Git 'Er Done, or, "Shut Up, You Stupid Butterfly"

Moar XC schooling pics, cuz I ain't got no more recent media!

Thankfully, it rained last week. This week it continues to rain, albeit a bit too much, but that is unrelated to today's post.

The rain meant Dino and I could do a little jumping at home for the first time in weeks.

Our one fence with PVC standards had come down in the wind, and I was too lazy to put it back up, so I was left with four fences instead of five. Everything that remained standing measured between 2'3-2'9, all plain verticals since we are still temporarily set up in the upper crop field for the time being.

Mr. Sticky was, of course, along for the ride. Top priority was and is instant response to forward aids.

Dino warmed up INCREDIBLY at the walk - the second I sat up and began gathering my reins, he morphed into this lovely round, connected, straight, through pony. The kind of round and through where you feel like you are sitting exactly on top of your pony's hind legs. Unfortunately it didn't carry in to the trot and canter work, but even though I didn't have the straightness and throughness I had in the walk, EuroPony was doing 'forward' pretty darn well. The canter was a non-issue, and I practiced sending him forward and bringing him back with quiet aids.

My brain has been a little weird about jumping lately, maybe, possibly because of my spectacular crashes at the clinic. I haven't gone into All-Out-Panic-Driveby Mode, but when I decide to jump the small, flappy butterfly in my stomach wakes up, and suddenly anything over 2'3 starts to look "big".

I know it's not big. I know I jumped my pony over fences a foot higher than that very recently at the clinic. But my brain just doesn't work rationally once that damn butterfly starts flapping.

Pictured: Awesome Jumping Canter
So I've taken to starting each jumping session with really easy things, and forcing myself to focus on having a quality canter, because there is nothing more terrifying than coming at a fence with a really horrendous, unbalanced, disconnected canter. That's when distances disappear and your life starts to flash before your eyes.

For Dino and I lately, that canter looks like a gait with enough impulsion so that I don't feel the need to drive or kick with every step, and an uphill balance. I want to feel like I can sit lightly in the tack and still have Dino's head, neck, and shoulders up in front of me, and his motor running on its own. I want to feel like his hind feet are getting to the base of the fence first.

I created a canter as close to ideal as I could get it, and set myself up on a circle over a 2'3 vertical in the center of the field.

Flap, flap.

Shut up, butterfly.

And everything was fine. Totally fine. I maintained that good canter to the base, Dino jumped wonderfully, and then I remembered to put my leg on after the fence and boogie on out of there on landing. We got a couple ugly, chippy distances going to the right, but after I fixed my horrendous approach and rode straight, everything smoothed right out.

My confidence bolstered by the successful warm-up, I added on the other smaller single fences in big loops, though I skipped the one 2'9 jump. The butterfly was telling me that one still looked a bit scary.

But even though I declined to jump any higher than 2'6, I was really happy with how confident my ride was. I kept my leg on, I rode forward, and most importantly, I analyzed and adjusted my canter BEFORE aiming Dino at a fence. The first time we approached the watermelon-striped 2'6 vertical, I could feel Dino get hesitant, his eye gazing uncertainly at the downed standards beyond the jump we were aimed at. And instead of my mind going to "Oh no, he's going to stop," I said, "GO!" and put my dang leg on and rode my pony over the fence.

Who even am I these days?

Mud = Pony Eating Monster
On Monday of this week, Windows and Dino hopped on the bus so that we could have a fun jump school at the horse park with friends.

Pro tip: practice stadium jumping with friends competing at least two levels above you. Everything you jump will look teeny tiny and not-scary compared to the horrifying 4' oxers they set up off of short turns.

I was a little bit anxious as to how Dino would behave in the arena, and I was prepared to go to battle with him if he displayed any 'tude, Mr. Whippy firmly in hand.

I'm pleased to report that Dino the Wonder Pony was remarkably well-behaved! He did throw some considerable sass (and one small buck) when I asked him to canter the first time, but a good solid boot and tap on the shoulder sorted him right out. After that, it was smooth sailing for the most part. Dino had one or two other sticky moments, but a firmer leg aid was enough to send him forward again.

That damn butterfly, however, just won't leave me alone.

Flap, flap.

So, after hand-galloping around and working from going from a dressage canter to a more open jumping canter, I trotted Dino towards a microscopic 2' vertical.

He (of course) happily bounced into the canter and jumped the little speed bump with no problems.

Take that, butterfly.

I was still feeling weird, and kept jumping that little vertical until the butterfly started quieting down and I felt confident to the point of boredom. Focusing on getting the right canter before heading to the fences did a LOT to boost my confidence - knowing that we were forward, straight, and balanced made me feel like the outcome of each jump was totally in my control without feeling the need to pick and pull on the reins.

With my awesome canter, I started aiming us at bigger jumps and stringing together lines and little courses. To my delight, everything rode beautifully. From a place of straightness, impulsion, and balance I was able to see every distance, move up for a longer spot, or just sit and maintain the pace for a more medium distance. Dino was even starting to accelerate and take me to the jumps near the end of the schooling, which is always a very fun feeling! I even jumped the one "big" 2'9 vertical a few times, and even though the size of the fence caused some irrational butterfly-flapping, it rode PERFECTLY, and I felt like I was no longer at the mercy of whatever Dino decided to do at the base of the fence. I was riding, and making choices, and getting it done.

And it was REALLY fun!


  1. Love this, I'm so happy for you! I am going to have to channel my inner Alli get it done mojo the next time I jump Slider. He is willing, but I have to reassure him that I mean what I say.

  2. Congratulations on tackling your butterfly. I've been working on my own these days. :)

  3. Loving this post! Good for you. putting that butterfly in it's place :)

  4. excellent! Just take those butterfly wings and put them on your back and fly!😃

  5. I love that you're stil calling out Mr. Sticky in your posts. You're really inspiring me to demand the same yes-ma'am response from my pony. Oddly enough, it's working!

  6. This is great, and you describe so eloquently that nervous twinge I tend to also get jumping. Love everything about this post!

  7. Glad Mr. Whippy didn't need much use and got to just travel along for the ride! You are such a good and thoughtful rider.

  8. So awesome! Those 4' jumps just look like walls to me lol

  9. Freaking butterflies. They're the worst.

  10. Way to show those butterflies! I'm sure once you just go out and DO a few more times, things will get easier. Eventually, it will be normal for your pony to know that whatever happens, he picks his feet up, and then those butterflies should start to go away.

  11. "Shut up, Butterfly!" is gonna be my new motto !! :D


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