Lesson Notes 7-22

Somehow I survived my two lessons on Saturday, and both horses lived to tell the tale as well. And considering whatever the heat did to potentially addle my brain, in addition to my head already spinning with deadlines and the impending show this weekend, I find that I need to jot down the things I learned from those lessons while I still remember.

TC’s Dressage Lesson:

  • Conservative and correct is better than up tempo and tense
  • Sit into the canter transition (and keep mentally reminding myself to push him off the right leg from time to time)
  • Keep my elbows heavy and hands low
    • TC can be a head wagger occasionally- keeping my hands low and together (thinking about having a low center of gravity) stops his mouth from taking on any movement that happens as a result of posting with my elbows up high
  • Think about 10 meter circles as 2 halves
  • Prepare early for transitions- TC needs more time to process than I realize
  • Look out on the stretchy circle to maximize the number of steps available
  • Think about walk in the transition from lengthening trot to working trot- show off the “coming back”

Jack’s Jumping Lesson:
I had a very different horse under me for this jump lesson, despite the near three-digit temperature. Jack came out and was much stronger than I was used to, which is a result of his getting fit and building confidence. It’s also a direct reflection of his time as a foxhunter, where I was told that he was taught to either trot fences or gallop them. While we worked on managing his stride in front of the fence, trainer had some words of wisdom:

I’m going to take the suspense out of the situation for you. You’re going to have some ugly jumps for a while.

And well, as you’ll see in the video, she ain’t wrong. Here are the other tidbits that I need to stick in my skull moving forward:

  • Our flatwork is coming together (yay!) but I need to remember to not camp my legs out in front of me
  • As he gets stronger/fitter, I shouldn’t be surprised about his wanting to take the bit
    • Add a running martingale to allow for more control
      • Keep my hands up and reins short for same
  • Do not lean for the lead
  • Hold to the fence, then be sure to release as his front legs lift off

Between fences, we also chatted about goals. I would like to do a recognized show by the end of the year, and we decided to aim for Stable View at the end of September as a result. Even if showjumping looks a bit ugly, we should be able to get around a Beginner Novice course by then as long as I stick with the program. And with lots of schooling options between now and then, including a clinic in a few weeks, we should have a lot more experience under our belts as a pair before taking on Aiken!

 

Cross Country Schooling at the Horse Park

This weekend, Jack and I made our first ‘big’ outing together, heading all the way to the Carolina Horse Park to school the cross country course ahead of their War Horse Show. While we’ve been off property quite a bit at this point, we haven’t been anywhere that would have a show-like atmosphere. Schooling at the horse park allowed me to see how Jack would be in a place with lots of other horses [literally] running around, trailers, tents, flowers, etc. And I was so impressed!

Jack is officially self-loading at this point, and hopped on the trailer for the 2 hour trek to the horse park. I loved that he actually was eating his hay on the way down, something he hasn’t done so far on shorter jaunts. Since we were running late we tacked up in a hurry and got out to the cross country field where we got straight to work, trotting around and hopping over a green-as-grass jump. Jack was super in listening to me and focusing on the tack at hand, but for the first several jumps (green-as-grass followed by Maiden questions alternately) he would give the fence a hard look before lift-off. There was never a thought of refusing, more just a lack of confidence that slowly disappeared as the schooling continued. Eventually we started introducing cantering the fences and wrapped up the cross country with a Beginner Novice fence that felt so great we did it twice!

Since the horse under me after cross country had lots of gas left in the tank, we then moseyed over to the showjumping, where we walked the maiden course in the tack, then proceeded to do two schooling rounds. For the first we just trotted all the fences, knowing that Jack is more likely to look at showjumping filler than natural fences. Then we picked up the canter and did the course properly.

To say I’m happy with how it went is an understatement, even though I see so many things that need fixing on my part. I now have the confidence in my new pony to go out and do all the things, knowing that he can handle the atmosphere as long as I am there to give him a positive ride. Next time we’ll be schooling beginner novice fences instead of maiden, and that vote of confidence from the trainer feels like a feather in the cap after feeling out of the game for so long. Barbie dream horse indeed!

Jumping Jack Flash

Now with two real jump lessons under our belt, I finally feel like I am starting to get the hang of jumping Jack- or at least starting to understand his rhythm and needs for making the best jump possible. Our first jump lesson was at home, where mostly we trotted into the fences and focused on my following hand and keeping him straight and cantering after the fence. I’ve left the lesson audio on, mostly for my own benefit at a later date, so please ignore (or enjoy, whatever) my getting yelled at in the following videos.

Straightness in particular was also the name of the game in yesterday’s lesson as well. This was a new arena to Jack, with different types of fences and some exercises we hadn’t done before. While the jumps stayed small, we focused on the quality of the canter and keeping him put together before the fence. I really have to ride every step to accomplish this, keeping soft but communicating hands and half halts to remind him that rushing is not an option. Not that he’s to blame- the poor guy has mostly trotted or galloped fences most of his life- why should things change now?

Even though the jumps were tiny (and look even smaller on video compared to my giant horse), I was grinning (between pants) from ear to ear after the ride. New arena, galloping horses, and I had a fairly rideable experience and felt like I really connected with the giant blondie underneath me. Takeaways being keeping him especially straight and between my leg and hand before the fence, and riding more straight canter lines in general. Which surprise, also is a theme in my dressage lessons. Funny how that works!

Our next jump lesson will be in the form of a XC schooling day at the Horse Park, and while before I was fairly nervous about the idea, now I am starting to look forward to it!

Let’s Discuss: Riding Multiples

I have been so incredibly grateful to ride TC for the last several months, as he’s taught me a lot about myself, and allowed me to have saddle time while I was technically horseless.

Aww TC

Even though I officially own my own pony right now, I’ve continued riding TC with the goal of hopefully competing at another recognized show at the end of July. Between getting to know Jack on the ground and in the saddle, and riding TC, albeit a bit more sporadically, plus of course the adult responsibilities like working a full time job… I admit I may be getting a bit burnt out.

What I would love to know is those that have more than one horse to ride- how do you prioritize? How do you keep yourself from eventual exhaustion? Do you feel that something eventually has to give? Or have you found a way to balance multiple rides with the rest of life’s responsibilities? Do you employ professional help? Or have strategies for keeping the rides fresh and exciting?

The BDH Dressage Assessment

Now that I have been riding the BDH for roughly a month, I have a much better idea of his strengths and weaknesses on the flat. For later comparison, I think it would be interesting to chronicle our starting point together.

Jack has three quality gaits- i.e, a 4 beat walk, balanced trot, and an engaged 3 beat canter. I can’t tell you how many bad canters I saw while shopping, and so this most basic of criteria was actually quite important to me in seeking a dressage partner. Anyways. The best way to document his abilities is by gait.

The Walk
Jack is a fairly forward thinking horse, until it comes to the walk. It’s obvious that the walk is not much more than a ‘break’ to him, and so he’s quite good at moseying in this gait. I am working on reminding him that he’s still working, and over-emphasizing my following hand and getting him forward. When he’s using his neck and actually walking with purpose, he has an 8 walk, but man do you have to work for it at this point in time. Meanwhile, transitions down to the walk tend to have that horrid ‘splat’ quality, so thinking forward into the downward transition is also a point of concentration for us.

The Trot
The trot is probably Jack’s best gait right now. He’s fairly balanced, though tends to lean on the right shoulder in both directions. Our main focus right now is encouraging him to reach out to the bit, but I imagine the trot is going to come along the fastest in the scheme of things.

The Canter
Jack has a good quality canter right now, but man is it green. Those giant shoulders of his are his best bet at balance, and it takes some work to convince him to sit and balance from back-to-front and not the other way around. So while longitudinal and lateral balance are both an issue for him at the moment, we’re focusing most on the lateral balance. The fact that his canter is huge is also a little tricky- it’s easy for his body to just run away with him, and surprise us both. Keeping it organized can be like riding a fine line between breaking into the trot or getting flat, long, and running. All the baby problems, in the body of a 9 year old!

A little about Jack

I have now officially owned Jack for 2 weeks, and though there is still so much to learn, slowly I am starting to figure out his personality. Here is what I have got down so far, for the uninitiated.

Things Jack likes:

  • Cross country
  • Chewing on ropes, particularly his lead line

Things Jack loves:

  • His new best friend Gunnar
  • Being groomed

Things Jack rather dislikes:

  • Bath time
  • The farrier
  • Walking on concrete

Things Jack hates:

  • Flies- or any winged creature that deigns to land on his sensitive skin
  • Having his face washed

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Horse Formally Known as BDH

Well folks, I’m off to the bank to write an awfully big (for me) check. Goodbye money, hello new horse!

Our XC schooling yesterday, which was the do-or-die decision day, went amazingly well. Video to come, I promise!

So the Barbie Dream Horse is mine, and we can officially start calling him by his actual name, Jack.

Jack’s quick stats are thus:

  • 9 yo branded German Warmblood gelding
  • 16.3h (going on 17h it seems!)
  • Former foxhunting prospect, started eventing career last fall.

When I first saw Jack’s video online some months ago, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Foster in some way, despite them being very different horses. But since Foster is still my heart horse, I was super interested in this potentially palomino version. I set up an appointment to see him just a couple weeks after selling Smitty, only to discover that the horse had moved from VA to Aiken and the agent didn’t know where he went. Cue major disappointment.

Then after some stalking of warmbloods on a site I was frequently, I found him again in some of the archives. A phone call, some video stalking, and as you all know, I got to see him on my whirlwind visit to VA. He was the only horse I sat on and immediately felt at home, and the only one that I actually bothered to try my saddle on, despite only having sat on him for 15 minutes. My trainer and vet loved the look of him, and I even had a local GP dressage rider go evaluate him as a possible 3rd level prospect. I went up again, this time with a trailer, sat on him once more, and brought him back for the trial.

Since then, it’s been fairly rosy. Rosy enough, in fact, that I have been chatting with friends about possible registered names. Going with my penchant for alcoholic names (which are lucky, you know. Hey just look at Foster) we were talking about Goldschlager, when a friend suggested why not Gentleman Jack. I loved that idea- not only is it another whiskey (like Kentucky Gentleman, Foster’s show name), but it also pays tribute to Foster in that way. I loved the idea.

And then I got the papers, and what would you guess his name is?

That’s right- Gentleman Jack. I got chills.

So Gentleman Jack, welcome to the family of the House on a Hill.