Ever since I first got Gus, I have lamented that he is not a “natural” jumper the way Dandy is. I’m not saying that he can’t jump, because he certainly can.
But he is not very good at it. Instead of naturally sitting back and keeping his haunches under him to push, he likes to throw his shoulders over and drag himself across the fence. This frustrates me because it’s not fun to ride and (obviously the most important) it looks ugly in pictures. I go through hundreds of photos trying to find just one semi decent picture of him jumping.
Jumping this way is also very dangerous which is the main reason I am trying so hard to teach Gus that this is not the appropriate way to jump.
Some of the problem has been me. With my confidence issues and bad equitation, I have been encouraging Gus to throw himself at the fences because I am throwing myself at the fence. Some of it is his own natural tendencies to be cautious which leads to hesitations at the base when his forward momentum is hard to stop. And some of it has just been that these smaller fences don’t really impress him.
It has not been an easy process. But thankfully I am now riding with Super Trainer, LT, and we are finally getting somewhere.
Last night’s lesson was the best Gus has ever jumped. The jumps were small (can’t remember the last time I wanted them raised!) and we focused on me compressing his stride and keeping his weight rocked back. When I did that, the shoulders stayed up. Granted, I’m at a place in my riding now where I can actually do that but it felt wonderful.
Gus will never ever be a hunter. He doesn’t snap up his knees as tight and cleanly as he should and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to solve that completely. At least now I can keep his shoulders up and with a lot of grid work, I think I can get the knees a bit tighter too. I don’t expect him to be an upper level prospect though so I’ll take safe and cautious and willing while we tool around BN.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from riding with Lainey. She’s a lovely rider and obviously she has a soft spot for my favorite breed, the thoroughbred, but my trainer also had me a little nervous going into day 1 of the clinic. What if I couldn’t keep up?
Luckily, that was not the case. Lainey is a lovely clinician. She expects you to try and she expects you to work hard but she doesn’t get frustrated as long as she can see that. She will get frustrated if she doesn’t think you’re giving her (and your horse) 150% but that’s exactly what I expect out of my trainers.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of great pictures from the weekend. The clinic was held in an indoor and while the boy did eventually figure it out, I just asked for video. So that’s what I got!
Day 1 wasn’t my best performance ever. Gus did really well over all the grids but I could not seem to keep everything going. It wasn’t horrible, and we were not the worst pair in the group by any means, but I was frustrated going through the bounces.
Day 2, things finally sunk in and I had a great day. Am I perfect? By no means but I felt real improvement both in myself and in Gus. Lainey saw it too. Also she loved Gus. Really loved Gus.
But I mean, who doesn’t?
It was Gus’ first time in an indoor and he barely batted an eye. The second day he did look cross eyed at some extra standards that were right outside the door that hadn’t been there the first day but kept going when I made it no big deal. He’s a good boy. He also did not bat his eye at any of the jumps. You may not remember, but one of the problems I have at shows is that any new stadium fence is super scary. The more we get out though, the more that will go away… hopefully.
The grids Lainey set up were to help us focus on us. I was the only one on a green horse but I thought they really helped Gus too. Or maybe it was that I was riding better. Probably both. She really got after me for sitting up and having a steady contact through the grid, something that I’ve been trying to do with New Trainer as well.
Lainey has definitely gone on the list of clinicians that I will gladly pay to work with again. Her teaching style really fit the way I learn and she complimented what I was already working on at home without dumbing things down. I believe she’ll be back in April and I’d love to have the chance to ride with her again.
I’ll admit, a little groan escaped my lips when I saw the text from New Trainer yesterday that we were going to jump in my lesson. Because jumping right now means grids. And grids are apparently my nemesis at the moment.
But grids it was!
This is what was set up (jumps a little lower) when I got on for my lesson but we didn’t start by going straight down the middle. Instead we jumped them in a diagonal pattern. The cross rail was going away from the other fences, then you swung back around to take the oxer going towards the end of the arena before finally coming back to the middle vertical (and then if all that went well, you went down the middle).
It did not start well. The oxer was set up around 2’6 and I freaked myself out, took my leg off and threw us at the fence. No surprise, Gus refused and I started hyperventilating. Thank God for New Trainer who, after I couldn’t get past my fear twice, immediately dropped it and ignored my mild panic attack, letting me quietly get myself put back together.
This exercise was all about accuracy and applying leg to the base of the jump. After the initial melt down, Gus and I really started to get it. Things clicked. It actually felt like we were jumping instead of stumbling over the fences.
And, as you can see, the fences quickly went back up.
I wish I had some video of this stuff because I actually felt good about the way I was riding and the way Gus was jumping. We didn’t hit every fence perfectly but it’s amazing what keeping the leg on the entire way and not throwing your shoulders away will do.
We also worked a lot on the first trot fence (maybe more my nemesis then the grids?). It’s not something that is coming easily to me but I think we made a little improvement last night. New Trainer had me think about it like trot lengthenings. I’m constantly trying to build power in the hocks but not letting it out until a few strides before the fence where I really put my leg on and let that power out. I understand the concept but executing it is another story. Still, we’ll keep working on it!
Can’t wait to get back to course work though.
I just had an awesome grid lesson with our barn manager N. JLE is in CA for Galaway but I never mind because N is such a fabulous teacher. She’s also been working Dandy this week and I got the most wonderful compliment about my boy: he is an awesome jumper, super fun to take over courses and she now understands why I didn’t want to give up on him.
I won’t bore you with the details about how the grid went from poles to verticals but it was really good for us. There were a few times where Dandy really didn’t want to turn and he has a bad outside drift. Bad enough that at one go I thought I was going to run right into the standards. Instead I yanked him back in front of the fence and we bounced over. He’s athletic enough and I didn’t want either of us to learn bad habits. By thr time we got to the last round with an oxer for the lead in, he was really cruising. And, best of all, having a blast.
Now I am just hanging out and waiting for the sweat to dry. The beast is getting clipped this weekend. He’s a furball.