Gina Jumps!

To date, jumping hasn’t really been G’s strong suit. Despite being advertised as some sort of accomplished hunter/jumper, she spent the first four months of this year acting as if she’d never seen so much as a ground pole before. Really, if I hadn’t seen pictures of her hurtling over three-foot oxers like it wasn’t a thing, I would have thought her former owners were lying. 

The first time I attempted to jump G, it was in the equestrian center’s small indoor arena. I set three blue plastic barrels on their sides. Most horses I’ve ridden aren’t bothered by barrels (despite their unnatural color) and jump them beautifully round. Gina refused and refused and refused before finally leaping over them as if they were the most fearsome four-foot wall on the planet. 
Given that performance, I decided it was best if we didn’t really deal with jumps for a bit. We spent some time on ground poles and a tiny, tiny crossrail. Ground poles were conquered fairly easily; tiny, tiny crossrails were not. They were jumped like giant scary things. 
Thinking it was the arena giving G fits, Anne and I moved the party to the equestrian center’s huge hay field. Nothing much was growing in March, so we had run of the place. I dragged out a few musty square bales too icky for the program horses to eat and Anne brought some small logs and big, round fence posts. Gina eyed them, refused them, then reluctantly jumped them. This was her M.O. every time we approached one of the friendly cross-country jumps: suck back about three strides out and come to a dead stop on the first approach, then jump very nicely on the second. Curious behavior, and totally disheartening. How am I supposed to get around a course like this? I thought. I decided Gina was simply being a brat and left it at that.
At some point, the grass in the field got super tall (overnight, I think) and we went back to flat work. Now, I know as well as any Pony Clubber that flat work is the basis of all work. And I know it’s terrible for a horse’s body to be jumped too frequently. And I know developing our dressage skills will benefit us over fences. But man it is boring! Sure, the feeling of the first step of a great shoulder-in or a perfect flying change is satisfying. You just can’t beat the exhilaration that comes from flying over a big jump off a perfect stride, though. 
Last week, the equine coordinator told me the hay field would be baled. I hustled to get my jumps out of it. This was trickier than it seems; all of my jumps were no taller than 2 feet. The grass was at least 3 feet high in most places.
Subaru Forester: jump moving machine!

I eventually found everything and got it out. I set it up by the sensory trail, which has been freshly mowed and wood-chipped! It’s not a perfect place, but the area is fairly large, doesn’t have holes, and has different types of footing. Good enough for me.

I rode Friday, hacking around on the sensory trail. Anne commented that Gina looked relaxed and happy. She suggested I try her over the log jump. I didn’t do a great job of setting her up for it, and she stopped out of what seemed like surprise. Like, “Oh, this is here? What is this doing here? What do you want me to do about it?” I didn’t make a big deal out of it and simply circled back to it. This time, she popped over it without problem. Smooth, quiet, totally perfect. I was pleased, so we took to the arena and did a few canter serpentines. By this time, Shari and the student workers had saddled up the program horses that needed to be exercised and we all went on a very nice trail ride around the now-baled hay field. Gina was ridiculously sensible in the group and handled our fat little Haflinger shoving his butt toward her face, two elderly horses suddenly finding a new zest for trotting, and going off on our own to explore a ditch. I’ve never ridden a horse who was so relaxed in a group (and about being taken away from the group). Go Gina!
Today, Anne met me for our usual early ride. We started in the arena with some canter serpentines after warm-up. Gina figured out where the flying change was going to occur and started to anticipate it- what a smarty-pants. Our flying changes weren’t as good as they usually are, but in the all-purpose saddle it’s more difficult to ask. She performed perfectly well and we headed out to the sensory trail for our baby cross-country course. (Is it a course when there’s only two jumps? It is now.) I trotted her around a bit, and then took her to the log. 
This log almost made me pee myself!
I felt adrenaline coursing through my veins in a way I haven’t felt in a really, really long time. I was simultaneously excited, nervous, and about to pee my pants. My hands were sweaty and my legs suddenly felt like jelly. I felt exactly how I feel in the start box of a cross-country course. Sick. Ecstatic. Anxious. Eager.
I shouldn’t have worried. Gina jumped the little log happily and cantered away. I gave her a big pat on the neck and came around again at the same smooth, forward canter. Again, she sailed over it as if she’d been doing it her entire life.
Elated, I trotted over to talk with Anne. She was as jubilant as I was! She said Gina looked happy, like she was smiling. We decided to push our luck and try the hay bales. I trotted her in a couple of circles, then approached. About three strides out, I felt something change. I put my leg on firmly. Gina broke into a canter and jumped the hay bales. She landed in a big, forward hand gallop. I was euphoric! 
CONQUERED! (Note: Forester doesn’t usually hang out there.)

No refusals today. No hesitation. Nothing but good times and minimal pants-peeing. Perfect.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

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