Believe. Be Attackative. Jump The Things.

Lesson time is here again, complete with another skillfully-drawn course diagram, courtesy of my trainer:

Is she amazing for drawing these things, or just really enjoying the fact that her students set courses for her now?
Now that we're truly back in the swing of jumping lessons, things got a little more technical with this course. The outside line against the rail (the left side of the paper) stayed the same as last week, but the other line turned into a triple one-to-three combination, we added a five-stride diagonal line, and two single oxers. This course also incorporates some terrain questions - as you'll remember, from about the midpoint of the field (where the diagonal line sits) going to the right, the ground makes a significant downward slope that gets steeper as you go, and is very steep after the oxer on the far right.

Standing at the far right edge of the course looking downhill.. there's some terrain going on! 
Our jump field is pretty much an eventer's paradise; you can school stadium and XC all in one shot!

The flatwork began at the halt with some Centered Riding goodness. We took time to find a centered position that was balanced on both seatbones, and used the image of having no legs beyond our knees to get our upper legs dropping down around the horse, stretching out our hip flexors. We thought about pointing our knees down to the ground and keeping the bowl of our pelvis upright, giving us a secure and balanced position in the saddle.

Once we were sitting in balance with our legs stretched down softly, my trainer tapped the bottoms of our feet with the handle of a whip until we felt her hit the 'sweet spot' where our stirrup should rest. This was another crazy-feeling Centered Riding thing - when she tapped the right place on the sole of my foot, it almost felt electric. Using just one finger on that spot, she was able to lift my entire leg up and place it in the stirrup since it was the place where my feet were most grounded and secure. With the stirrups sitting on that electric-feeling, stable place on my feet, I felt like I couldn't fall off my pony if I tried. It was very cool to feel so grounded in the saddle!

The flatwork in itself was uninspiring. Dino still just doesn't like to work in the jump field with Sully, and I had to work past some sticky, sulky moments from him. We worked on the same basic send the horse forward, make a circle and keep the impulsion, send them forward again exercise that we started with last week. We had some good moments, especially when I felt like Dino was forward enough for me to take contact with the bit, but he was definitely aware of Sully the entire time and would suck back any time he thought that his friend was "too close."

I had my own challenges in the canter, and ended up focusing on keeping my middle still and my seat and feet grounded. My lower back tends towards too active and wiggly in the canter, and it's hard for me to be aware of when I'm moving too much. Dino, however, is very aware, and often responds by getting crooked or just doing whatever the heck he wants, because when I'm so loose in my lower back he can easily toss me around, and we both revert to what's easy instead of what's correct.

 The jumping started off with the same basic single fence on a circle warm-up as we did last week, starting with a little crossrail oxer off the right lead. Dino broke to the trot on the way to it the first time, which annoyed me to no end, but was taking me right to the fence anyway. We rode the right-lead circle a few more times, and each time Dino got more and more forward, to the point where I could just soften and point him at the jump, and he'd do the rest. We rode the above-pictured crossrail off the left lead next, and again I had to work hard at creating a left bend to keep Dino balanced and able to move forward around the turn. I had a bit of a tough time letting go once he started bending through his body, and had to focus hard on releasing and being soft as soon as Dino answered my request for more bend. When I gave him the space to carry on instead of getting all grabby and micro-managing, he jumped great!

We began building up the course by galloping uphill over the single oxer (pictured in the lower righthand corner of the diagram), bending to the second fence in the outside line, and then continuing around the short side to the triple. The intent of using the 2'6 uphill oxer as the first fence was to create plenty of impulsion from the get-go: because of its location at the crest of a steep hill, we'd need to really attack it, and that would set the tone for the rest of the course.

Dino and I nailed the oxer, and then took the outside turn to the second fence of the line. Around the turn  to the triple, there was some cross-cantering and other unbalanced stuff going on, and my mind kind of went blank as we turned (really crookedly) towards the combination, I had a mild moment of panic, and resultantly just sort of glanced off to the right of the first fence.

I took FULL responsibility for it. Dino was absolutely hunting down the fences in that lesson, and I just quit riding and gave him zero direction. Sorry, bud! But it's the first time in a long time that my brain totally crapped out on me when something went wrong (i.e., losing our lead and balance in the turn), so I wasn't about to have a total meltdown over it.

Nailing that oxer, though!
So we did the single to combination again, this time coming at the single from the inside to encourage Dino to land on the right lead and make a smoother turn to the triple. Once I actually, ya know, sat up and steered and put my leg on, Dino flew through the combination like it was the easiest thing in the world. Success!

Then my trainer really upped the ante with the course. The second fence of the outside line went up to a full BN size vertical instead of a crossrail, the last oxer in the triple went up as well, and we got to go jump this fun, technical pattern: Blue oxer uphill, inside bending line to the second fence of the outside line, rollback right over a small square oxer, bending to the first fence in the outside line, left lead canter down the hill, rollback to jump the diagonal line up the hill, triple combination.

I knew the downhill canter to the sharp left turn to go up the diagonal line would be really tough for us - Dino tends to drift to the inside in that end of the ring, and if I didn't get him bending and soft to the left, our turn would be crap and the jumps would therefore be crap. I had to really step it up there.

The first few fences were awesome - Dino was super handy for the first rollback and bending line, but things started falling apart as we cantered downhill past the blue oxer. I totally lost the bend, he got tight all over, and instead of fixing it and getting him soft and forward again, I just sat there like a bump on a log. Dino was unbalanced on the uneven terrain, and he tripped. I had PLENTY of time to kick him up and still jump the 2'6 vertical in fine form, but at that point I was in Bump On A Log Mode and did exactly none of those things. Another drive-by to the right. Whomp.

Again, it was my fault, and I knew exactly where I had gone wrong. My second attempt resulted in ANOTHER drive-by, and by then I was getting frustrated with myself. I knew I HAD to get it done on the third try, or else I'd risk setting up a very negative pattern for both myself and for Dino.

Cute baby oxer!
Thankfully, the third time was the charm, and we nailed it! We continued on with the course like nothing bad had ever happened, and jumped through the triple like champions.

We got to do the course one more time, and everything was smooth and pretty much perfect the last time through. I managed the downhill roll back SO much better, and Dino was rolling along so well that he almost got 2 instead of 3 in the last bit of the triple! Should have sat up and managed his canter a bit better there, but overall I was really, REALLY thrilled with our last course.

If I'm being honest, I'd have to say that I'm super disappointed in the few runouts that we had in this lesson. Dino was totally there for me and ready to jump whatever I asked him to, and I just didn't ask. I am, however, very pleased that I was able to totally forget about the issues we had and move on and keep jumping like nothing had happened at all. That is a HUGE mental victory for me, and a great show ring skill as well. But it all comes down, as it usually does, to me believing and trusting that my pony will jump the jumps, because at this point in our relationship, he absolutely will!



  1. Oh boy, I feel you on the not trusting them to always jump the jumps. I think it will come with time, though :) I'm super envious of your big open jump field - we're stuck in a ring always and have no access to xc schooling at all.

    1. The jump field is actually our 'small' ring area! We have 60+ acres to ride out on, so riding in there feels like a tiny ring! Though at times I do get jealous of those with actual footing in their arenas.

  2. i love all the pictures - you guys look great!!! love that your trainer sends the course diagrams in advance too haha

    1. Thanks!! Haha Ms. Trainer is also verrrrry pregnant right now and can't set jumps (though she might try... I don't let her!) so she sends me the diagrams and I show up early to set fences. :)

  3. seriously we all do that (zone out and eff up) you got beyond that and kept on trucking> Great lesson and great recap!! You guys might be my heroes :)

    1. Aw thank you!! It's taken me a long time to get to the point where a screw-up doesn't set the tone for the entire ride or send me into a full-blown panic attack! So while frustrating, it definitely feels good to be able to move on from my mistakes.


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