Courses with Gina

Late Tuesday morning, I headed to the barn with the intent to reconfigure and raise my jumps. I was feeling triumphant after Gina’s success over the grid on Friday and wanted to push her just a little more.

There’s a lone vertical and a related distance (set at about 66′ apart, or about 4 strides). I also appropriated the footrests from nearby Adirondack chairs and set a warm-up fence. It’s about a foot tall. The verticals range from 2’3-2’6. 
Gina was definitely up; she was restless at the walk and trot, but settled into a brisk canter nicely. I approached the warmup fence, and she stopped. Not a nasty stop- more of a pretending-to-be-freaked-out stop. I tapped her with my crop and made her walk over it. (It’s a FOOT TALL, come on Gina!) On subsequent returns to the little fence, she popped over it appropriately without any trouble.
I took her over the lone vertical with no issues. She got stronger and stronger as we went on. She also got kind of fussy about turns. The area where the jumps are is enormous. I set the jumps so there was plenty of room for big, looping turns and long approaches. I didn’t want Gina to feel crowded, and I like having plenty of space to make adjustments. I figure there’s always time to work on things like rollbacks; that time is not now.
Inevitably, every time we’d make a turn to approach a jump, Gina would try to pop her outside shoulder out, do a step or two of sidepassing, shake her head, and suck back behind my leg. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and chalking it up to middle age and decreased flexibility. Once we’d get around the turns, she’d surge forward again and eagerly head toward the fences. I’ve been reluctantly pricing joint supplements; plain old MSM worked very well for Moe when he had some stiffness last year. I’ll get some for Gina and see if it helps.
At any rate, my eye was better and Gina and I took perfect distances to many of our fences. The four-stride line rode very well most of the time. I concentrated on seeing a distance at all, and as a result, even our long distances were ridden smoothly; I saw the long spot, told Gina to take it, and she did. 
Gina was hauling around like a freight train for most of the ride, but I’ll take forward and willing over reluctance any day. Since all of the jumps were verticals, we made a course out of them very easily: start with the lone vertical, turn right to the line, turn right to the vertical, turn left to the line, turn left to the vertical. She landed most of her changes and was happy to do a flying change for any we missed.
I’m so pleased with her attitude lately that I’m considering doing something really dumb and taking her to a show that includes jumps later this year. Johnny’s against the idea, because he’s convinced she’s up to some greater plot. (I reminded him she’s just a horse.)
Thanks for all the well-wishes for Moe’s recovery- the eye is looking good and while he’s still grumpy about being stalled during the day, he’s taking his meds well and being fed more treats than is probably healthy.

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!

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 4- Create A Fun Jump Course

Day 4- Create A Fun Jump Course

This was a tough one for me, as I am not especially creative. My jump courses at home tend to either be gymnastics or a very easy sort of two-fences-on-each-side-of-the-arena-and-one-in-the-middle type.

But when I really thought about the type of course I’d like to school my horse over, or compete over, I came up with something that would be just the right amount of challenging for a greenie like Colter. VoilĂ !

MS Paint Rulz

Easy, confidence building, with a couple of twisty loops. And one combination, probably a three-stride.