Friday, May 14, 2010

Mon dieu! C'est stupide!

Izzy and I had another jumping day. I got Irie's mom to help me set a barrel jump, and off we went.

Izzy warmed up really well. We had to do a little work with halting and backing to remind her that going forward did not mean hollow and run, but then she softened and listened nicely. She's getting more comfortable in the new arena, so she's not nearly as forward as she was yesterday. However, we did get some nice work on galloping and coming back in and she seems to do it pretty well. With her big stride and her speed, gallop is amazing to ride.

Then we jumped. She warmed up really well over the crossrail and then we headed for the barrels. (I had let her look at them earlier.) She came in, cantered a stride or two out, then launched herself over the jump. I managed to grab mane and stay on. As she cantered away, I petted her and told her what a good girl she was. We did the same thing again, with her launching and me grabbing mane, and then...

Nothing. We'd come in and stop. I'd make her stand in front of the jump, and then try again. Still nothing. I remembered what Cathy said about not making it scary and not making a fuss, so I didn't get after her. Irie's mom was there, but she's not a real experienced jumper, so while she pointed out that IZzy was backing off way in front of the fence, she didn't know how to fix it. Hm... Izzy is normally pretty bold and she had already jumped it twice. She wasn't off, she wasn't in pain, and she wasn't really in a mood, so I knew the problem had to be me, but I didn't know how to fix it. I also didn't want to quit without jumping it again.

Irie's mom was riding a jumping schoolmaster, so she gave us a lead over it. Izzy went forward pretty boldly, but then tried to rush the fence. She ignored my body half halt so I went to my hands... and got in her face... and she stopped... Oh. I had Irie's mom give us another lead, determined not to get in Izzy's face this time. Unfortunately, Mr. Schoolmaster decided to piddle over the jumps, so I had to pull Izzy out (well in advance) to avoid running over the top of him.

We circled around at the canter. I haven't cantered many jumps with Izzy because that means the jumps come up faster and I don't want to scare her. (Also, if she threw in a sliding stop, the canter would be harder to ride. Irrational, but true.) This time, I determined to let her do what she wanted and I would just sit still. We cantered in. Then she trotted. Then she cantered. I put my leg on and stayed in halt seat, determined to be out of her face.

She took one massive leap and we were over and galloping away.

That was easy.

Lesson learned: when the mare wants to canter, let her canter, you nitwit. They're her legs. She'll take care of them.

As I was driving away, I realized that a Pippa Funnell book I read about training young horses discussed this phenomenon. She mentioned what a challenge it is to jump younger horses because they don't have the strength for a slow collected canter, so they have to go more forward than you're comfortable with.

And at the core of this problem appears to be my confidence issues. If I trusted Izzy more, I probably could have avoided five refusals this morning. Live and learn.


  1. I think, too, she found with her first two launched jumps that you weren't in position, and didn't want to replicate that. Whether you actually came down on her back or mouth wasn't possibly even the issue, but having her balance disrupted by your balance disrupted... you get the point.

    She followed with a lead because she wanted to follow the other horse, which is of course why you use a lead ;-)

    The simple answer, in some ways, for that problem is to NOT use a non adjustable jump for a greenie, especially for the first (or sole) jump you are working on that day. Had it been a rail with standards, you could always lower it to a height the horse can get over (at walk if necessary), and she hasn't succeeded in refusing.

    One thing an event horse has to know is a refusal or run out, particularly a dirty or close stop, is NEVER acceptable. You must always get them over the fence, which means having the judgment to not overface them in your requests (not saying that's what you did, just pontificating). =)

  2. When Olly and I started jumping we trotted everything and you are right it is easier for a horse to put on the brakes in the canter than it is in the trot. Sometimes we sill trot the jumps until he fully gets it. On another note, I noticed that you jumped yesterday and today. I never jump two days in a row, unless at a clinic or event because I am worried about putting stress on his legs, do you find that Izzy isn't too over worked when you do this? I love to jump and would jump everyday if I could, I just have these fears of the legs. No legs, no horse. What do you think, I am curious to hear??

  3. I have to second both what Bif said and what PruSki said.

    It sorta goes along with the theory of horses only having so many jumps in them. So you make EVERY ONE of them count. Nothing too big until they know, you go over EVERY time. Nothing too big until you both are comfortable, confident and consistent.

    It's all to be considered building blocks. The journey of getting there may not be so much fun, but once you do, you appreciate thetime spent on the basics so much more.

    Part of the comfortable, confident & consistent is trust. You trusting her to go over every time and her trusting you not to bump her face or bounce on her back. In a lesson over fences one time, I was told "You have to trust your horse. She knows her job- let her do it. Your job is to stay on and out of her way." Yeah that was a bit humbling. *snork*

  4. Thanks for your input, everyone!

    I understand that stopping is not acceptable for experienced horses. HOWEVER, Izzy is not experienced and right now, I want to keep jumping fun and low stress for her. That's why I didn't punish her. I knew I was doing something wrong and I was trying to figure out what.

    Also, I rarely jump two days in a row. While the jumps we do right now are only 2'ish and I don't think they concuss her much, I do like to mix it up. The difference this week is that I had two days to ride, then two days of dressage clinic, then I won't be able to ride again until Friday. We have our first XC lesson Sunday, so I wanted her to jump two days, then do dressage two days, then have some time off.

    I do appreciate the input. It makes me think more about what I'm doing and thus complements Izzy's training (and mine).

  5. Another thought....instead of tackling the barrels by themselves, you might consider using the cross rail set at one stride away. Take Izzy into the crossrail at the trot you are comfy with, then let her canter the one stride to the next fence. The little jump sets her up for the bigger effort and helps her get the striding right. It also helps you find your balance and position for the second jump.

    When I was training hunter/jumper years ago, we'd often set up for a bigger fence with a smaller one like that. It's a great gymnastic and helps both horse and rider learn how to handle the jumping better.

  6. Damn, I had a lovely reply and blogger ate it. So this is a condensed and not as coherent version.

    You said "I understand that stopping is not acceptable for experienced horses... That's why I didn't punish her. I knew I was doing something wrong and I was trying to figure out what."

    STOPPING IS WRONG ANYTIME, EVERY TIME! Once a horse has been properly introduced to jumping, i.e. single pole on the ground, trot poles, trot poles to crossrail and understands that, from then on every stop is WRONG, and must receive a reprimand. Even if it is your fault, you reprimand.

    The part where you said you knew you were doing something wrong... You must present the green horse with obstacles where it is always possible to get the horse over the fence. At a walk if necessary, for as long as necessary, but refusing is never an option.

    The reason you reprimand regardless of which partner is at fault is that you are always better off (safer) if the horse continues than if he stops, provided you have presented him with something jumpable. He needs to know that jumping is always the only option. A horse doesn't know he is now considered "more experienced" and needs to be reliable now... he simply knows there are not always repercussions for stopping.

    A horse gets one or two taps on the shoulder, force depending on the seriousness of the infraction. If you then need to pop off to lower the height, you do, but horse must navigate what you sent him at. An experienced horse with no physical ailment might get wacked hard enough that he wished he could crawl under the fence, but he needs to know it is never acceptable. If he doesn't like jumping, you find him a job more suited to his temperament.

    My reply is long, so there is a part two...

  7. Part two:

    Were barrels an overface for Izzie? They might not normally be, but she is inexperienced, as you said, and in a still relatively strange environment... on that particular day, they were. And you were at a disadvantage because you couldn't lower them to a height you could get her over with no fuss. I personally don't like to use full size barrels until a horse is solid at 2'6", and you know he can pop them from a standstill if necessary.

    As seen on Novice level cross country, question: A young horse jumps down big into a sunken road, and finds himself awfully close for the out. Rider is put off balance by the huge leap in... What happens if the horse stops for the up? You are always safer on the horse who knows his job is to go where directed, at the speed the rider directed, and obstacles are to be navigated to get where you're going with no change in other factors. A horse who knows stopping isn't an option, you know you just need to grab mane and hang on for the scrambling up, is 100% safer than a horse who has learned if things aren't "good enough" in the set up (balance, position, striding), it can slam on the brakes. That rider will be lucky to stay aboard, if too much out of position from the overjump in.

    A safe XC horse needs to learn to think for itself, to understand the different types of obstacles and questions presented in a small enough form that mistakes won't injure or frighten him, and to go where directed at pace directed with obstacles as something he navigates without any obvious fuss or issue.

    So how do you teach a horse not to stop? Never walk, trot, whatever, even in hand, up to a jumpable/crossable obstacle and stop them or pull them away from it after clearly close enough to be considered "presented". Don't go head on to a jump that you horse thinks is scary and stop him to sniff it. Present him by walking up from the side, clearly not a request to jump, and he can see it and sniff it just the same. Showring hunter people may do some of those things, circle away at last minute, etc., but it is better for an event horse to never present to any obstacle (even a curb as you are walking in hand), and be turned away from it.

    And as Jean said, trot poles to a crossrail, followed by a one stride to the next fence is an excellent set up. Many pros will try out a young prospect using theis small gymnastic, as they can increas the back fence to gauge scope without really over facing the horse.

    I know I am not your trainer. I am hoping to offer items to consider to help you give Izzie the strongest foundation possible for you to have a safe, fun career for her. Ask Denny of Jimmy or any of the old time gurus (I've watched both many times, and worked for one). These are time tested ideas.

  8. I think you did awesome! Go Izzy!!!!

  9. I like what you said about Pippa's comments. Many times riders get anxious to slow the gaits down but the collection takes time and trying to force the horse to do something they are not strong enough to do creates anxiety problems that then have to be dealt with. Thanks for the post!


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