I am going to throw the spoiler out right here. This lesson was FUN! It was a really good mix of accuracy, “riding to the base” type questions with more forward open oxers and related distances. A great lesson in riding your line, picking your balance, and maintaining your rhythm. You know… all the things that make a successful SJ course.
Let’s start with the first exercise because it is one of my FAVORITES. Seriously, if May and I haven’t jumped in a while, this is the exercise I do by myself to get us back into it. AND it’s super simple to set up.
One ground pole to a vertical. You trot in with a concentration on keeping power coming forward from the hind end without losing it up front. You really need to ride the hind end of the horse to the base of the fence in this exercise and not get ahead of the motion. We jumped it and circled back from each direction a couple of times.
The jump started around 2′ and ended around 2’6″. Nothing huge, but enough that May needed to rock back and push off. I had to concentrate of really keeping her front end from running off with us, but we got the hang of it after knocking some rust off.
We moved onto some simple course work. Over the trotting exercise, down an oxer to vertical line in 5 strides. Right turn. Oxer back to the other oxer in a bending 6. Then, a sweeping left turn over a skinny block with no standards. The first time through, I was CONVINCED we were going to do the 7 strides from oxer to oxer. It just… looked like 7. I even told Mandy, “If I get 5, I am messing up somewhere.”
However, May was moving forward really well, and she easily walked down the lined in 6. This is also because I didn’t get to the first oxer square… I sliced it a bit because slicing fences to get down lines is my absolute favorite method of riding.
Then, we… struggled a bit at the open, skinny block. It turns out, if you just bounce your horse off the standards, they aren’t actually as straight as you have convinced yourself they are. Oops. May went to fall right, I shoved her left, and we just kind of flailed over it. I circled back around… and May fought me HARDER on it. Cute. Then I trotted it, and it was a bit better.
Mandy put the vertical at the end of the five stride up a bit, and we repeated the course. This time, I overrode a bit to everything. The first jump was fine. Then I kind of ran at the first oxer. I landed and…. kept running at the vertical? So while May left the rail up, she did give it a good rub. We were on the wrong lead, but I held the counter canter (quite successfully) to the second oxer… except I sliced it a bit again… and then ran down to the first oxer. Remember when I said that if I got 5, I would be really messing up? Yeah I had to half halt fairly aggressively to avoid getting five…
Luckily, May is clever and figured it out. Unfortunately, running at oxers meant I didn’t really have the rhythm, balance, or straightness I needed to get to the block successfully, and we kind of biffed that one… Then we came around to the other block and that one rode great. Go figure. The second half of that course is the first clip of the video at the bottom. Overall, not a bad ride, but not as smooth as it could be.
For our next attempt at the course, Mandy wanted me to smooth out the first line, get more square to the second oxer and really ride my line there, and then be more accurate of the blocks. Honestly, I think we achieved that.
The blocks again, weren’t the best. So instead of continuing to work on course work, we concentrated on just the blocks. The below video shows the evolution of our ride over the blocks. Overall, you can see the canter getting MUCH more compressed and bouncy as I got the hang of it. You can also see my decisions to ride DEEP to the base of the blocks. Overall, it wasn’t perfect, but I was really happy with the progress.
Somehow, Mandy managed to design a lesson that touched on all the major aspects of show jumping, while really pushing us past our comfort zone. I could tell that, by the end of the lesson, both May and I were much more confident with these types of questions. Do you all practice a lot of accuracy questions in your lessons?
Later this week though, I should have a SUPER FUN saddle update. 🙂