Holy crap guys this place is amazing. Roughly 70 jumps from poles on the ground (yay!!!) through I don’t know massive height (I believe preliminary) with multiple banks, ditches, a water complex and terrain questions and all only 30 minutes of back road driving from my house. The owner is really awesome about letting people come as long as you ask first and have a ground person along. I hope to spend a bunch more time over there this summer and fall.
The Horse Formerly Known As Eeyore unloaded just fine and then proceeded to scream his head off looking for any friends he could find. When I went to the office to sign in and pay he lost his mind and began rearing, pacing and pawing at the trailer. I forgot how much it sucks getting horses used to traveling. For all I rag on Gem she is amazing at traveling: unloading, eating and napping immediately upon arrival. I had to remind myself that this is only the second time I’ve trailered him since bringing him home and he has no idea that he gets to return to his pasture at the end of the adventure. It will take time for him to learn that and settle.
For all his fidgeting in tacking up he calmed right down when I mounted and remembered his lesson of having to stand to be mounted. Good boy! We then headed off up the hill to warm up.
And his brain melted out of his ears for the second time in a half an hour.
The other two took off to walk/trot/canter warm up and Eeyore could not handle this. He tried to take off. He tried to dolphin leap. He tried to tell me he couldn’t bend or turn at all. In turn I got tense, had flashbacks to my rides with Gem and forgot how to ride. It was looking like a very bad decision to do this.
Trainer is amazing though and had the others stop and come in to let me work with Eeyore. It didn’t take long for him to relax, realize it was way more work to fight and give me his nice rhythmic trot that I love so much. It helped that he warmed up on a slight hill and the effort plus the already warm day took the wind out of his sails in about 10 or so minutes. Eventually he learned he could in fact walk and trot nicely while the others came and went and did their own thing.
From there it was on to a wide but not tall log on the ground.
And immediately my stomach churned, my muscles went rigid and I freaked out. Baggage is a real thing. Plus, I kinda hadn’t jumped him since my test ride and was really feeling rusty. I approached at the trot, freaked out, yanked on him and got yelled at for teaching him how to run out. I tried again and we went over, jumping an extra foot in the air just in case. This wasn’t going well and I really didn’t want to be teaching him bad habits from the start, so I asked if the prelim girl would mind hopping on him and taking him over a few times. Of note, she has also taken Gemmie over things and I’m not so sure she was that interested in saying yes to another one of my rides, but she was too nice not to. She got him going over the log and a few other things down the hill then returned him saying “He was much nicer to me than Gem was” Yeah…hard to find another horse harder on you than my Gemmiecakes.
After that I got back on and pointed him at that log, put my leg on, swallowed my nerves and went over the darn thing. He was great, never even thought to say no and was easy to ride away after. Trainer had me go over it both directions a few times and then we moved down the hill a little to two skinny logs. The skinny logs really highlighted my inability to stay straight to the jump, look in the distance, and ride through the entire thing but we made it over each time.
We moved on to the bank complex next which was a really cool multi layered bank. The first time up the small left hand side we just walked, but he had this one down pat and was really feeling awesome. She had me trot up it several times but he made it so easy that we eventually cantered up concentrating on steering after. He was locked on and so much fun! Going down was pretty funny as he went to the lip trotting then jumped up to jump down. Way more effort than needed, but it was easy to sit and I didn’t feel unsteady at all. In fact it was this point in the outing that I completely relaxed and really started having fun for the first time on a course. He wasn’t spooking at anything, he was doing the thing and while it was not perfect it was really, really enjoyable.
Let’s see…we wandered over to a second way beefier bank that was basically an elevated piece of land on all 4 sides so once you did the up you had about 3 strides I believe before the other side’s down. This was way too big for us so we just hung out and watched the others do their thing. Eeyore decided at this point that his new BFF in the world was the one OTTB and any time he would wander off to go do his thing Eeyore lost his marbles yet again trying to bolt after him. Silly guy needs to learn that other horses are not important when being ridden.
On the way to the water complex we ran into a nice little log that Trainer had me send Eeyore over, but it was a non event and I even got to let him canter for a while after just enjoying the feeling of a solid horse under me.
The water complex was our last stop for the morning. By this point I was feeling pretty brave and marched Eeyore right on in. He took some huge drinks while the OTTB decided he hated water and refused to go in. I was content to let him cool off as long as he wanted until he tried to roll down on me! Nope, sir that is not going to happen! We practiced trotting through the complex trying to not lose steering or momentum and then Trainer had us work over the logs into and out of the water. It was so much fun!! He was pretty tired at this point and the base was gravel and I believe he was getting a tad tender on his bare hinds through the gravel so this wasn’t our best effort, but we went over and did the thing. We ended by going down the small hill over the log into the water, through it, then up over the log to exit and then away up the lane and over a log out of sight. He did ok until he realized we were leaving everyone behind and then we slowed to a turtle trot, but we still trotted and went over the log so it was a win.
After that we were all done having been working solidly for two hours. I was so proud of him. Well, until I went to put his halter on and he nearly left me and then proceeded to have a fit when I disappeared into the trailer to put things away with him tied to the side. Sigh. I see me hooking the trailer up at home and tying him to it until he learns to chill out.
At the end of it all there were some great take aways:
Trainer made some observations about Eeyore:
- He is a tourist. He looks around, toodles about, stops to smell the roses, grabs a bite to eat. I need to work on capturing his attention at all times.
- He is very literal. He doesn’t run out in the true sense of being locked on and going then saying no and ducking out. Ahem like some other bay mare we all know. When he did “run out”, mostly when working over the skinny logs, it was because I wasn’t steering well enough and so he kept on going where he was directed and then kinda twisted around the edge of the jump to get out of its way. When I had him squarely in the center he always said yes.
- That ignoring of the right leg/my weaker right leg aides results in a pretty solid right drift.
- He was enjoying himself. Especially after the banks he really started to light up and do some mini celebrating after. He feels super proud himself after a good jumping effort and wants to go play the game.
For my part:
- I have formed a nasty habit of looking down at my neck strap about two strides from the jump . This does nothing for me except forces me to look down, prevents me from steering and in general screws us all up. Thankfully Eeyore is forgiving and likes jumping so he went over anyway but this has to stop, Now.
- More leg is always the answer. Always.
- I need to drop my rein contact. Not completely as in throw him away but I get scared and immediately take to pulling. Not good. When I force myself to let go, Eeyore relaxes and everything is better. It will take a while to learn that I can let him go and he will behave, but hopefully we will get there.
- Look up, look away and plan for after the jump. I actually don’t have the bad habit of looking at the jump. Gem trained that out of me very quickly. But I do look at his neck (see #1) and that isn’t much better. Trainer kept telling me that once I plan my approach to the jump I need to forget it exists and shift my focus to what I am doing after. Basically pick a line, trot/canter it and the jump just happens to be in the way. At one point she told me to think of it as dressage with speed bumps. Plan my turns like I’m presenting down center line and forget the jump is even there.
The future is bright folks!! I won’t be out there conquering BN any time soon, but I do hope to maybe sneak in an amoeba or tadpole level schooling HT this fall and perhaps come out next spring at starter.