Eye of the Beholder
Jumping horses is a funny thing.
After our challenging and productive lesson on Friday, I wanted to go back and tackle those lines again and really work on my eye and my confidence in seeing and committing to a distance and adjusting accordingly. I set one line as ground rails to a crossrail-oxer (where I would do the most work on adjusting stride without a bigger fence to weird me out), and the other line I kept as poles to a BN-height oxer. I set a very big crossrail (about 2'3 in the middle), some BN-ish height verticals, and a 2'6" hogsback as well.
My goal for the ride was not only to more reliably be able to switch between the 6, 7, and 8 in the line and achieve a better response to the half halt, but to also re-calibrate my eye to BN height being No Big Deal after not having jumped in over two weeks.
It's crazy how quickly fences seem to "grow" on you when you take a break from jumping!
Dino was game that day, and we ended up having a really productive schooling session! He was focused on me for much of the ride, and my half halts didn't have to be nearly as dramatic as they were in our lesson - we got the 8 strides several times, easily, and then came around and moved right back up to get the 6. After jumping the crossrail-oxer line several times over and alternating between 6, 7, and 8 strides, I started stringing the line together with the big crossrail, as well as one of the smaller verticals I'd set. Things went very well, Dino jumped the jumps, and even though I was feeling a little anxious about the "bigger" fences, I just focused on the canter and riding actively for a distance, and everything worked out.
Next I tackled the poles-to-BN-oxer line, and decided beforehand that I would do the 7. We came through the poles in a nice, sedate, balanced canter, and I didn't even need to half-halt! But Dino was SO quiet in the line that it was turning out to be an 8 instead of a 7, which weirded me out since it was NOT ACCORDING TO MY PLAN OMG!! and I pulled out of the line.
Argh! Stop it, stupid brain!
But now I knew that the 8 would be easy in that line, and I came back around and rode for that number instead, and the line jumped beautifully in 8 strides several times. Victory!
At that point, I knew I had to buck up and jump the two 'biggest' jumps that I'd set for myself, even though I wanted to be done - the hogsback and a slightly-over-BN-height vertical were calling me. I chose to attack the vertical first, and even though it was set steeply uphill and Dino wanted to take a flyer, I used my half-halts and re-focused his forward energy UP, and we got powerfully to the base every time, with the added bonus that Dino landed in a compact, balanced posture and was ready for whatever turn or jump I decided to add on next.
Last, I HAD to jump that darn hogsback!
When, in reality, it's not an overly-large jump, the width of it was freaking me out. After my ill-fated encounter with my first triple bar, wide fences have not been my favorite!
I spent a lot of time riding PAST the hogsback, working on the canter, mapping out a track, feeling out what I needed to change about it in order for me to feel confident about jumping the wider fence. Eventually I came around in a canter I was happy with (forward, in the bridle, but contained and on a bit of a shorter stride to avoid a launch or chip) and jumped the fence. We got nicely to the base, Dino popped over in fine style, and it was a non-event. We quit with that!
The most important thing that happened during this ride was that a fence that LOOKED big to me didn't FEEL big at all when I jumped it, and in jumping, having the right perception of the size of the jumps is a huge, huge factor in my confidence!
Hopefully we can keep building on this momentum as we get ready for our next HT, which is coming up quickly!