Thursday, March 9, 2017

Working on Courses

It's really hard to get better at coursework when riding by yourself. I ride mostly by myself and am lucky to have two lessons a month. It's just a lot of work to get off and on the horse in order to reset jumps. That means that I usually set up jump lines at varying heights so that I can warm up over cross-rails, then move on to 2'6" verticals, and I'll maybe set up a few jumps around 2'9". This system is convenient, because it means that I don't have to reset jumps, but it is problematic in that I am never really doing true courses at a certain height.

After my reflection in my last post about how I need to spend more time on the things and people I love, I put that mental thought into action. I decided that I would spend as much time as I wanted riding and I wouldn't even look at the clock. So... we did courses!
I spent a whole two hours with this lovebug
After the usual warm-up (free-walk, trot, canter, pop over a few teeny cross-rails). I designed a teeny-tiny cross-rail course. Since the jumps were walk-over-height and not challenging on their own, the course I designed featured some tricky lines. It went diagonal line (1, 2, 3), rollback to 4, bending line to 5, diagonal line (6, 7, 8), and finished with a bending line from 9 to 10. Casey was kind of being a jerk at the beginning; leaning on my hands, trying to gallop to jumps, ignoring my aids, etc. I beat her into shape ("beat" here meaning I gave her a verbal reprimand and a strong half halt), and then she was much better behaved.
Cross-rail course
She did not take the itty-bitty oxer seriously at all
Her bascule has improved even over pathetic cross-rails
After our cross-rail course, I hopped off, raised the jumps to 2'6"-2'8" and designed a new course. This was a lot less tricky. It went outside line (1 to 2), diagonal line (3 to 4), diagonal line (5 to 6), outside line (7 to 8). Casey had no troubles with this course set at this height, but she was still being a tad too strong (aka, we had very little brakes).
2'6" course
Since the 2'6" course went so well, I raised the jumps one last time. The jumps were about 2'9" to 3' (sorry for the weird measurements, our jump standards are off a little bit and so never measure to exactly a 3 inch height). I am not sure that I've ever actually jumped a full course at that height with Casey. We've jumped much bigger jumps than that, but they were either single jumps or single jump lines, never a course. That being said, we've been jumping about 3'3" regularly for the past month, so I didn't think that jumping a 2'9" course would be too much to ask.

The course ran a little bit interesting. The first attempt was a bit rough. The first line was smooth, but at jump number 3 (which is Casey's most despised jump of them all), Casey came up at a calm controlled canter... and then totally buried herself at the jump. She stuttered to an almost-stop and then jumped the jump, clearing an almost 3 foot jump from a stand-still! (You can see this in the video at 0:15.) She did smack the plank with her hind leg(s), but the jump didn't fall and she didn't feel as if she was hurt, trotting away as if it was nothing.
Jumping from an almost-stop
While I was super impressed with her ability to jump with no momentum, that's not exactly what we were going for, so we redid that line and then finished the course with no further mishaps.
She jumped it from a canter this time...
Second time through that line
We attempted the course once more. This time all went mostly well. Casey got herself a little bit too close at the sixth jump (but not nearly as bad as she did with the plank jump in the course before). We got some really nice distances and Casey was being super responsive and was jumping super well (those bounce exercises are really paying off).
Starting to jump more round
Casey doesn't try over this jump. Not sure why as it's almost the same height as the others #horselogic
The one total mess-up was on the last line coming home. I'm not really sure what happened. It felt like Casey was going to take one more stride, changed her mind and jumped, and totally left me behind because I was not expecting that. The result was that I thumped on her back, making her a little bit pissy and throwing her balance off so that we ended up cantering a diagonal line rather than going straight. The video makes it look better than it felt, because it felt super awkward and like my horse was about to go on a bucking fit because I landed on her too hard. I probably could have redirected her so that we completed the line, but I didn't and instead we turned around and did that line once more and it rode beautifully.
Don't do this if you want your horse to not kill you
Second time through went much more smoothly

My reflection from this ride is that we do need to keep working on our courses, because some things need to be ironed out more (like, holy crap Casey, please don't jump from a stand-still anymore & also your steering needs some work, because right now you ride like a car with a loose steering wheel), BUT there is so much good stuff that I see from our progress. We did successfully jump a 2'9"-3'0" course with no major snafus, we both felt confident in doing so, and we are working a lot better as a team (we are both working together and listening to each other's feedback). I am super hopeful that we are going to just keep getting better. Also, can summer get here already so I can show my awesome horse? That would be great.
Can we just appreciate how muscly she has gotten?
Casey doesn't understand why she has to stand next to the jumps
To my audience, do you jump courses regularly? Or are you like me and too lazy to bother with all that set-up?
She likes to just rest her head in my hands. Weird? Yes. Endearing? Definitely :)

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