Foster got new shoes just in time to have his jumping lesson yesterday, thank goodness. We came so close to the wire though, that I was feeding him from his bucket as he was getting his back feet shod, but we made it!
I rode once again in the ‘Wonder Bit’ to get a second opinion on whether or not it was a good fit. It turns out the first ride was not a fluke, and after a good lesson we decided it would be worth trying it out at the show this weekend!
The lesson began with more lengthening to collected transitions, but a little more complex than before. The exercise included a 10 meter (15 meters @ canter) circle around a fence within the collected gait, followed by a lengthening down the long side to another collected circle around another fence, then rinse and repeat. A lot of the focus here was keeping him straight through the shoulder (which likes to pop out) while still maintaining a slight bend to the inside (sometimes I overcorrect and counter-bend by accident), all while keeping the collected trot/canter active. Collection proved to be the toughest part of this exercise, and we were praised for getting a better response to the lengthening cue (though I need to maintain contact and keep the connection when shooting off).
After this, we reviewed jumps on a circle, spiraling from a 15 meter canter circle out to a large circle that included an oxer and a vertical. Once again, the emphasis was put on keeping him straight. Doug pointed out that when we were straight we got much better spots, and that the quality of the canter needs to be addressed at all times. If I find myself getting to a long spot, I tend to pump my hands, when instead I should sit back a little and allow my seat/leg to do the work.
Pumping at its finest:
Then the fun [difficult] stuff began. Two small fences (2′) were set up in the middle of the arena. My goal was to go through them at a pretty extreme angle (30 degrees or so), with 3 strides in between. The first time I went through without seeing my line, and totally flubbed it. Then I was shown where my line was, and when I should look vs when I should turn (a remnant from the last lesson), and actually got through it, albeit with a little more wiggle than desirable. A third time through, and it was much smoother. Having the angled fence approach is our toolbox will be very valuable, so if we ever get off our line to an element, Foster will know he can still take it. My homework is to practice over a small warmup cross country fence at the show, followed by a lesser angle to a larger fence, and get him mentally sharp in preparation for this idea.
We finished with a short course of 4 fences, including a 1 stride and the couple new fences I have introduced to the arena, the swedish-oxer-liverpool fence and a brick wall. Once again, straightness was an issue, as I tend to not think about my approach until the base of the fence. Instead, I need to be straight 4 strides out, in order to give Foster the best chance possible of being successful. Something interesting, too, that I learned (and this was a duh! moment on my behalf), was with a Swedish oxer you shouldn’t jump the middle, but jump the side that appears as an ascending oxer. So with the below jump, I would approach this slightly left of center:
Overall, this was another great jumping lesson where I took a lot away. I have confidence in the new bit and hope he rates well in it cross country. With each exercise we improved and once again, I have great homework to work on for some time. It felt good to practice both fences that were technical, and a course that was at or slightly above the height we’ll be competing at this weekend. Because of lesson conflicts this week, I am not sure I will have another opportunity to jump before the show, but I feel like this was a great note to finish on for our prep!