Riding/Horses

I Jumped a Course!

First time ever. Definitely deserves a title exclamation point.

So Monday night was lesson night and I dressed Gem in her jump gear. Trainer was right on board with attempting a course before we hit the show, so we began with some flat work focusing on the canter then began to jump. Nothing super earth shattering and limited photos, but I had a lot of fun and built up some major confidence.

We started by just going over a simple cross rail. The first time Gem slammed on the breaks and just walked over the cross rail, but she went over and never stopped so there was that. The next time I actually put my leg on and she popped over and cantered away. After that we strung fences together.

Approached going away from the camera

Jump 1 was this brown cross rail with pink flowers. I hesitated, got all nervous and took my leg off. Gem stopped. Not surprising and not her fault. If I’m not 100% committed to the jump, she will not go over.

Trainer told me that I have to go into it with the mentality of getting over the jump no matter what. I don’t tend to stare at the jump, but I do tend to lose all confidence and back off right before it so she told me to have the mentality that I want to go to x and there just happens to be a jump in the way. Gem does not over jump at all and will not go bolting away so really the only issue is me and my brain.

 

From there we circled at the far end of the arena to approach jump 2, my first ever vertical. It rode fine as long as I got Gem looking at it in advance and we popped over no problem.

Trainer told me that Gem has no clue what is coming and is not yet looking ahead for jumps. She is green and it will come with time, but for now I need to give her the longest approach possible so she sees it. She thinks most of our jumping issues comes from Gem not thinking we are going to jump so she is always surprised at the last minute when we get to it.

Approached coming towards the camera

The vertical led right to this Red Cross (so my phone keeps capitalizing it as if I’m talking about the American Red Cross and I am tired of trying to correct it so you get this version) rail with flower filler. It was actually really great because it made me get Gem back to a trot quickly and set back up for the jump.

I didn’t get a picture of the next cross rail but this line was the mirror image of the vertical to Red Cross rail only. By this time Gem was actually beginning to catch on to the game and was looking for the jumps.

Trainer was really happy by this point. She said that Gem actually started to look ahead here and she saw her prepare two strides out for the first time. On my end, I noticed that Gem’s ears actually pointed towards the jump and not back towards me. This also resulted in her balancing a couple of strides out which in turn made the jump smooth and much easier to ride.

After the cross rail we turned left down the far end of the arena again and ended with these two jumps. I majorly failed the first time and Gem ran out at the last minute. It would have been our second refusal if it had been a show.

We came at it again and it went fine.

We repeated the course a second time and I actually rode it and Gem did great. I gave her a big huge and pat and was grinning from ear to ear. My first course!!

I’m not sure why I get so freaked out jumping. Gem doesn’t over jump at all and she never bolts away from it either. I’m just not 100% comfortable with it though I really want to be. With time I’m sure it will get better. I’m actually not a particularly brave person at all, but I don’t let fear completely stop me from doing what I want. It just makes me really conservative.

Doing an entire course was really good for me too. I had to focus on my approach and bringing Gem back down to a trot right away, so I couldn’t stop riding after a jump nor could I focus on what went wrong.

At the end, we wandered over to the dressage court so I could run through the test quickly in a small court to see how quickly things come up. That’s when Trainer said that she could tell Gem was having fun once she understood the game we were playing. That makes me really happy to hear.

Riding/Horses

First Run Through a Dressage Test

Towards the end of my lesson on Sunday Trainer had me run through the Intro B test a few times to see what issues popped up. There were plenty, but it was really interesting to run through it. More for my sake to look back on than anything, I’m going to run through the test here and add Trainer’s comments in bold after the moves.

Gem got all englished up this weekend with a new to us black bridle with white padding. I need to poke some more holes in the cheek and it was adjusted after this picture, but all in all it was a good fit. She looked really pretty in it too. It was only $40 so I can slowly change it out over time to upgrade if I want.
Enter at A, working trot and turn down center line: we majorly failed at this the first time mostly because I didn’t get Gem deep enough into the corner and she couldn’t get all her legs sorted. She got all jumbled up and nearly fell on her face which granted us a start over. Use the corner to my advantage, make sure I start looking at my turn well before, turn a few strides too early and leg yield over after the turn if I have to. It’s better than shooting past and swerving in. Sit up super tall and tighten my core to prepare for the turn and help Gem balance herself. 

Dusty came with me so there is media! He didn’t watch the practice tests as he was Pokémon hunting with Wyatt, but he still grabbed some decent shots. This is how we go right now: not super dressage like, but also not tense and giraffe like so I am happy with it. As for me my legs are under me and my body is bent to where I am going. My elbows are still too straight and my hands super wide but again it’s an improvement from where we were 2 months ago. I’m pleased over all.
Halt through medium walk at X, salute: The start of Intro B is rough for us. Gem down transitioned to walk ok but would not halt. It is a known issue. Once she did she decided to swing her butt around so we were facing 90 degrees away from where the judges would be. Not good. Would we even get a 1 for that? This earned us a break from the test and 15 minutes of halt transitions randomly throughout the arena. We then started over from the beginning again. Only let her do 2-3 strides of walk prior to halt so that the walk is more of a prolonged down transition leading to halt versus a true walk. This gives me more time to get her halted. Keep both legs on evenly to keep her straight during the halt instead of throwing them off her like I tend to do.  Do not salute until her feet are done moving no matter how long it takes. It is worse to salute while she is still moving than to take a few extra seconds to fully halt.

Better elbows. Hands still a little weird. But I’m having fun and Gem is calm and relaxed. Two big picture items that were hard to come by a few months ago. I also love how she is tuned into me with one ear at all times. 
Working trot to C, track left: this we could do! Gem transitioned up to the trot from halt sharply although she sorta western pleasure trotted to start. I gave her enough warning to make the turn at C and carried on our way. Get her into her good trot quickly not the crappy western jog she tries to get away with when bored. Use the corners to my advantage and get her all the way to the rail before turning. Make the corners round and purposeful. 

I appear to be on a circle. Gem appears to be on a straight line. Who needs bend when you can surf board your way through?
20 meter circle tracking left at C then go straight ahead: Gem finally got into her good trot and we circled ok. I managed to remember to bend my entire body and we did create a mostly circle shape but it was too small to be 20 meters. Remember to keep Gem looking to the inside of the circle, in a small dressage court I should only be 10 meters away from the end of the arena on either side of my circle and on the rail on the other two. Bend my entire body around the circle, not just my head and neck. Do not start the circle until my body hits E. 

Talking to Trainer about something. Notice how bored Gem looks? This is such a major win for us! In the past she was always high as a kite and so tense. I’ll take bored any day!
Between K and A medium walk: we kind of trotted right through this and walked after A. Not so great. Since Gem tends towards fast, plan to walk at the first letter to give me more time. 

I’m proud of how tall I am sitting. No more fetal position for me! It is feeling really natural too. Very exciting. Some day Gem will go along without her nose sticking out like we are in the middle of the easiest endurance ride ever, but that day isn’t today.
Free walk across F to E then track right: yeah so Gem has no free walk. She doesn’t zoom off once I lengthen my reins which is nice, but there is absolutely zero stretching down or ground covering stride. In no circumstance should I decide to follow her head and topple forward. This does nothing for either of us. 

Obligatory shadow shot
Medium walk E-H: I picked my contact back up but outside of that I’m not sure there was any noticeable change. Don’t ask Gem for more walk. We should get a 6 for what we are doing now. Going for more walk may get us an 8 if all lines up, but it is more likely that she will break into trot and earn a 2.

I’m out of media from the ride so here is a pic of Einstein missing me while I mowed. Dusty and I are no fun when it comes to mowers. He has stitched up too many lost dog toes, so Einstein is locked in the house and I have stitched up too many human feet so Wyatt doesn’t get to sit on or be anywhere near a running mower.
Working trot tracking right between H-C: we had a really lovely up transition here without any jogging steps. In up transitions, don’t ask too early since Gem is typically sensitive and ready to go. Do not ask before my body reaches H. 

Gem and Pete made for some nice road blocks. I finally had to clap and shoo them away.
20 meter circle at B: my circle was still mostly a circle but way too small. Bigger!

Dusty ran a hot and hilly marathon Saturday. I signed him up as a surprise two weeks prior. He was excited even though he had no time to prepare, but his training runs are in the upper teens to low 20s anyway. It ended up being 87F and 1900′ of elevation. He still finished 3rd in his age group and 16th of 48 overall. Wyatt raced him to the finish and bragged all weekend about beating him.
Turn down center line at A, halt at x and salute: I got Gem into the corner better but still failed to let her know we were making a sharp turn. She didn’t trip so that was a plus. The halt was much better but then I thought she was done moving and saluted and she moved. Use that corner, sit up tall and prepare her sooner. Wait until she is 100% still before saluting. 

We ran through it three times before calling it quits. One big glaring issue came up that needs fixing, but I’m not really sure how to go about it.

During the first part of the lesson, I worked hard to do the things Trainer asked and even began anticipating Gem better: I would half halt before Trainer had to tell me, added some leg here, pushed her out to the rail with my inside leg there. I wasn’t perfect, but I was actively riding the horse I had under me. It was amazing.

As soon as we began the test though, for some reason my brain leaked right out of my ears and I focused so hard on the moves I was doing that I stopped riding my horse. Oh we went through each move, but that was all I did. No more well timed half halts, no more inside leg pushing her out, no more balance and rhythm.

Turn here, trot now, walk now. That’s it. It was like all the lessons were gone and I couldn’t ride. It was frustrating and I am sure Gem was wondering why I abandoned her, got tense and stopped riding.

Not sure how to fix that. I think a big part of it was that I really wasn’t sure of the test itself. I wasn’t prepared to run through it and hadn’t memorized it yet, so I was working hard at just not going off course. Going into it knowing the test 100% will allow me to focus on riding more but I’m not naive enough to think it will fix it completely. I need to remember to ride. Any tips on that from those who have done this before?