The nicest thing about being literally 100 feet away from your horse, is that if you're rained out from your ride, you can go back over an hour or two later when the rain subsides, and still ride. Unlike when your horse is a 1/2 hour away, the round trip is an hour, and there's no way you're wasting 2 hours just driving.
The weather righted itself just as the latest episode of Heartland came on (horse show based on the books for those unknowing), and I was left trying to choose....Horse TV or Horse Riding??
I started walking across the field.
All the jumps I had set up earlier today were still ready, and by some grace, Moon hadn't rolled after his earlier grooming! Things were coming up roses!
I tacked Moon up and headed into the ring. I had used a lesson from "Jump with Joy" a great book by Sarah Blanchard. The thing I really like about it, is that it's progressive. She'll set up a grid or exercise for you, tell you how to ride it, what to watch for, and then tell you how many reps to do. Then give you a rubric to judge whether you need more reps or if you're ready to move on.
We were ready to do a nice gymnastic line, like below...
To start us off, I set it up with the 4 trot poles, to the 18" x-rail and then left the vertical (that's a pole and a ground pole, not an oxer) on the ground. I wanted to make sure we were comfortable as we've never done a gymnastic line before.
In we went, I focused on a fence post in the distance and tried to stay back.
It was...okay. But I was definately getting ahead of Moon and almost throwing myself on his neck. Not right.
We did it again. And voila. I relaxed enough to let him do the jumping and we made it confidently through.
So I set our little "vertical" at 9".
Yup, start easy.
Through we went 2 times, and he tapped the 9" rail.
So I raised it to 18".
He surged a bit heading through the trot poles, but went nicely over the x-rail and a touch of the vertical.
Here I opted to (for the first time since I bought them!) put on his jumping boots! Yup, he wore boots! So not us.
We went again, he did fine. He was actually jumping rather nicely through, start a little fast, settle him back through the trot poles and then keep a nice rythym back out of the line.
Could my quarter horse actually jump? And maybe enjoy it?
I raised the vertical to the 21" hole, which meant the top of the rail sat at 2'2". Two-Two. The hooded fang. (those who don't get the reference, won't get the reference!).
I breathed. And readied myself. Some of you may recall this winter at W's where I jumped 2', ended going over the jumping block and fell off into the sand. Didn't want a repeat.
...squeeze and we're off...
Didn't even tap the rail!
I felt confident, balanced and stayed out of his mouth and from my best guess, didn't get ahead of the movement nor behind!
We did it again.
And then we quit.
I was in heaven. He seemed...happy. He seemed like he wanted to come in a little stronger, but remained controllable and listened well. Really made it effortless and was smooth. Didn't have to fight him really wandering right or left over the rail either, at least at the vertical. Seemed to drift a touch left at the x-rail, but I'm not sure if my attempts to half-halt may have led to some leftward drift.
A year ago, I would have told you that Moon hated jumping. And I sucked at it.
3 months ago, I would have said that he'll never jump much more then 2', did not enjoy it, was scared of it, and I had no business doing it.
Today, I'd say that my horse needed a few things before we did this. We needed to work on our relationship, and I can say he trust me more today then he did a year ago. Then even 8 months ago when we moved to W's.
I can tell you that I'm a better rider today then I was before. I can also say that H2's coaching, even just for an hour, really, really helped. Why? Because she gave me one very valuable tool: look up, and she and H also assured me that I wasn't destroying my horse by sucking terribly. The other tricks, like staying rythmic and relaxed, helped too. So now I'm going in there feeling more confident. Which in turn makes my horse more confident.
The gymnastic line.
THIS helps. Instead of "OMG! I'm coming to that HUGE FENCE! AURGH!!! DO SOMETHING!!", it's simply "Trot rail, trot rail, trot rail, trot rail, x-rail, vertical" and we're done. It's rythmic. It's sensible and it's progressive.
All things horse and human need to establish their confidence and build their skill in a positive way.
I even, EVEN went so far as to stick bright orange pylons under my vertical and no surprise, Mr. Moon still jumped it without hesitation.
Now, after our success at the Two-Two, I thought he might appreciate a trail ride. Which after trying to buck me off on the road, and then reverting to the giraffe I brought to Wendy back in May last year (Like nose straight up in the air), I managed to regain a half-decent horse. I was REALLY frustrated at this point and was contemplating how much I'd have to pay W to take him from me. I just couldn't deal with riding the horse of last May. I couldn't. I CAN'T.
So my half-decent horse comes back to the sand ring and I think "Well, we should at least work on loosening him up. It's physio, right? He's had a week off of work, we had a bad stiff ride last Sunday at the show, and I really should put the time in to soften him up, get him relaxing and stretching".
Yes, I just wanted to chuck him back in his paddock. How could he go from jumping super star to cow-head in a matter of minutes?!
I worked and worked on getting him flexing and bending at a walk. Finally I asked for a trot transition...
...Holy Floating Batman.
That dreamy walk-trot transition, head nice and low that I've been finding here and there!!
It's back!! Wait. Where'd Stiff-Cow-Head go??
Not in the ring. Around and around we went and he got better and better. I was overjoyed!! Lots and lots of awesome transitions, up and down!! And beautiful halts! And standing still!
Okay, we're done! I'll take it. Floating transitions and 2'2" jumps in the same day?! I'll keep him!
I groomed him down again, removed all his gear and blanketed him. Yes, mainly because I'm incredibly lazy about grooming tons and tons of water goopy mud off him before every ride. Sheet = clean pony. I'll take it!
Boy was I thrilled when leading him back to his paddock, that he followed me without any lead rope. And followed me around the ring in some serpentines without me leading him, and then stood like a good boy while I took off his halter. And halted until I walked away from him (last time he bolted away, spraying wet mud and poo all over me), and then walked sedately back to his pasture mates.
It's about time.
This horse, this Moon, I'll keep!
Maybe his tantrums are over. Last time I ignore HIM for a week!
So what's the big deal about Two-Two? 2'2"?
Well, there's those 2'3" hunter courses...
Yes, my dream.
I've wanted for a very long time (since I was a kid, staring at those jumps at the park), to ride Cross Country. To jump those logs and banks and ditches.
And when I got my own horse, whom I could do crazy things like jumping logs and ditches with, I knew that I didn't have the right horse for it. And I love my horse (most days) far more then I love the sport of Cross Country. So I assumed we wouldn't really ever get to do it. Maybe a little "smurf" course to make me feel good, but nothing "serious" and certainly never anything competitive.
Today, landing nicely on the other side of that 2'2", Moon happy and certainly willing to do it again (if perhaps a touch faster), I realized it's not so far out of reach!
My horse, if he ever learns to canter a circle (we're getting there), is a decent (not fantastic, but certainly decent) little dressage horse. AND he's now showing me he can manage 2'2" jumps, which means he might manage a decent stadium round. AND, since he loves trail rides and going fast, MAYBE he'll come together to like x-country too.
I haven't narrowed myself into dressage because of my horse or our training. We've simply been moving towards being better rounded and more ready for these next adventures.
...someone hold me back!