Lesson Recap: Showjumping

Luckily yesterday the rain held off and we were able to take a jumping lesson with Doug. After such a shitty Monday, I must say Tuesday turned out pretty alright. I got to see a couple horsey friends I haven’t seen in a while, and had a really good lesson to boot.

One of my main takeaways was: Stop babying the darn horse. He’s a big boy, and he’s got to be pushed out of his (our) comfort zone a bit to grow, as well as know that there are consequences when he doesn’t do something he knows how to do correctly.

Somehow looking chubby after having his butt worked

Somehow looking chubby after having his butt worked

To elaborate, though…

After warming up in a surprisingly round trot (Foster is harder to get on the bit in the Waterford in general), we worked on collecting and lengthening within the gaits. At the trot, Doug told me I was focusing too much on the smoothness of the transition, and easing into it when really the exercise was about getting him sharp to my aids- when I say move, he should move! Same thing going from lengthened canter to collected- I should get a clear transition, and insist to Foster that this is possible.

At the canter, Doug threw two poles down on the long side, and we focused on putting more or less strides in between them. After I learned how to count (a very Duh! moment on my part), 5 strides felt like a forward canter, and then we worked on putting 6 in with pretty good success. We then attempted to put 4 in- not so successful, but I got the idea. This is definitely something I need to work on regularly, and incorporate into every jump school, since not only does it help with Foster’s rideability, but also gets him in front of my leg before we jump.

The first jumping exercise we did was jumping on a small circle. My job was to keep him straight through the shoulders and hold the outside rein in particular so that he didn’t overbend in the neck and then fall out. We kept the jumps small since it was a technical exercise, and both Foster and I picked it up pretty quickly.

Next we moved on to a mini course, starting with a related distance that rode in 5 strides with a forward canter. Turn right after and collect him in order to make the turn to the small oxer, and keep the collected canter and do the related distance again in 6 strides. Definitely the hardest part about the exercise was landing on the left lead after coming over the oxer and keep him balanced and collected through the turn in order to get the 6 strides in. All of this to cement in the fact that you establish the canter you want well before going through any related distance (or to any jump), so as to not be scrambling in the middle. Definitely a good exercise in preparation and thinking for me, since I tend to lose sight of these things as I run around a jump course!

 

Trying again with the hard bit, and Foster throwing in a flying change like I planned to do it or something (I didn’t). Thanks buddy for making me look good.

 

And then putting everything back together, with another flying change just for fun?

 

We ended on that, and I was really pleased to find Foster more ‘rideable’ than I had thought. We’ve got a ton of homework to work on, and just for my own benefit, here is the list of exercises to incorporate into our next jump school:

  • lengthened and collected trot
  • lengthened and collected canter (strides between poles)
  • angled fences
  • related distances with varying strides
  • rounder outline within the jumping canter

Phew! So so much to do. And then there’s the dressage lesson tonight! Busy, busy, busy!

Lesson Recap: Showjumping

Well, I’m still here, which means I survived my lesson last night with Doug Payne! (PS if you haven’t watched him Rolex helmet cam with commentary click that link- very interesting!) I’m going to go ahead and apologize for the long post, which is mostly for my own benefit to keep the lesson fresh, and the lack on pictures/video, of which I didn’t get any.

Enjoy gif's instead

Enjoy gif’s instead

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper jumping lesson, and it’s been a struggle to find a trainer willing to come out to the new barn for just one student, so I was exceedingly happy when Doug offered to make the drive. I gave him a brief run-down of where we were, and after watching us warm up briefly he gave me an assessment.

Not a huge surprise here- Foster balances himself with the base of his neck, which in turn makes him a little hollow through the back and short-strided. This then causes some of our issues with getting the true ‘horse’ distances, because when I put on leg he will more likely put in more quick, short strides than lengthen.

giphy2

We continued from there with a 20 meter canter circle over a pole, focusing on keeping him straight through the shoulder and getting an active, through canter. Canter poles will definitely be in our future, since as simple as the exercise sounds, we were not as successful as I would have liked! Foster was a bit dull to my leg and feeling pretty tired, and I was a little worried moving forward to the actual jumping.

Luckily, there wasn’t much cause to be concerned. Doug set up a smallish oxer on centerline, so that I would canter over it and alternate turning right and left. Foster really woke up then, and was taking really big strides after the jump which made the turn thereafter quite difficult. What was happening is that he was becoming a little on the forehand leading up to the jump, which caused him to land out of balance and quicken his stride in order to catch himself. When I sat up and properly balanced him, he landed much more softly and the turn became easier to make.

Round canter

Round canter

This led us into the next exercise, jumping a decently wide 3′ oxer on a circle. The geometry of the circle helped me keep him balanced, and as long as I didn’t stare at the fence we got pretty good distances. This is also where the whole ‘weight the shoulder to get the correct lead’ idea kicked in. It is now blatantly (I guess I’m a slow learner) obvious that I have been in the habit of leaning in the direction I intend to turn, which then means he is going to land on the wrong lead because I’m essentially blocking him from picking up the lead I really want. I especially do this going left (will tell story of how my left side is absolute poop later).

giphy (1)

When I kept my shoulders back and square to the fence, then shift my weight to the outside, we were able to land in balance and on the correct lead. Doug warned me not to put all the pressure on myself though, and to allow Foster to make mistakes, and to occasionally take down poles. He praised him for being smart enough not to make the same mistake twice, and his willingness to put in another stride for a deep distance rather than launch from the long spot as some horses are wont to do.

giphy

After a bit of this, we put together a baby course that included a 2 stride over a 3’ish vertical. I was really pleased that Doug made us revisit the circle fence again, to make sure the idea had cemented itself. Definitely still a work in progress, but I was glad that he was willing to stay a few extra minutes to make sure the lesson would stick.

Overall, here are the main takeaways:

  • Be patient with my shoulders
  • Don’t let him get overbent in the neck
  • Maintain an active canter with a through topline- have the confidence that he can jump 5′ out of a quality canter
  • weight the outside shoulder to get the correct lead on landing
  • keep him balance before the fence, the quality of the canter after the fence will tell how successfully balanced he was
  • Don’t stare at the damn fence

Obviously I learned a lot, and was impressed with the attention given to both horse and rider equally. Impressed enough that I have signed up for a second lesson Sunday! Even though we won’t get a schooling ride in in between, I’m looking forward to further cementing these ideas and hopefully getting more takeaways to keep in my pocket for the show!