Misadventures in Jumping

It’s official: Gina hates stadium jumps. Her performance today left no doubt in my mind about her opinion of jumps constructed of poles. Since G had recently been going fairly well over cross-country obstacles (hay bales and barrels), I decided to try stadium jumping again today. The last time we attempted this, Gina had a conniption and ended up leaping four feet over an 18″ crossrail after refusing to even walk over ground poles. With some positive work in the field, it seemed like a good time to reintroduce regular jumps. I set up two small crossrails in a two-stride.

First, the positive: she put in some fantastic work during our warm-up. She was relaxed, happy, flexing and bending. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Once she saw the jumps and realized what my plan was, she went totally bonkers. She refused to trot over them. I asked nicely. She refused again. I popped her on the hindquarters with my bat. She launched herself into the air over the jump and promptly stopped when she realized another one was coming up. I flew off and she galloped away. Sigh. (Note: I have fallen off G more times in the last four months than I have fallen off Moe in the last four years.) Anne and I wrangled G in, I hopped back on, and put her to the tiny crossrail again. And that’s when the rearing started. It wasn’t big, scary Lone Ranger-style rearing, thank goodness. It was more of a “lift front legs off ground two feet repeatedly” rear, but it was terrible behavior nonetheless. We circled in tiny circles and I couldn’t get her to canter more than a stride before she stopped and started her rear/hop again. Jeez.
Seeing few other options, I took her back to our warm-up arena while Anne went to grab a longe line. That’s when things got weird. Gina totally chilled out, cantered around beautifully collected, and even managed a couple of flying lead changes. Like, instantly. She could still see the jumps, but once I stopped asking her to actually deal with them, she was fine. Anne set the crossrails down and I managed to get Gina to walk over the now-ground poles in both directions with little incident. Then I dismounted and longed her over both jumps set as crossrails. She was totally fine with this arrangement and even looked excited to go over the fences. So the problem appears to be having a rider on her back. Which is really inconvenient. 
After talking with Anne, I think we’re going to start G back at square one with jumping. Treat her like she doesn’t know how to jump at all. Get her over ground poles until she’s confident that I’m not going to ride her like a psycho or hurt her. Then add a crossrail. And another. And so on. I hope this will restore her faith in the ability of humans to not ride like idiots. 
What do people do to horses???

A Horse with a Terrible Name

Getting a good roll in after a ride.

I suppose if I’m going to write a blog chronicling my adventures with G, I might as well properly introduce her. Registered with the Jockey Club as Kimberly K, my horse is a fourteen year old 16.1 hand bay Thoroughbred mare. She has a white sock on each hind leg and two white spots on her pretty head. I think she’s pretty flashy. Kimberly K is about as stupid of a horse name as you can get, which is why I think her former owners used the show name Imagine That. From that, her barn name of Gina is derived. In my opinion, this is also a fairly stupid name for a horse. I refer to her as G most of the time.

I first met G in January 2011 when I accepted a position at a therapeutic riding program run by a local university. My first day on the job my boss pointed her out and asked me to get her ready to sell soon. G wasn’t an ideal candidate for a therapy horse and had been rejected from the program. Her former owners were supposed to take her back, but just sort of left her at the riding center. She’d been hanging out there since July of 2010. In that time, she’d terrorized the student workers, flipped over in crossties, thrown a potential buyer, and made everyone dislike her. I thought she sounded just peachy. (Not.)

G was a hot mess the first few times I rode her. She attempted to bite me when I tightened her girth. She bolted when I mounted. She spooked selectively at various objects. She crowhopped when I asked her to canter. She ran around the arena with her head straight up in the air. Super. Just super, I thought. I wasn’t certain there’d be any way we could sell her in a month for more than a few hundred dollars.

One of the program’s volunteers, Anne, offered to come out and give me a hand with her. Anne is an accomplished dressage rider; since my dressage rounds usually consist of doing my best to keep my gelding in the arena for the entire test., I accepted. I think that’s when things changed. Anne presented simple exercises and movements in an effort to test G’s dressage knowledge, and lo and behold, G got on the bit, settled into a beautiful, airy trot, and acted like the happiest horse in the world. It’s been good times (mostly) since.

I offered to buy her from the university for the princely sum of $1,200. I worked out a payment plan, started picking up her expenses, and rode her under the impression she was my horse. The university suddenly decided they didn’t like this idea, refunded all my money, and basically repossessed G. After a lot of hoopla, she was sold at a sealed bid auction a month later to yours truly. Now I have a receipt and everything, and G and I are officially a team!

Less saga, more horse? Okay. There isn’t much to say; before being donated to the program, Gina was a hunter/jumper boarded at a barn in the Tulsa area. When I called them to find out a bit more about her, they simply told me she was just lovely and pleasant and needed to be ridden in a pelham with double reins and a standing martingale. (She currently goes with no martingale and an eggbutt snaffle.) At some point in her life, she apparently suffered a bone chip, although when and how is unclear. She shows no sign of injury and is never lame. G  was born in New Mexico; she is by Look See and out of True Brilliance. She has never raced. The time between New Mexico and Oklahoma is a mystery; it seems she’s had excellent dressage training at some point. She knows leg yields, shoulders-in, haunches-in, flying changes. She dislikes jumping; my opinion is that this is due to being ridden by a terrible rider. Oh, and she loves treats.