Gina the jumping machine

I headed to the barn late Friday afternoon and set up a grid for Gina. After she’d been so good over the log pile a couple of weeks ago, I figured there was no reason not to address The Show Jumping Issue. Except, you know, a general interest in not breaking my other arm/dying.

Gina’s such a good poser. Moe is a ham.

I have two sets of standards I made last year. (Once I figure out how to keep their feet from continually falling off, I’ll post instructions.) The barn has a set. I bought eight landscape timbers at my local hardware store and thought about what to set up on my drive to the barn.

This is designed to trot in. It’s approximately 18′ from the first crossrail to the second. From the second jump to the third, it’s about 24′. The crossrails are about a foot tall at their center; the vertical is about 2′ tall. There are no trot poles leading to the first crossrail. I set my extra ground poles along the sides of the grid to encourage Gina not to run out.
Gina noticed the jumps right away, but stayed pretty relaxed throughout our warmup. When I pointed her toward the grid, she hesitated. Instead of putting my leg on, I let her stop and eye the jump. I am obviously an expert rider.
I set her to it again and felt her start to wiggle. This time I applied some leg and said, “Come ON, you can walk over this!” Lo and behold, she trotted through the whole thing.
Let me repeat that: Gina trotted through a gymnastic. No fuss, no antics, no nothing. She acted like she did this every day. I actually said “HOLY SHIT” out loud when she took off cantering afterwards.
I was completely flabbergasted, so I sent her through it three more times. The distances got increasingly awkward, so I called it a day while she was still super zealous.
Who is this horse??

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 10- Five of Your Favorite Jumping Exercises

Day 10- Five of Your Favorite Jumping Exercises

I love gymnastics and grid work. I think they’re invaluable for sharpening a horse’s skills, building confidence, and improving a rider’s position. That said, I don’t know that I have specific favorite exercises that I return to time and time again. I’m more of an improviser. So, here are five exercises I think are very good!

1. Gymnastic #2 from Jim Wofford’s Modern Gymnastics (also found in May 2012 Practical Horseman, and online here). It’s four ground poles, a jump, and a one-stride to another fence. This is a great confidence builder; I jumped Colter through it today. The trot poles really help establish a good rhythm and set the horse up for success over the two fences. I did a crossrail for the first fence, and eventually ended with a 2′ oxer. It rides well; I increased the distances a little bit to compensate for Colter’s very long stride. (Note: I think you can also find this gymnastic in Wofford’s Training The Three Day Event Horse and Rider.)

2. Exercise 7 from this PDF from the Alberta County 4-H. This sheet has several good exercises, but I love exercise 7- two bounces to a one stride. I particularly like bounces because they make horses that rush (like Moe) sit up and sit back on their haunches. 
3. “The Y” from this Horse Illustrated article on grids. This exercise is a two or three stride followed by a three stride bending line. I think when trainers and riders think “gymnastic”, they think “straight line”; however, it’s important for horses to learn to turn while jumping. This exercise is effective and something different for horses to think about.
4. An Australian publication, The Horse Magazine, featured this exercise from Colleen Brook. It’s simply two jumps set nearly parallel to one another on a slight angle. (You just have to go look at it, I think.) As the graphic on the article illustrates, there are about a dozen different ways to utilize just two jumps; that’s great news for people like me who own four sets of standards!
5. Horse Channel featured the “wagon wheel” exercise way back in 2007 as a way to help riders with rollback turns. It’s four crossrails set up on a large circle (width of your arena). The goal is to ride through three or four times while keeping a steady, even pace and jumping in the middle of each crossrail. I’m excited to try this with Colter soon!

Jumping Colt

It was a luxurious, cool 90 degrees this weekend, so before I headed off to the track on Saturday, I went out to ride. On Friday, Levi and I went riding; he rode Moe (who was kind of a brat) and I rode Gina. I opted to ride Colt on Saturday morning while Anne worked Atut (and offered me kind advice, like “SIT UP”).

I was really impressed with Colt’s behavior in the barn. Last time I rode him, he had a nervous breakdown when Kyla took Cal out of the barn and Colt was left alone. On Saturday, he was a little distressed when Atut went out, but settled down fairly quickly and only whinnied a couple of times.

Once we were out in the arena, Colt was totally unimpressed with the jump standards. To my knowledge, it’s the first time he’s seen jump standards of any kind. He walked around them, through them, and over a ground pole in between them without batting an eye.

He managed to keep it pretty much together when Atut left the arena- I could feel him get tense, but we just kept walking and he eventually relaxed. Anne returned unmounted and we got to work.

I didn’t do much work with Colt before putting him to the ground poles. I wanted the whole ride to be positive, and poor Colter seems to inevitably have some mishap as the ride goes on. I trotted him for a few minutes in big loopy circles and serpentines, and put him to the jumps. The poles were arranged in a one-stride, and he trotted over them without a fuss. I had Anne put the back jump up to a crossrail. Colt trotted in, took a delicate canter stride, and jumped over the crossrail. He cantered away (on the correct lead!) and managed to repeat this feat another two times. Anne put the back jump up to a vertical that was about 16″ tall. We trotted in, cantered out beautifully.

 Then Colter got a little cocky. I could tell he was thinking, Jumps? Ha! I know how to jump! I got this figured out! I best jumper in whole entire universe! So I took him to it again. He cantered in, totally mangled the distance, awkwardly hopped over the jump, and the pole crashed down. Anne swore he looked slightly ashamed.

With green horses, I like to let them sort most things out for themselves. I try to set them up for success, by putting them to fences that are a low height, at an appropriate pace, and then I try to stay out of their faces and off their backs. I find they build a lot of confidence this way and are able to think for themselves (and later take care of me if I give them a less-than-stellar ride to a fence). They always make mistakes, and Colter is no different (even if he does have a fancy pedigree and beautiful movement).

Anne put the jump back up and I put Colt to it again. This time, he was extra careful, took it slowly, and cleared it perfectly. He cantered away on the correct lead, and I gave him a big pat on the neck. I don’t know the last time I was so pleased with a horse.

As I was discussing our success with Anne, Colter propped up his hind leg and dozed off in the sun- but not before giving everyone in the arena the equivalent of a big horsey smile of pride. (Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

Next on our agenda? Both jumps up!

Dressage Over Fences

I spent part of my day off yesterday riding Moe with Anne and Atut. Moe was in his usual high spirits, and Anne suggested taking him through some small gymnastics. She set up a one stride to a two stride, with the jumps about 18″ high.

Gymnastics are not a strong point for Moe and me. In my younger days, I didn’t practice them often. I didn’t like them, they were a pain to set up, and I much preferred to zoom around over various cross-country obstacles set up in the pasture. Any time we were forced into doing them (like at Pony Club camp), Moe rushed through them, turning one-strides into bounces and taking fearsome distances on two and three stride lines. At shows, I always sort of let Moe pick his own pace and distances- it seemed easier than trying to rate him, even if it meant we sometimes knocked rails.

Anne is a dressage person and a stickler for accuracy and straightness. So when we approached the line and Moe (somewhat surprisingly) ducked out of the second fence, Anne chided me for not approaching the first fence straight. I tried it again and Moe threw a veritable fit, dancing sideways and attempting to charge around. He felt frustrated and confused. I had never really asked him to do a line my way and he didn’t see the point in starting now.

We ended up taking the three jumps down and just having poles on the ground. For the most part, Moe walked and trotted quietly over them. Once I corrected my riding, he was straight as an arrow. Funny how dressage and its concepts carry over into every other part of three-day eventing.

While Moe had some ugly moments of confusion and disobedience, he was generally willing to do what I asked, once he’d figured it out. If I can keep my riding precise, I feel confident we’ll have little trouble with gymnastics and pulled rails in the future!

Disasters in Jumping

After giving G all of last week off thanks to a case of the sniffles and a really awful work week, I saddled her up Friday for a jumping lesson with Trainer Anne. I was feeling pretty good about it- after all, we’d just had a fantastic dressage show, the weather was beautiful, and Gina had really done well with the last gymnastic exercise she’d been presented.

I set up Course 3 from Jim Wofford’s Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider, which looks exactly like Course 2, but with another one-stride added at the end. The jumps were plain, 2′ verticals.

Gina warmed up like a horse that hasn’t been ridden in a week. She was looky, counterbent, and being a bit of a spaz. She isn’t normally one to have issues after a short break; I think the sight of the poles on the ground were sending her into an anxious fit. Anne had me doing lots of circles and spiraling in and out, which eventually made G settle down. We trotted through the gymnastic without a problem with all the jumps down. We went through perfectly as the jumps went up, too, and I was very pleased. The one-strides were one stride, G didn’t hesitate or become overly anxious, and she came right back to a brisk trot after we completed with exercise.

Anne and I decided to push our luck. We removed the middle jump and set it up off to the side. The plan was to take Gina through the combination, now a three-stride, turn, and pop over the single vertical. No big deal, right?


Wrong! Gina went through the three-stride perfectly, turned the corner, saw the jump, and started backing off 50 feet away. I urged her forward with my legs and voice and just for a second I thought she’d go ahead. But no, she dug her heels in and screeched to a halt a stride out. Anne suggested that G may have gotten mixed signals from my riding, and told me to try it again. I did, and this time I definitely rode very firmly. I did everything to communicate to G that we were turning this corner at a canter and we were headed toward this vertical and we were going to jump it! Well, G disagreed and pitched a hissy fit, nearly tossing me over her head.

Anne lowered the jump to a ground pole, and Gina reluctantly walked over. At a crossrail, Gina started to toss her head, but I didn’t give her enough space to do anything but hop awkwardly over it. When the jump was back to a vertical, I managed to get Gina over it a couple of times. Surprisingly, she didn’t take it huge or ugly, but very appropriately, for her all shenanigans on the approach.

We took the three-stride a couple more times, too, for good measure. Once she was dreadful, launching at the first fence and bounding two strides to the second. The next time, she was much quieter and more careful. With a good combination under our belt after the hissies, I decided to call it a day.

I don’t have a clue what Gina’s problem is with courses of jumps, or why she’s fine with gymnastics but nothing else. Anne suggested we set up another course of poles, then turn that into a little course of crossrails. I’m totally open to this idea. It might help- after all, G did improve after doing the first course of poles. Perhaps she does lack confidence. She still seems to lack the necessary trust in me. We’ll see.