Many years ago Dusty bought me a copy of the 1010 Jumping Exercises book to give me things to work on with Gem in the arena while we lived in WI. I never made it past exercise 1 though I can’t recall exactly why. Residency probably got in the way. Or I just plumb gave up because I had no clue what I was doing.
Regardless, I ran across it again as I was unpacking and decided that it would be a great way to work with Gem at home now that I have some jumps I can play around with. My bigger goal in using the book is learning how to properly set up a course with striding so as to not create something impossible for us to do.
Sunday afternoon was not deathly cold for the first time in nearly two weeks and proved the perfect opportunity to set up exercise one and get going. Keep in mind that I had not really ridden Gem in two months beyond a few times I got on and toodled around at the walk and trot, it has been cold enough that I’ve kept the horses in at night, and I recently changed foods. All ingredients to a great ride, no?
Exercise 1 is very basic: create a 6-10′ chute with two ground poles and ride a 10-20m circle through the poles in both directions. Goals include: proper bend in each direction, being straight inside the chute, halting inside the chute, making sure you exit on the correct diagonal at the trot. The point of the exercise, per the book, is to get a feel inside the chute what it feels like to have the horse straight under you and then how it feels to have the horse bend around the circle.
I warmed up at the walk and trot at large in the arena and noted that Gem was still pretty focused on outside the arena instead of on me. I got a bit tougher with her as she started tripping over herself a bit when I was asking her to turn and she wasn’t paying any attention. It was annoying and she soon learned that I wasn’t having any of it.
I worked Gem in the walk and trot through the exercise making sure to randomly change directions and throwing in some halts inside the chute. At first I was getting very annoyed at myself, and Gem to be honest, because we had no bend. None. Picture a surf board. Add steel. We were more rigid than that. It wasn’t all Gem’s fault though. I couldn’t get my body to function right. I’d remember to turn my upper body and pelvis and not just my head, but then I’d lose my outside rein contact. Id’ pick that back up and my inside leg would fall off her. I’d shove that back into place and I’d find myself with rigid elbows. Those would loosen just so that my outside rein could get lost again.
All was about to be lost in a sea of frustration and expletives when my perspective shifted. While I was internally chastising myself about my inability to create bend in my stiff horse, I failed to notice how Gem, a horse who used to view halting as something that happened to other horses, was halting square from the trot every single time I asked, right when I asked inside the chute and then would trot off when asked without walking in between. I failed to notice that while she wasn’t paying full attention to me, she was maintaining her rhythm without constantly speeding up or slowing down. I failed to notice how she walked when asked and trotted when asked and wasn’t breaking in between or trying to tranter off into the distance.
So while we couldn’t bend worth crap, there were still a lot of things to be very happy with. I need to stop being so hard on us both. I did text Trainer though and set up a lesson in the future when our schedules align again to hopefully get myself back on track to where I was in November.
The book wants you to not move on until you have perfected the one exercise, but um..not going to happen. Both Gem and I would get very bored with that, so instead I’m going to alternate between two exercises to keep things interesting for us both but yet not really move on until we are ready. I haven’t looked ahead to number two yet, but if I remember from before it is similar to one only with figure 8s instead of just circles.