Straighten Up And Fly Right
|Don't knock down the jumps, dudes.|
That's a thing.
When I make my daily plan for each ride, "straightness" should be first on the list of things to work on.
I arrived at the barn yesterday afternoon to find a brand new jump course set up - thank you to whoever spent all that time dragging jumps around! The course is a great one that I'll have a lot of fun with for a while; it includes 3 fences lined up side-by-side across the middle of the field (rollbacks are fun), some singles set on the hill that can be jumped up or down, a 5-stride line, and a 2-stride line.
Dino actually warmed up pretty well in the jump field - we had no tantrums! I did have to get after him a bit in the beginning, but he was definitely more forward than he usually is in that field. I tried to take my time with him as much as I could to develop forward & round-ish without spending an hour dressaging, leaving no time for jumping. Dino definitely didn't get to the point of rideability that I have on dressage days, but he was moving forward off my leg and I could keep contact without him shutting down, and that had to be good enough.
There was one itty-bitty crossrail set up, part of the 5-stride line, and we started jumping over that. Homeboy was flawless, both leads, and I was doing a decent job of getting locked & loaded into my thigh and riding FORWARD.
After cruising over the crossrail a few times, I started adding on various other jumps. The way the fences are set right now makes it really easy to build courses, just adding on one fence after the other. I was feeling pretty pleased with how I was riding forward to the fences, not picking, and using my auto release, but a panic drive-by the first time through the 5-stride line knocked me right off my high horse.
Dino jumped into the line great, but then wiggled on landing. I wasn't focused on the second fence, his hind end disconnected, we were coming in on the half stride, and I bailed.
The amount of anxiety that one miss caused was really incredible; I found myself feeling weak in the legs and out of breath even though I had only just jumped a couple fences.
I regrouped. I dissected: what caused me to panic & pull out of the line?
The answer is simple, and always the same: we weren't straight.
I jumped into the line, and didn't focus on the second fence. Dino was unsure of where we were going, since I didn't make it clear to him, and wiggled. I lost the straightness, resulting in a really crappy approach to the second jump. Instead of just taking the bad distance as it came, I panicked, and bailed.
And that just won't do.
I came at the line again, landing from the first jump and thinking GO STRAIGHT! Dino questioned me a little bit since I had so abruptly pulled him away from the jump on the first try, but I insisted that we were jumping it this time, crappy distance be damned, and he very obediently hopped over it, even though we jammed in an extra stride and bunny-hopped over the jump. I patted my pony.
I jumped around a bit more after that, being sure to focus on straightness, before letting my sweaty pony (and sweaty me) quit for the day. We jumped that 5-stride line several times - pretty flawlessly I might add!
Thinking over the ride, there are a few things that stand out to me as key points for stadium jumping:
- Straightness - The straighter we are, the better the jump, the better the distance, the better EVERYTHING is! Focusing on staying straight prevents the wiggle-panic-bail sequence.
- Don't forget the hind end - tighter turns were more balanced and powerful when I remembered to ride Dino's outside hind leg around the turn with my outside leg.
- Land & Gallop - I failed a little bit at working on this purposefully, but when I started stringing fences together and I had a place to go on landing, Dino caught on to that intention and flowed forward, looking for the next fence instead of requiring me to nag him along through the turn.
- Get Straight and GO - I didn't touch on this specifically in my lesson recap, but my trainer also coached me to really come blasting out of the corners and ride aggressively towards the fences once Dino's body was straight. I noticed yesterday that when I made the effort to really ride forward out of the turns, Dino locked on to the jumps and felt confident about our plan. It negated the wiggly, wishy-washy, questioning feeling entirely!
- BN looks tiny - I thought that most of the fences I jumped yesterday were between 2' and 2'3 - everything looked pretty dinky and I never had a moment of concern about height. When I went back out and measured (because I am a dork) everything ended up ACTUALLY being 2'7. Confidence FTW!
XC lesson tomorrow, woohoo!