Thursday, September 12, 2013

Learning the Job

The little man stepped it up and was awesome for our grid night outing and our show outing (and I handwalked him down the road the other day), so I figured it's time to put our big kid pants on and ride in a clinic. On cross country. 

Ok, maybe that was ambitious.

Regardless, since we don't want to get embarrassed out there, Redheadlins and I are buckling down and making sure our horses can at least jump cross rails before we show up. I was going to have her ride him and do some other stuff this week, but she's short on time and I'm having too much fun.

Rock that baucher!! 
In the interest of looking like a legit XC horse, I brought out closed front boots to try that I don't mind galloping through weeds in. I refuse to risk the tboots in cheat grass. I also wanted to try a different bit, since the happy mouth is just flat out too big for him and I didn't want to buy another. Obviously, if you are a tack ho, it is far, far easier to throw the trial bit on a bridle than it is to unhook your current bridle and add the new bit into the mix.

Plus I love how he looks in a figure eight anyways. Also a legit XC thing.

It's almost a tail
He came out really up for some reason, so I hand walked him around the arena. As we passed the hay barn, he had THE MOST GIANT COURAGE SPOOK OF ALL TIME. Seriously. I think he may have gone two strides. Then he stood still and looked sheepish. I hopped on and off we went.

After a nice warmup (in which I didn't ask for anything, oops), we started out working on contact at the walk and trot. I kept him mostly on a circle. Instead of giving in to my desire to just sit around and have a fun ride, I focused on putting him into the contact every time he decided to be a giraffe and then (important) giving EVERY TIME he decided to soften.

Make it obvious. Keep things black and white. He wants to do the right thing, so let him. (Thank you, Lins for pointing that out).

Love this canter
Once he was quiet and steady (ish), we headed off around the arena. He gave me a lovely stretch and then we took a walk break. During that walk break, Diva and Lindsey jumped and cantered and did all kinds of cool things. I was all focused (RIDE THE HORSE) and completely spaced taking pictures. Oops. Bad friend.

When we moved up into the canter, I quit worrying about the contact. I have elbow issues I need to work through and he needs a break. Plus, we are prepping for a CLINIC! Thus, we worked on some forward and back at the canter. I asked him to shorten until he ...almost... broke to trot, then cantered forward down the long side before collecting again.

I tried to stay mostly out of the saddle and go forward from my leg. It was our first attempt, so there wasn't as much difference between the shorter and longer canter as I would prefer, but he seemed to be getting the idea.

And then to jump! At this point, I really want him to figure out that any time he's pointed at a jump, I mean for him to jump it. Looking for the flags, if you will. We set the jumps in places he did not expect, and accordingly, the first time I headed for one, he tried to run out. ("obv she didn't realize the great wall of china is in front of us")

This is where I realized that I had completely squandered my warmup. Instead of meandering and chatting, I need to actively use that time to move him off my legs and get him on the aids. He's not opposed to jumping--he just needs to understand what the desired outcome is.

No one cares about flowers now
I'm working to get myself together, too. The last time I jumped an actual fence was like... April? On Cuna. With Courage, I sometimes forget to ride because he's being green. The result is that I let him get strung out and pick at him and ride from my hands and it's just ugly. Today, I picked one thing I wanted to do better. I decided that I wanted to ride my line after the jump to encourage him to be forward and straight. Magically, that made me ride from my leg instead of pick with my hands and he was much easier to go with.

balance in the corner
I also had to remember to ride around my corners. I'm being really obsessive about not hitting him in the mouth at any point, to the point that I'm not really taking any contact while jumping. Unfortunately, Courage doesn't really know what all that means. He got strung out and unbalanced (for him), then stopped at another crossrail.

To help him, I shortened my reins and was consistent. I let him come in slower with his head up like a giraffe, because that meant he was balanced and looking. My reins were consistent, so if he fell forward, I caught him, but otherwise he just had to hold to the rhythm.

An actual jump! 
It seemed to work. By the end, we were confidently jumping all the Xs on straight lines. Woohoo!!

I realize this is one of those long rambling posts that goes on forever and probably no one reads, but 1) I want to keep track of our progress and 2) I threw in lots of cute pictures, so it can't be that bad, right?

Another ride tomorrow, and then we have to pick out clinic outfits. How exciting!


  1. Well... I read your rambling posts! And anyways, I love how thoughtful you are with each aspect of your ride, analyzing not only what to do, but how to do it. I need to get better about that!

  2. I read your rambling posts too, and love them. I mainly love them because when you ramble, your joy and excitement over having something to look forward to is just bursting out of them, and they are so fun to read. My not-so-baby-anymore horse goes in a Baucher too, french link. I really like it on him.

  3. Love this post! It's funny how much differently the babies are with new thing (especially jumping). My inclination is to stay out of their way too over fences, but I've found that they really need to know you are there and that dropping the contact makes them worried. You are a good enough rider not to jab him in the mouth and that's what a neck strap is for! I recently got one for Riley because the strap on my breastplate was too awkward to use and it's a really nice thing to have!

  4. I definitely read the whole thing :) Good luck at the clinic I am sure he will surprise at how well he does :)

  5. Sounds great! It's better to have a giraffe that steers than a horse that doesn't. And long reins don't make soft hands, good elbows make soft hands. I'm impressed by y'all and your progress!

  6. So exciting! Can't wait to hear about the clinic!

  7. Amazing how focusing on improving just one thing can end up improving many things =)

    Have fun at the clinic - I'm sure the Rage will be fabulous!!

  8. Love figure 8's!!

    Have fun and can't wait to hear about the clinic!

  9. I read ALL of your posts.... every single one and so long as you don't start posting about cooking recipes or something I will keep reading them. ;)


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