So since February 19th Bella has trotted a cross-rail 6 times and that’s it. That was about three weeks ago, and there was way more cantering than trotting if I’m being honest. Today we actually jumped (2’3″ and 2’6″ so still “small,” BUT enough to remind the mare why I do things like half-halt). My expectation for today to be much like Feb 19th turned out to be pretty accurate, and my few changes seemed to have helped.
Jumping today left me with 2 thoughts.
- It could have been better.
- I am really pleased with how today went.
The first thought is one I seem to think after every ride. No matter how pleased I am, no matter how good the horse was, I’m very quick to critique myself. I think this is one of the most important things I do. I never say it was good enough. That leaves me chasing improvement for myself, and my horse; and honestly, unless you’re one of the top 5 riders in the world, I don’t think anyone should say anything was the best it could have been. Even when a horse is giving 110%, there is always something left for a rider to work on.
Bella, honestly, has been better in the past. But today I think she was about as good as she could have been considering the circumstances. I had an epiphany about 2 minutes into the ride with her. She prefers our “battle bit.” Our battle bit is a 2-Ring Oval Mouth Elevator (I’m not sure what brand mine is) that I got from a friend a few years ago. Her regular bit is a French Link JP Curve King D-Ring (her’s is a Korsteel). I started putting her in the Elevator bit for things like cross-country or a reminder to be adjustable. I like it because I have fairly soft hands and the D-Ring just wasn’t optimal for areas where she got really hot. Don’t get me wrong, she still gets hot but at least with the Elevator I still maintain control which keeps us both safe.
Anyways, she prefers the Elevator. Not what I would have ever thought. I have been riding her in the D-Ring since January, having decided then that I wanted to bring her back with the D-Ring to get her fit and softer and respecting the “gentler” bit. However after our last few rides fighting her for control and remembering the last time we jumped (thanks to those pictures I posted) I decided that we needed to go back into the Elevator for today, and now we’ll be staying with the Elevator.
As far as the jumping portion of today’s events. Wellllll…. about that. Nothing was really spectacular but after the first 3 or 4 jumps she settled in. It took her nailing the crap out of the 2’6″ jump to remember what half-halts were. After she knocked that rail she became much better. Rideable, but still picking up the canter about two strides from the base of the fence no matter how much I ask her to wait, which means that we’ll simply be dropping the rails down to where she’s more confident in her ability to trot them for a while. Hopefully helping her rock back and build muscle again. I also see lots of trot poles and canter poles in her future (don’t tell her that).
My riding abilities today, not the best. After not jumping for so long I’m out of shape and I’m way ahead of her at the base of the fence. My own abilities to wait do not exist anymore apparently, what a bummer. I did however manage to keep myself looking ahead over every(!) single(!) jump! You probably don’t know what an accomplishment this is for me but it’s freaking massive. This means I’ve started fixing one problem while I’ve developed like, another three. So here’s my laundry list of jumping stuff for this year…
Paint the freaking jumps (we may avoid this until winter by just hanging something over the top rails to help Bella see them easier). We may avoid this one all together and simple build a few of our own since these belong to a friend of mine.
- Keep looking ahead (A++ on that effort for today).
- Stop jumping ahead of Bella (seriously, thank god she’s so honest over fences).
- Jumping ahead led to a variety of issues today within my own position, the biggest one being the fact that getting ahead and throwing my upper body forward simply led to me pushing my legs back. Even when I focused on keeping them still I wasn’t really understanding the issue until I watched the videos after my ride (and THIS is why I like to video things).
- I also want to work on my release. Today because of the Elevator I was much more aware of not wanting to catch her in the mouth. I think the desire to avoid catching her in the mouth led to me trying more of a crest release than my usual auto release. The crest release led to me throwing my upper body forward which resulted in my legs going back and overall my entire form being horrible.
- Build more leg muscle (lol, always).
- I’d really like to be back at 3 ft+ by the end of 2017. That’s the major goal. If we can keep improving like we have been as far as us both getting back in shape I don’t see why this can’t easily happen.
For anyone else who struggles with body posture over fences, I always try to think of Denny Emerson’s advice when I jump. If the horse were to disappear, would I land on my feet or would I land on my face? Today, the overwhelming result would have been face. So with that in mind, it’s picture time.
Seriously, all I have to say for myself is good job on not doing the twisty upper body thing that I normally do. Otherwise, pretty bad riding and I am definitely not pleased with myself.