Pick Up Dem Knees

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.

Lainey Ashker Clinic 4.1.17 – Day 2

As I mentioned in the opening of Day 1’s recap, Day 2 started in the completely opposite way: not good.

No, I didn’t fall off (yet), but I had a flat out refusal over a tiny baby oxer. An oxer so small Gus could have stepped over it. No one else had had an issue, Gus should not have had an issue but I had not gotten him in front of my leg and, being just a little tired, Gus wasn’t having any of it.

I could feel the tears welling up. I wanted a hole to open up and swallow us. I wanted Lainey to tell me we were hopeless and to send me home. I wanted to be anywhere but at that clinic. Instead I sniffled, put my shoulders back and tried again, this time with some actual forward momentum.

Obviously, Lainey did not tell me to get off. Instead we talked about Gus and what I was going to need to do to really bring out his full potential (because, as we all know, Lainey loves Gus). Besides the fact that I need to sit up and not get ahead of the jump, I need to support Gus every step of the way. He’s a wonderful jumper but a careful horse. If he doesn’t feel like it’s safe, and I don’t tell him that it is, he’s going to stop. And I need to tell him it’s safe by keeping him in front of my leg and sitting tall.

Crazy how I needed a reminder on something I had written about just days ago but I did.

You would think after that things would run relatively smoothly. But no, you would be wrong. I forgot everything that Lainey told me and had another stop at the first jump in a triple line. Another oxer, this time slightly bigger. We got over it the second time and then after he had already gone over the dang thing, Gus dumped me.

My first fall with Gus. And right in front of Lainey. Ugh.

But you know what we didn’t have a refusal or fall at?

The triple bar.

Or the big Swedish oxer.

Or the Liverpool.

That’s right, sometimes Gus and I know how to get a job done. I think I was so over confident that Gus would just go over that little oxer that I didn’t ride to it like I rode to the fences I knew would bother him. So that’s my fault. But Lainey didn’t give Gus a pass on this one either. Her philosophy is pretty much exactly like mine. The horse has to go over and while we can give some leeway with new things when they’re green, Gus had no excuse on that little oxer. It was small and he had already jumped it. He should have gone even if I was hanging halfway off him.

Somewhat to my surprise, we actually were able to get through the whole course once without a major issue. Hillary even got it on video for me. 

This clinic ended up being exactly what I needed. It’s a reminder that I still need a lot of work and that Gus hasn’t become some magically seasoned horse. We’ll get there though.

In the end, after watching the video from Hillary and having a few good nights to sleep on it, I’m glad I went. Lainey is such a wonderful mentor and I would love to ride with her more regularly. Thankfully I have the next best thing in LT and I know she will sooth my bruised ego and get Gus and I in sync in time for our first HT.

TLDR: Awesome Weekend

I have written and rewritten this post about a hundred times. Actually, I don’t think that’s physically possible in the few days I’ve had but it certainly feels like a hundred times. The words just won’t come out. I finally decided it was because this clinic was so absolutely amazing and I had so much fun that it just seems kind of like a letdown to try to describe it all to you. So I won’t really bother.

Let’s sum up:

1)      Gus had so much sass being at Ashland. This may be partially totally because he had been off for over two weeks (colic, extreme cold temps, work, me being sick). On Saturday I was also having major Dandy flashbacks but did a good job of working myself out of it and keeping on with Gus. We ended up having a great ride.

Sunday for XC, I was just annoyed with the shenanigans so I took advantage of the clinic being run by my trainer and asked her to get on him. She did and took him around super big scary training fences and it was awesome. My horse is awesome.

2)      Ashland is fucking beautiful and almost the most perfect place on earth. I won’t even apologize for the swearing. I want to live there. It’s almost exactly what I would build if I could do anything I wanted.

3)      If you didn’t read it up in point 1, Gus is awesome. Also, I am awesome because (with the help of New Trainer), I DID THIS! Gus has been completely my work and, after Dandy, I didn’t think I was a very good rider. But I am. Or at least good enough.

4)      After being out on the XC, doing all sorts of advanced work over little fences and riding over novice fences that looked normal, I am so ready for FENCE. 

Also, I let my trainer know that I did want to point toward Novice for the end of the season. It’s something she’s been hinting at for a while but, while I am totally fine with all the dressage, XC was still scaring me. Not any more. I feel so confident and ready to start jumping those novice fences. Some are still a little frightening to me but after this weekend I know I have a horse who can move up and take it.

Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 2

The time to tack up and get ready for stadium came way to soon. We had walked the course the night before but my memory really wasn’t all that great and it had been such a sweeping big course that I wasn’t feeling confident about getting every fence. I had to watch a few people ride it to really get it down and I’ll admit that, on course, I had a couple of panic moments where I just kept riding around the rail hoping the fence would come up.


The one positive that I am really holding on to is that when we walked down to the arena and saw the fences, I was convinced that they were still running the Tadpole division and that they hadn’t moved the fences up. It’s not that they look particularly small but they didn’t look huge. Actually, they really didn’t look that big at all. It was amazing.



And then when I went in there to ride my test, Gus didn’t look at a single fence. We didn’t get all the correct distances of course, but I kept my leg strong and my elbows soft and rode the hell out of that course. New Trainer was super pleased and thought that was my best stadium to date. Of course, she hasn’t seem some of the really disastrous ones but it still meant a lot.

Gus was still a tiny bit spooky as we rode past the judge’s tent which was right next to a two stride line but that will come with more rides in different places. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get him through the line, obviously, but it did lead to a less than pleasant second fence.


But even with the spook and one disastrous approach to fence 9, we rode a great course, had no rails down and came in under time. Another double clear for Gus and I. I like going double clear, makes me feel good even at a schooling show.


Double clear aside, the thing I really can’t leave alone is just how confident I felt the whole time. Even with being sick, even not being sure I knew the whole course, even back talking to New Trainer in warm-up (um, blame that on being sick?), I didn’t fear that course. This is HUGE for me.

Last year I was still nervous about getting around the Tadpole stadium course and now I’m thinking the BN course doesn’t look big enough. While I’m not ready for Novice yet, this is the first time in a long time I’ve stepped out of the stadium ring and thought that I might be by the end of the year.


I  could have ended my day here and been totally happy with how well everything had gone. Gus was on point and I was managing to hold it together. Win – Win. But we still had XC up and I was going to have to dig deep to find the energy for that!

Grid Work 12.21.16

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.