Disclaimer time. First of all, enjoy the mini-novel with pictures. Second, the last time I jumped Bella was Feb 19th, 2017 (edit: no it wasn’t it was a few weeks ago but it wasn’t actually jumping and there are no pictures of it). The time before that was April 10th, 2016. Imagine having a horse who loves her job who didn’t jump for 10 months, who was then slightly out of shape when she did get to jump, and also not in her stronger bit. Oh and then imagine you’re also slightly out of shape because you took some time off over the winter to focus on school? I’m sure you’re guessing how that jump schooling went. In case you can’t, there’s some pictures (I will not be uploading the videos but I can sum them up for you: lots and lots of zoomies to and away from the jumps).
First let’s take a look at the 2016 pictures from April.
After this we had a scene change. We worked a lot on just conditioning over the summer at the new barn and didn’t have jumps. Then Bella sat for part of the winter and we (tried) to de-stress her brain with lots of hacks and less actual work. She got a little out of shape but not terribly. But when we came back into work in late January she was a bit of a nut case (typical). In February my friend and I went and picked up her fences and I wanted to just see where Bella was at mentally so we set the jumps low and I held on for dear life. (Huge shout out to the boyfriend for coming to video that day.)
So let’s pick apart my whole ride here. Obviously my legs stayed put (go me for having barely ridden over the winter and not jumped in over a year. My upper body could be worse, I’m at least trying to stay back over the saddle and look ahead. I grabbed her mouth here and the only defence I have is a shitty one, we were about to be launched into super-sonic mode (which still happened btw). I
stupidly kindly decided to do this jumping day in her D-Ring so I didn’t have brakes like I would have appreciated and it caused me to be a little more mouth-grabby than anyone should ever be. Thank god Bella will jump regardless (and that’s always been the case). Overall, I don’t hate this, I just think it’s a hilarious picture and I use this to beat myself up about remembering to release.
I’m not a fan of this. She did get more room to stretch out, my legs aren’t horrible, I did come back over the center of the saddle mid-air like I should have (I’ve watched the videos probably 50+ times since that day so I can confirm). Not a beautiful jump but we came flying up to this and it wasn’t great.
Please note the death grip on the reins, the shitty elbows, the horrible upper body position. A++ RIDING GUYS. In all seriousness, I pretty much hate this picture. Also, yes I know the ground rail was on the opposite side, great news is my horse doesn’t need the ground rail to find her spot.
Three cheers for all the super honest horses. This picture is the best picture of Bella herself. I can only assume I was looking to see where J. was so I didn’t accidentally run him over. Besides the MAJOR upper-body fail I don’t hate this. Leg, check, back a bit more over my saddle, check. Hands fail, head, fail, shoulders, fail. Bella, adorbs with her little knees and pricked ears.
I almost don’t want to explain everything I hate about this picture. So let’s just make a list. Upper body, head tilt, the long spot… Poor Bella looks like she’s enjoying some part of this at least.
Besides the twisty upper body again, this is probably one of the better pictures from the day. Bella at least is stretching out over the fence even if she doesn’t look great with the knees, I don’t feel like I was too ahead or behind here, my leg stayed put, and again she doesn’t look like she hates life. This was also on a slight down hill so having her control herself on a slope to the fence was a bit difficult but I think we managed alright.
With all of that said what are my expectations for today? Probably about the same as the last time we jumped. I am going to change out of the D-ring and back into our “battle bit” so I can have some leverage and not struggle to bring her back down to a canter. I’m hoping being a bit more in shape will also allow her some ability to control herself some speed wise. Last weekend we did some heavier canter work with working on her adjustibility going up and coming back down, it’s always been one of her least favorite things. Speeding up and then slowing down. It just seems to fry her brain a little bit. I’m going to set up two jumps so that we can try to approach them individually or in a figure-8 pattern since asking her to come into an immediate circle always helps settle her back into a manageable speed and gets her focused on me again. My goal here is not to set fences super high but higher to be able to ask her to focus a bit more. She’s always been a bit lazier with listening over the smaller fences, so I want to challenge her a bit more and hopefully get her listening again.
It’s hard to be working back up to the big fences when in 2015 we were jumping 3′ comfortably bareback and schooling 3’3″ to 3’6″ under saddle (mostly 3’3″ working toward 3’6″). This is a horse I know can do it, but I also want to ensure that she’s coming back into the jumping thing with a solid mind and in good shape to handle the work. Just because I love and miss jumping higher doesn’t mean that we don’t have some obvious things to work on (including my upper body). On my own I’m seeing a chiropractor and getting massages to work on my body so that I can be a better rider for her. I’m hoping that since we’ve worked on some of my major issues that I can see some progress today. My main goal will be mentally focusing on just looking straight ahead and not twisting my upper body over fences.
To wrap it up…
I am someone who is always the first to encourage working on the small problems in any way possible I find that I sometimes have issues with thinking of ways to work on my issues with Bella (thanks to co-writer and bff Michelle for always having thoughts for me, even if they are Dressage-y thoughts and make me heavy sigh because I know she’s right but sometimes I hate that more Dressage work is always always always the answer). A huge part of my personal lack of ideas is my lack of having an actual trainer. I’m on my own trying to work on this stuff which is why I ask people to take videos of me riding every few months and then work on a few small things off of those videos. This however, will be the second time I’ve jumped her since February and the last time we jumped it was a 1′ cross-rail and we were working on just trotting in and and not jumping into a canter 3 strides out. That was also about 3 weeks ago.