Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A humbling jumping experience

I am going to hurt tomorrow. In fact, I can already feel the tightness beginning to settle into my arms, butt, and upper back.

No, I didn't fall off. But Charlie and I attempted jumping for the first time in a very long time and I realized how sorely (pun intended) out of practice I am. I may be able to ride around bareback or stirrupless, but apparently my jump form really needs some TLC.

For today's ride, I decided to take Charlie into the turnout field adjoining the ring. I was looking for something different to do and the other horses were penned near the barn, so I decided to give it a shot.

Charlie warmed up great and felt nice and loose. He was a little on the peppy side but not pushy, and he was picking up both leads nicely. I've noticed a lot of the leaning and resistance that had been plaguing his right lead was gone, so that is good. We even went over the few of the ground logs in the field with no issues.

Since I'd been wanting to try some jumps for awhile now, and there is a nice low 2-footer log jump out between the far fields, I figured today was as good a day as any to try. The only problem is you have to either go back down to the barn and through three gates to get there, or jump the taller set of logs dividing that field from the one we were in.

The larger jump, with the smaller one in the background
These taller logs are about 2'3"-2'6" at their highest point. Though Charlie and I have jumped that height before, it's been awhile so I was a little nervous about starting with something so "big" for us. However, he was nicely warmed up and listening well. And I only planned to jump it once to get into the far field.

What I didn't take into consideration was that Charlie is not a seasoned jumper. He doesn't have a well-developed eye yet, and he tends to get a little excited and "launchy" when jumping. After two missed approaches (which were my fault for first staring at the base of the jump and then just sitting there without telling him what I wanted him to do), he locked on to the jump and I knew we'd be going over.

We went over alright. I almost went all the way over his head! He flung himself way over the logs, I flailed, and when we landed I was all up on his neck and missing a stirrup. Thank god for good balance and a patient horse. Charlie was pissed, don't get me wrong, but he kept his cool. He let me know he was upset, grunting and pinning his ears as we cantered away, but that's understandable. I deserved it.

As I navigated myself back into a seated position and regained my lost stirrup, I felt like an idiot. What the heck happened? I mean, it certainly felt like he launched himself high enough to clear the top rail of the real fence, and maybe he did, but I still should have been able to sit that. Or at least been prepared enough for the possibility to make a decent attempt. Then again, I haven't jumped anything of substance in almost a year.

I continued to beat myself up a bit as we circled in the field, my trainer's mantras running through my head: "Sit UP!" "Heels down!" "Wait for the jump!" Then I decided I shouldn't base everything on one failed jump, especially the first one, which was larger than we were intending to practice on anyway. Charlie seemed to be feeling fine on the flat, so we moved on to the much smaller jump. And it happened again. Not nearly as drastically, but GOD.
The smaller jump. Charlie has stepped over this before.
About a 2.5' spread, but only around 2' tall

We trotted back and forth over that set of logs a few more times as I tried to pull myself back together. Each time was a bit better, but not great. I remembered to raise my stirrups halfway through, and that helped a bit, but as much as I wanted to be able to help Charlie through the jump, I couldn't seem to get my body to remember how it was supposed to handle a jump. Every time I ended up jumping in front of him or looking at the ground or catching him in the mouth.

It really wasn't worth continuing to try, in my opinion, if all I was going to do was screw it up every time. Charlie was locking on to the jumps every time, eager to go over them, but he is still in the learning stages. I don't want to make him or myself sour or sore about jumping, and I felt that's all I'd end up doing if I kept flopping around up there like a sack of potatoes.

As we headed back to the barn, via the gates this time, Charlie got lots of apologies and "thank-you-for putting-up-with-me" pats. I vowed that until we can both learn to judge our distances/heights a bit better and practice our form we won't be trying that again. I think its time to find some cavallettis.

He doesn't seem any worse for the wear


  1. Well... I mean you stayed on. That's a plus <3 And he kept trying for you. You'll get it back!

    1. Yes, that's true. I was so unready for the pop, but I should have known it was coming. That's how he's been in the past. And I just presented him with one of the biggest jumps he's seen. He kept pulling to every fence, though, which I was happy about, even though I was all out of whack!

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  3. You'll get it again. The first time I jump Ronin after any amount of time, he jumps the little cross rails like they are 3'6". It takes a few for him to remember that they are small and he doesn't need to jump them like a deer lol. Some exercises that might help are canter poles then build the middle one into a fence so it is pole, fence, pole so he jumps across the fence and not just up. I know that is hard where you are, but I know you are handy and creative :D

    1. That's a good idea with the canter poles and is something similar to what I've been concocting in my head. I have the ability right now to use some old fence posts as poles, and I do have one real pole that I can raise a few inches off the ground using some cut logs.

  4. I feel like jumping just takes a little while to get into the groove with. Like even if you know HOW to do it, but haven't in a while, it takes some time to knock the rust off. Try not to beat yourself up too much!