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It had been MONTHS since my last jumping lesson. Actually, I just looked back and… Yup. It has been FOUR MONTHS… which makes it the fourth jumping lesson of 2018. BUT that also means that I got TWICE as many jumping lesson in during 2018 than I did in 2017. That counts as improvement, right?

I was totally inspired to take this lesson after watching a friend of mine tackle this exercise a week earlier. However, I am sure no one is surprised to find out that thing were a bit rough around the edges. (Also, apologies but the lesson was at night, under the lights, in the cold, and I didn’t want to expose the helmet cam to all of that… so there’s no media)

After warming up, we started trotting through a fan of poles at the end of the ring. It was similar to the exercise below, but there were four poles and they were just on the ground. 

I had a lot of trouble to this going to the left. May really wanted to fall out through her right shoulder, and I felt like I couldn’t quite keep it in the line I wanted. Definitely something to work on. The canter was somewhat better than the trot, but May kept wanting to jam in an extra step before the last pole (keep this in mind). 

Going to the right, the exercise was a lot easier, because all I had to do was regulate how fast her right shoulder came around… a lot easier than trying to pull the right shoulder in and around. 

Next, we started setting the groundwork for the main course. This:

Four verticals, one oxer with 2 placing poles. 

To get May moving forward and get me riding a line (the whole purpose of the above set up), we started with creating a circle from the yellow vertical to the green. In both directions, I messed up either my line or my rhythm the first time, but totally nailed it the second, so we didn’t spend much time on this. 

Then we moved onto the full exercise. The verticals are set exactly 4 strides to the placement poles and the placement poles are one stride from the oxer, so as long as you take a fairly direct line but jump all the elements straight, it is 5 strides from each vertical to the oxer and the oxer to each vertical. 

A couple more notes about what makes this a bit unique. Our ring is not 100% flat. It angles slightly towards the barn, which means that coming towards the barn things are easier than going away from it. This totally becomes relevant, I promise. 

An old pic of the ring. 

NT tells me that I am most likely going to get a forward 6 to the fences and trying for the 5 will likely leave us too unbalanced to do the exercise correctly. Doing 7 will either leave us dead in the water or on too wide a line. I nod, and then immediately tell her that I feel nervous. She gives me a funny look. 

Our first course went in this order: Green, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. I ride the green perfectly with a great pace… Then I take a feel coming towards the oxer, and May adds an extra stride. This means we are kind of dead in the water and we add again to the red… BLAH. I kick on, but the orange and yellow kind of go the same way. NT notes that she liked my pace coming in, but I took my foot off the pedal once I had to actually jump and turn. She’s not wrong. 

We do it again. The Green, Blue, Red combination goes REALLY well, and I am feeling good. BUT remember that the ring slopes down in that direction… I ride the Orange pretty well… and then don’t kick enough towards the oxer. It’s a bit of a stretch for May to get over the placement pole, and instead of stretching AGAIN over the low, wide oxer, she shoves in an extra stride… takes down most of the oxer… I do manage to kick on and get 7 or 8 strides to the Yellow, so we finish… but not in great form. The oxer gets rebuilt, but I can almost feel May losing a bit of confidence here. I am DETERMINED to give her a positive ride. 

We change up the course a bit to keep May from anticipating where we are going. It was SUPPOSED to be Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. Buuuuut I forgot where I was going at the end, and I end up doing Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Green. 

Why do I forget where I am going? That’s right, because I still can’t get the distance from the Orange to the Blue to work out properly. I close my leg, but May keeps giving me this response like “this is as forward as I will go.” I am not sure if I am having trouble committing, or if she is just used to a different ride from my half leaser, but either way, she is going forward… but she is not in front of my leg. 

“Gallop in a bit like you’re going XC this time.” I nod. I go. I gallop. I jump the orange. I get four PERFECT strides to the placement pole. I close my leg on the fifth stride. The distance and pace are REALLY good. I lean… and May JAMS in an extra stride and jumps pretty much straight in the air. I get thrown up IN FRONT of my saddle and on her neck. My thought? “I can’t afford a new helmet right now.”

Proof that she can stretch for it. 

Luckily, May is still my partner in this whole thing, and she flings her head up, throwing me mostly back into the saddle. I scramble my way back and manage to get her stopped before she carried me over the green. Everyone was very impressed with my save, but I was fully freaked out. May has always been the horse that as long as I have a decent pace, she will safely get us to the other side of the jump. That decision though, was not the safe decision. Honestly, I am still kind of freaked out by it.*

My trainer confirms that everything looked good, but May decided that she needed to make the final decision on that one. Again, a lot of this probably comes back to the fact that it has been 4 months since we had a jumping lesson and this set up was really difficult, but she had really just not been fully responding to my leg all night. I’m not sure who suggested it, but my trainer ran back to the barn to grab me a longer jump crop. Something I could reinforce my leg aid without taking my hands off the reins. 

To test the gas pedal, we went back to the second exercise of just circling from Yellow to Green. It was way better, and I felt like she wasn’t sucking back behind my leg to assess each jump. So we adjusted the exercise again:

As you can see, we were now starting on the line I was having the most difficulty with. ALL I WANTED was to get the first line right. We jumped in, I rode forward, we got 6! I turned to the green. Another 6! I rode forward to 4. Never got straight to it… and got down that line in 5…. Yup, definitely more in front of my leg this time. However, doing the five put us way too off balance for the Orange, so I had to bend it out a bit and I got 7. But it was SO MUCH better with the crop in my hand. May was taking me to the fences again, and I felt like we found our usual groove. She puffed herself up and pranced back to the middle of the ring. 

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NT was also MUCH happier with that performance. For our last course, she just wanted me to do just the Yellow, Blue, Orange line to fix those distance, and then circle back through the fan exercise we had started the day with. (I think she was checking my breaks and balance)

Either way, we nailed the bending line, and May came right back to a perfect dressagey-canter to bounce through the poles and then halted easily to end our ride. 

*I am going to add a note here. May HAS done similar things before when she loses confidence in me. The below video from Kent is a perfect example. After the combination, May was just DONE saving me, so we had a run out. Once I rode better, she went perfectly again. 

Today? I am sore and still feeling a bit back on the heels from the experience. BUT I am super proud of the fact that I didn’t give up in this lesson, and I didn’t decide it was just too hard for us. I kept riding, and I ended the lesson with a much more confident and trusting horse than I started with… even if things got REALLY messy in the interim. I will probably dissect my feelings a bit more in my next post. Until then, have you ever had a lesson that had to hit a pretty low LOW point before ending great?

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  1. Centered in the Saddle

    Absolutely I have had lessons/rides that set me back on my heels a bit. Inevitably, working through it leads to better riding from me, and a better, more trusting relationship with my horse. Great job riding through it!

    1. Emily

      Thanks! I think I have had a LOT of jumping lessons that haven’t pushed me and May, so issues tend to show up more in the SJ ring at competitions. Vs. the opposite (which is probably what you want)

      1. Centered in the Saddle

        Yeah, I’d definitely prefer my issues to show up in lessons than at competitions! (Not that issues don’t still show up at competitions. Believe you me, they do.)

        1. Emily

          Well – it’s tough to recreate the problems that come along with your rein breaking at home! lol

          1. Centered in the Saddle

            Well…yes. That is true. Gah that just still rankles haha.

  2. Kristy B

    That exercise is making my heart skip a beat due to nerves and I didnt even ride it LOL.

    My mare is the queen of adding a stride between the placing pole and the actual fence. It’s not fun. No matter the striding. It’s her thing.

    My old coach also liked to set the placing poles too long for her stride in hopes to lengthen it…my horse does not work that way, so it just made things worse…

    1. Emily

      Glad it’s not just May! Like I think that, if the placement pole wasn’t there, she would have sucked back a stride earlier to more easily fit in the extra step. But the placement pole resulted in a STRETCH then JAM for the last two strides. NOT fun to ride at all hahaha.

      Once I had Mr. Tappy though, it all fell into place.

      1. Kristy B

        YUP. My horse. To a tee. I don’t miss jumping sometimes when I think about those moments.

  3. martidoll123

    I love that you are sore after staying on 🙂 You probably would have been less sore if you had fallen off! HA.

    Great job getting through it. I havent done a lesson in so long I have no idea how it feels anymore!! May likes to keep you thinking is all. 🙂

    1. Emily

      May had to be reminded who is the captain of this ship hahaha.

  4. roamingridersite

    I love it when our horses keep us accountable. It helps us grow! Way to have a nice ending and push yourself through. I tend to curl into the fetal position and give up

    1. Emily

      I really wanted to curl up in a fetal position and call it a day. or ask her to make things smaller, or SOMETHING. But I am glad that I pulled up my breeches and did the thing.

  5. emma

    good for you for working through it! that exercise looks really really awesome, but then again it also looks like exactly the kind of thing that could easily catch out any little mistakes by horse or rider.

    1. Emily

      Thanks! The exercise was great, but it was 100% about riding a REALLY forward pace on a REALLY accurate ride. You know, the whole actually riding thing hahaha

  6. Karen & Hampton

    That exercise is not easy!!

    1. Emily

      It was not… why it was the thing that made me DYING for a jump lesson, I have no idea… but I survived!

  7. eventerinprogress

    I know this feeling alllllllllllll too well.

    Teaching Des how to leg yield in a lesson a few years ago was just so. damn. hard.

    And I almost got off and went “screw this”, but everytime I have ever thought like that I know I need to shut up and trust my trainer because by the end we are doing better quality work then ever before.

    Doesn’t feel good for a while though

    1. Emily

      Yessss. I so badly wanted to be like “Can I just jump the oxer by itself and be done?” But I KNEW that meant that I would leave the ring without actually learning anything. And I am too cheap to do that hahaha

      1. eventerinprogress

        It’s all about faith in the people around you I guess. You gotta trust that they are going to get you where you want to go.

        But I am an impatient person who is very hard on myself which makes remembering this fact very hard haha

        1. Emily

          Yup. I agree. After the lesson, I was chatting with my trainer a bit more about what happened and, guess what, the root of the issue I was having is what comes up A LOT in my SJ rounds. Shocking. I know. But not a fun thing to work through.

          1. eventerinprogress

            Not at all. Shame we aren’t all born perfect riders ?

          2. Emily

            Unless you’re Michael Jung… The only chips he sees are chocolate ones.

  8. Boss Mare Eventing

    I think it has to get messy to get better! And it always feels way worse than it really is.

    1. Emily

      Almost eating dirt was pretty bad. I wish I had media of it… but I agree. It has been a long time since I felt genuinely CHALLENGED like I did this week, and I think that is a good thing.

  9. Liz

    Tough sounding exercises! But yay for sticking with it and finding success. I love feeling challenged like that – makes successes all the sweeter.

  10. HunkyHanoverian

    Dang girl that sounds like a DIFFICULT exercise!! Huge props to you for getting through it! If I hadn’t had a jump lesson in 4 months I would have been in the fetal position by the end of that lesson. I think it can be really hard to hit super low points in lessons, but it can also mean you are getting out of your comfort zone, which is how we truly grow. Keep up the good work lady!!

    1. Emily

      Thank you! It was… really hard hahahaha. It brought up all the ugly habits in my show jumping riding, so I am VERY happy that it ended so well (and that I didn’t have to buy a new helmet!)

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