Jumping

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The Ham and Midas performing the same exercises I’ve been doing with Midas.

I originally thought that Midas bucking after fences was what caused his owner to fall off in the hunt field a few years ago. Now, after watching things unfold after I took a tumble at the jumper show, I think that the first fall was just because stuff happens. And I think that it freaked Midas out, and that is why he charges and bucks.

It’s like jumping becomes tearing off a band-aid–do it fast! And the buck is a precaution to stop the evil from landing on his withers.

It took a lot of schooling to be able to jump him reliably–he has athleticism in spades but expects the worst and his instincts tell him to believe he’s on his own. He’s a challenge to ride because you really do have to ride. But he’s so rewarding.

So we took all our practice at trotting combos like a pro and threw something really outside his comfort zone at him–new place, a course, and actual 2′ verticals which we really didn’t school over ever. At All. Prior to. My bad.

I’m pleased it took the verticals to cause him to revert 2 years back in training to believing the worst and that he’s on his own and he doesn’t know what to do. So he balked, rushed, and bucked. If I’d ridden better (the Great IF) and stayed on, we probably wouldn’t have this baggage about combinations.

Now he thinks “bad stuff happens when I jump, I KNEW IT” and I’m back to gently saying “No, it really doesn’t, don’t worry about it.”

First, stepping onto the grass where the jumps are got him all up and wired. Much walking onto the grass and walking of poles–under saddle, bareback, at liberty–now the grass isn’t a cue to panic.

Then we up the anti to trotting on the grass, trotting the poles and walking the half-built x rails. Also trotting the half built x-rails in hand (man, I need to wear running shoes to the barn).

I need him to sort out his own body–no rushing, take your time and do your thing. You got this. This is why I worked him in hand.

Then, in a riding lesson with my trainer, we incorporated trotting the poles, halting immediately after, then trotting the half built x-rails with a halt after.Repetition of this led to a horse willing to think about the poles, and think about the x-rails, and be ready and willing to halt immediately after.

We slowly added things: first the jump standards (one by one), then the other x-rail poles to finish it to a real x-rail. Each addition he reacted with less inclination to rush, but always he listened well. I should add that I hardly used my reins at all in this exercise–not even for halt. We’ve been working so hard on polishing up our leg and seat aids that I’m actually able to rely on them. Reins are finally relegated to their proper role as “just another aid” rather than “the aid we rely on most.”

So now we do a lot of this. A lot of “no really, you know how to use your feet, and I can ride it, you should listen to me, we’re a team.”

Then, then maybe we can add canter. Golly, what a thought. Rating the canter…we’ll get there.

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