Unintentional Hiatus and Quashing The Distance Panic

Not too terrible for having been done in the dark with a flashlight in my mouth...
The most sure-fire way to ensure that you become heinously busy and the weather turns cold and wet is to give your pony his second body clip of the season and take off even more hair than you did when you first clipped him. Because, you know, you're going to be riding so much.


In reality Dino has had the past four days off, and I'm trying not to feel anxious about it. Allowing this pony a significant break has always resulted in him losing some fitness and muscle due to his metabolic conditions, so I try not to randomly give him so many days off at a time. But with Christmas coming fast, the lack of daylight, and the weather starting to turn, it's hard to stick with a regular riding schedule!

So, as a result, Dino and I haven't really been working on or towards much of anything during our rides. I have been jumping him around a bit in his halter setup, which has been way more fun than it should be, and is so excellent for helping to cure me of my bad hands habits. I've been riding small circles, rollback turns, and serpentines entirely off of my leg and seat, and it is fantastically fun and empowering. I did also take a stab at this exercise the other day (in the halter, of course), and I really liked the results! 

At least when I do ride, I get to look at this. 

For those of you who are disinclined to click on the link, it's an exercise designed to help people who go into a blind panic when they don't see a distance. I also liked that a byproduct of the exercise would be to get the horse really snappy and in front of the leg. Essentially, you walk your horse up to a single, low fence until you get to the point where you would usually start to freak out about a distance - for many people this is about 6 canter strides or so away. At that point, you pick up the canter and jump the fence, aiming at first for a collected, close distance, but working to vary your takeoff spot as needed as you become more proficient, raising the height of the jump, as well as picking up the canter closer and closer to the jump as you go. 

While the exercise started out a little ugly and sloppy - we were barely able to pick up the canter within 6 or 7 strides of a sub-2' jump - by the end of it we were jumping 2'6 singles, picking up the canter from 4 strides away. My ultimate life goal is to be able to ride like this to a 3' oxer - then I will know I have arrived! 

I loved tackling this confidence-building routine for several reasons: 
  • It got Dino really in front of the leg. While I was kicking him desperately into a cranky trot and begging for the canter at first, once he figured out the pattern all it took was a regular canter aid for him to rock back on his haunches and pick up a lovely, uphill canter from the walk just a few strides away from the fence. Having so little time to put his body together before the jump really sharpened him up! 
  • It improved my confidence in being able to make the jump happen from whatever canter I had without fussing. When I picked up the canter that close to the fence, I didn't have time to fuss and worry about what kind of canter it was - I just had to work it out. 
  • It forced me to put my leg on and GO! Again, picking up the canter so close to the jump didn't give me the option of taking my leg off and waffling about a distance! 
  • It gave me confidence in my ability to get my pony over a jump as long as I made it to the 'Takeoff Zone' a few strides away. There wasn't much I could do once we were already 3 or 4 strides away except keep my leg on and keep coming, which is pretty much what I need to be doing all the time. Despite some mild anxiety about this situation, it worked out every time, which was hugely confidence-building. 
This exercise is definitely one I'm going to keep in the rotation as a tool to help improve my confidence over fences as well as sharpen Dino's response time to my leg and improve his balance in the canter. 

Maybe I'll get to practice it again soon?



  1. That is intense. No way would I put a flashlight in my mouth to clip. Makes me grateful for the electricity at my barn.

    I have contemplated getting a headlamp for my hacks to and from the barn/arena bc the path between isn't very well lit but I have been making due.

    1. Well, we do have lights in the stalls outside, but they are dim and it was dark out when I had time to clip... so, had to get creative with the lighting situation! Maybe Santa will bring me a headlamp :-P

  2. another great exercise that I learned from Scott Keach involved cantering poles on the ground.. start counting down when you think you are 4 strides out and see how accurate you are without changing the canter.. as you get better, increase the strides out you when start your count..with a goal of counting down from 10.. sounds easy, but it's hard. put the poles all over the arena, random.. just keep going... my mother always said cantering poles was also really great strength and balance work for horses too..

    1. Love pole exercises! I either see no distance at all, or I See Distances like that kid sees Dead People...

  3. Oooo I wish I had a horse to practice this on!

  4. Literally the SAME THING happened to me. The horses got clipped and I promptly got too busy to ride. HELPFUL.

  5. This sounds very useful indeed for Bridget. I'm going to try it this weekend!

  6. This is a great exercise! I definitely need to do this when I get back in the saddle

  7. I don't panic until I'm three strides out... I may need a different exercise ;) Or just a cavelleti maybe.
    As for the clipping, you need a head lamp!


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