasn't had time to adjust to hotter temperatures yet and he was already sweating when I pulled him in for grooming. Standing in the middle of the ring in direct sunlight wouldn't have been fun for either of us.

So, change of plans, we'll work in the field. I put Charlie in his rope halter with the extra long lead and off we went. It was so beautiful and relaxing! After meandering through the woods, in and out of shade with a light breeze to keep things cool, we entered the small field out back. We stopped there to look at some deer, then headed off toward the hay field to the right of the property.

Along the side of the property, paralleling the driveway, there are probably 15 natural jumps set up at various heights and difficulty levels. Some of these jumps go up to 2'6"-2'9 with a pretty big spread, but there were three or so that were no more than a log or two on the ground that I felt would be the perfect way to practice distances with Charlie without him feeling the need to overjump. Basically, it's exactly what I was going to do in the ring, but out in the field over a natural jump instead. By doing it in hand, I could also see how he reacts, rather than just relying on what it feels like. So, after some light lunging in the shade of the huge evergreens, I asked Charlie to extend his circle and trot over one of the small log jumps.

It went really really well! In the past, when I've tried to hand jump Charlie he is often resistant at first and would fling himself over the jump and get excited on the opposite side (or he'd just step over it and refuse to jump lol). Today, I was pleasantly surprised by how little encouragement it took for him to get the idea. He did jump pretty big the first time and flipped his head a bit, but then, once he knew I wasn't going to hang on his face, he got the general idea and took everything in stride. I had him trot and canter around me in that circle a few times, each time asking him to find his own distance to the jump and each time getting better and better.

So as not to make him bored or to be too much like a drill sergeant, we took frequent breaks, switched directions, and he got rewarded with grazing when he stayed calm. Eventually we made our way up the driveway to some of the other small jumps. The split rail fence below is one Charlie had flipped out over before, but not today. I asked him to trot it a couple of times in each direction and he was great. When he realized he barely had to lift his feet and decided it was easier to walk over, we called it a day.

I am so glad that our ride the other day doesn't seem to have had any lasting negative effects. I was really beating myself up, afraid that he would be hesitant and carry on in reaction to me having not been secure up there. But Charlie actually seemed really happy and excited to jump. He wasn't backing off of them at all.

I think Charlie really enjoys jumping, and we'll just have to work through the initial over-jumping pop, now that I know to expect it. We'll work on lots of low things to build confidence, and I'm sure once we get back in the swing of things we shouldn't have a problem. Now that Charlie has proven he can be calm and competent in the field, I'm excited to try these jumps from his back. :)

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