Sunday I took a lesson with a new (to me) trainer, in hopes of getting some feedback and confidence before heading down to Southern Pines this weekend.
I started by explaining that half the battle is getting him responsive and in front of my leg, so we worked on cantering to walk, and throwing in some turn on the haunches or turn on the forehand before blasting off again. Foster was definitely not responding as quickly as I was demanding, and this may be a good exercise to get him listening right away and thinking about moving forward with gusto.
Then we proceeded to making a small circle at the canter over a pole, that then became a small vertical, that then became a larger vertical, and a few things became obvious:
- Cantering left, he wants to land on that left shoulder (no surprise there, that’s why we tend to land on the right lead)
- To fix, think about leg yielding him over the fence, before and after
- Cantering right, he still wants to lean on the left shoulder
- …so I need to think about pushing his haunches out, or bringing his shoulders in
- When we go straight over the fence, he tends to jump really flat and that’s when rails come down
In order to fix the last grievance, we then moved on to the next exercise:
In which I made a very tight circle over an [increasing in size] oxer, opening my left rein to get him to land left so that we didn’t take out the super wide brick wall/vertical amalgamation. The trainer wanted him to be bending and moving over the oxer, thus keeping him from jumping flat and stagnant. And what do you know, it worked.
We then added in the above line, whereupon on re-approach to the oxer I would go “straight”, add in a circle around the vertical/brick wall and then back over a 2’9″ – 3′ vertical. This exercise helped me think about my landing, and not let him get strung out or dive between the fences as we are wont to do. Before it was brought up in height he crashed (once) through the last vertical, and we had a nice long talk about how it is Foster’s responsibility to figure some things out for himself, and if he doesn’t react I am to gallop away from the fence, teaching him not to die/not think in front of the fence but to react, preferably in a forward-thinking kind of way.
Because bending became the name of the game, we then moved on to putting a line together but adding a bend to it. The quality of the jump remained good over both of those efforts, and while I’m not sure I could realistically do this at a show, it was eye opening to see how much better the ride is right now with bend.
To finish we did a very bendy course that allowed us to practice landing on the left lead. Going from right to left is definitely weaker for us, but as long as I really prepare it’s starting to happen more and more often. At this point in time Foster was also very in front of my leg, and feeling like he was putting in good effort over the obstacles.
All in all, this was a great lesson for us to check in and see where we are at. Getting a more forward pace is starting to feel more natural, though I’d like to see it on film before deciding if it’s the canter we need to do a 3’3″ course. I’ve realized that I need to be more specific about the landing that I want, and put some responsibility in Foster’s hands regarding the take-off. This was definitely the confidence boost I needed before seeing Bobby Costello this weekend!