Monday, December 21, 2015

On Jumping (or rather, not)

As I'm sure all of you have noticed, I really don't jump my horse anymore, which is weird considering the whole plan was to do jumpers together.

I mean. He jumps like this:

I must be crazy not to jump him, right?


I wish it was that simple. I was trying to explain it to Alyssa the other day and it goes kind of like this:

Courage is an incredibly brave and honest jumper. He's not a stopper. He doesn't really rush, he won't charge off after, he doesn't generally buck, leap, rear, or fart around. If he jumps you out of the tack, he just canters in a straight line until you haul your sorry ass back into the saddle. He's not dirty.

Like... what idiot wouldn't jump this clearly talented and awesome horse?


Because that's not all there is to it. I mean, yeah, he requires a VERY specific ride. You will get your ass OUT of the tack and you will HURL your release at his mouth, or you will have a massive problem exploding directly under you. It's a bit unnerving for my eventer-background self who's used to being a little behind the motion for security's sake, but since he WANTS that ride and really doesn't stop, it's actually quite safe. I can deal with that.
and this is why he needs that release
But there's more.

This part is harder to articulate. I didn't realize what it was at first, because I've done 99% of the rides on Courage and I haven't been riding a lot of other horses in the time I've had him, so it was very hard to contextualize. Courage is an older horse (10) who's been ridden all his life. He's very opinionated and he knows what he wants.

So if he wants to canter through an exercise on the left lead, no matter what you do and whether you're me, a prelim-level eventer, or a strong seasoned pro, he will put you where he wants you. If you're weaker, he'll do it subtly. If you're stronger, he will literally pop you out of the tack and put you where he wants you to be.
horse has OPINIONS
And that makes him not a very fun ride.

He's too green over fences to really know where you ought to be, so sometimes he puts you in the wrong place, which puts him in the wrong place, which he then thinks is your fault. Oops. That's why last summer we spent a long time lunging him over fences--he had to learn how to jump on his own, because he really couldn't with a rider up. He wouldn't listen to the rider (no matter who) and then he'd interpret jumping problems as "ABANDON SHIP", which is no good.
little fences
and big ones
So it's really weird--on the one hand, he has good technique and an attractive jump with no actual vices. On the other hand, no one who jumps him is like "that was fun, I want to do it again". Honestly, I really believe the reason he hasn't developed a stopping/rushing/bucking problem is precisely because of how careful his formative jump training has been.

He is a really attractive jumper with a lot of talent. He's super scopey and fun to be around on the ground. He's really turning in to a fun horse to ride on the flat. Part of our dressage foray is simply to get him more broke to ride. Maybe, just maybe, I can get him to be ride-able enough that we can make jumping fun for both of us.

It's not completely crazy--late this fall, we jumped two courses over 2' fences with like, brakes, steering, and actual control. It was super fun.
finally convinced him that not all jumps are 3'6"
I'm very serious about my bronze medal in dressage goal and most of the time, that makes up for not jumping. Sometimes (like writing this post and looking at these pictures and any time I see a jump set up), I want to jump SO BAD RIGHT NOW OMG OMG OMG.

I keep reminding myself that maybe we can. Next year. Sometime. Maybe. Until then, I've got to get this horse broke.


  1. I admire your ability to adapt your plans to fit what is fun for you and your horse. Your journey has been a roller coaster ride and I continue to be impressed with your open honesty and adaptability.

  2. Haha... you know my opinion on this. Jump if you wanna, and if you don't, don't! There's no rules on it! ;)

  3. Having made the switch to dressage (for soundness reasons) I get it! What I found is how much faster our dressage acumen & ability has come along focusing one just one discipline. Being a life long eventer I have never not hard core cross trained until now. I'm amazed at how much faster weve progressed on the flat not jumping. I think your plan is great and will get you that bronze medal faster in the long run! Go get 'em!!

  4. Good on you for recognizing what your horse (and you) need and working with it rather than fighting it!
    On an unrelated note, I think you'd find this article interesting given your thoughts & opinions on tradition:

  5. Nobody says you gotta jump! Courage is a pretty badass dressage horse!

  6. interesting - my mare, as an older horse that has been ridden her whole life but is still technically 'green' to a lot of things has some similarities. she's not opinionated in the nearly same ways as Courage, but has certain tics that are omg so hard to change (drifting over the fence, landing on a specific lead) that i've kinda stopped bothering with bc they don't usually create problems (for now, at least)... but yea, i know what you mean and can see how that can create a ride that is more cerebral than plain 'fun.'

  7. He sounds just like Brooklyn in this post.

  8. Honestly, honestly, good dressage training will improve his jumping skills. He will learn how to use his back and become far more controllable going into and out of the fence. Can't remember which trainer I worked with who said, "It's all about getting to the jump, not getting over. If you get there right, the jump's no big deal." The better the approach, the better the fence. The more athletically trained the horse is, the better he will jump. That bronze medal will reap rewards in both the dressage and jumping arenas.

  9. There so much you can do with a horse other than jumping - just have fun!

  10. Yep, this, all of it. Papa has opinions.


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