We've all had face-palm moments. Occasions when something that never seemed clear suddenly make perfect sense and you can only smack yourself with the realization.
Today I present to you, my face-dirt moment. A step above the face-palm.
Despite treacherous roads, I headed out to the barn yesterday. There had been a collision that led to a loss of life earlier in the day, but I knew I'd be driving nice and cautiously and the roads had been cleared by the increase in traffic by this late hour. Granted, as I rounded the first piece of highway on my drive I was greeted by a police car rushing past and a collection of emergency vehicles at the intersection. T-boned car, truck half lodged in the hood of it, and a van 200 yards away, stuck in the guy-wires of a hydro pole. Oye.
Needless I made it safely to the barn and despite the roads, there was a lesson going on. Moon was wearing one of W's old blankets (awww...) as I later found out his rain-sheet had frozen to a plank on him. W really does take amazing care of the ponies.
I warmed up with lots of stretching and flexing and for a horse that had traveled so many miles the day previous, he was a good boy. We did some decent shoulder-in practice and lots of leg yielding and small sitting trot circles. His leg yielding even seemed better in both directions and our trot circles weren't too shabby either. By the time the lesson ended and they were leaving the ring, Moon felt pretty loose and relaxed. So I thought, why not make today a pole day?? The ring was empty and it wasn't likely anyone was going to show up at this late hour...
I've been reading the "Jump with Joy" book I purchased last month and it's great. I decided to work through their second exercise which was a couple of trot poles to a x-rail. I set it up and Moon and I trotted beautifully through it a half-dozen times. He was solid and I felt pretty good myself. I thought to myself "Why not try the third exercise then?"
Problem. The book was in the tack room and I didn't really want to go out there to get it. So I tried to set-up the grid without the book for reference. I laid it out but we were short a couple of poles, so I had to make 1/2 an x-rail and remove a couple of trot poles. I set up the vertical after the x-rail at 2'.
Moon would come through the x-rail no problem but from his trot, just couldn't seem to want to attempt that 2' vertical. Hmmm, I thought, I should just pull out the x-rail to make jump wings and put him through at a canter.
Pure Genius (please note the heavy sarcasm. Occasionally I have the intelligence of a complete idiot).
We cantered up to the 2' vertical and Moon, bless his little QH heart, FLEW over it. I don't doubt for a second that he cleared it by at LEAST 6". We landed and trotted on, many praises and treats later. My pony can jump!!
The wise of us, would call that a day.
I am not so wise.
I made him do it again.
It was selfish. It was indulgent. It was foolish and impractical, poor training and completely my impatience to prove to myself he can jump. It was dumb. Okay, I was dumb.
I cantered him at it again.
But he wasn't so keen this time. He'd lose his momentum right in front of it and drop to a trot. You can't jump it when down shifting. Doesn't happen. He crashed into it once (I mean, he didn't even TRY to lift his feet), pulling the whole thing over. THAT should have been reason enough to quit. But he was avoiding the jump and I wanted to prove to him that he could make it over. He did it before, he just needed a little more drive and he'd do it again.
So I cantered him at it again.
He wavered for a second, considering deeking around the jump block. But jumped anyway. CLEAR over the jump standard (we use those plastic blocks) and I'm quite certain he cleared 2'9" as he didn't touch it with a toe. And I was staring down at it the whole time.
He cleared it by a mile, not a single toe tap and landed on the other side. I was still staring downward past his shoulder and in no way was ready, prepped or skilled enough to ride that big over-jump. After he landed, my momentum carried me onward and I tumbled over his right shoulder, squarely onto my arse in the sand. There was sand down my boots, sand on my face and even sand down my trousers.
Sitting in the sand, my pony standing over me (he didn't even budge as I tumbled off), it suddenly occurred to me: My horse can jump. I can not.
Jumping a lesson horse over 2'6" hunter course does NOT make you a jumper. Riding your horse through a beginner grid with trot poles and an x-rail does NOT mean being able to jump. Staying on during a couple of stupid moments is NOT being a jumper. Jumping a lesson horse over a series of jumps, is NOT being able to jump. I can not jump a greenie. And I've only proved to myself that I am insensitive to my horse.
It's not that he doesn't jump because he can't. He doesn't jump because I CAN'T.
I broke his trust yesterday. I got back on and it took us 6 passes for him to jump a little 12" cross rail. SIX PASSES!
Because of me.
We'll go back to our simple x-rail grid from now on. That's it until spring and lessons with B-A. I need to learn how to jump again, and I need to learn how to do it correctly with him. For him.
So after he jumped the little x-rail for me, I called it a day. Cooled him off and put away all the poles and jumps. Yet I felt like...I was being watched??
The viewing room was dark and the barn from what I knew, was empty. Weird.
We went inside and I untacked him and gave him a good grooming. Lots of treats 'cause he's a good boy. And felt more and more like someone was upstairs. Occasionally I heard a footfall, but no one came down the stairs. I worked slowly, wondering. Was someone watching me ride today? Watching my foolishness? My cheeks flushed. It's one thing to do as you please and make a fool of yourself. But to have someone watching?
Eventually, right as I finished putting everything away, W's mom came downstairs. We exchanged pleasantries. I'm sure my cheeks turned bright red. We didn't speak of any jumping or my riding. It was awkward, for me at least, as I hadn't a clue if tomorrow I'd arrive to find a big sign that read "No Jumping" tacked to the wall. Who knows. But it certainly is weird to know that someone may have been watching you when you didn't know. Weirdness. I literally looked up to see if the viewing room was dark a couple times when I felt like someone was watching, but it was always dark and quiet. Then again, maybe she showed up at the end and it's all in my head. Who knows. I just know our 2' jumping days are currently over. Okay, MY 2' jumping days are over. Maybe Moon can try some free jumping at the next place ; )
Tonight's lesson night and we'll go back to our dressage. Dressage hurts my arse a whole lot less...