Saturday, November 11, 2017

First Jump Lesson Back

I must be psychic. In my last post, while pondering what my jump lesson would look like, I totally said that I thought we’d work on stopping after a jump and lo and behold, that’s exactly what Trainer had us do. I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked that I anticipated the lesson though, because I am her assistant trainer and so do have a pretty good understanding of how and why she sets up certain lessons.
Casey greeting me at the gate
We started our ride with working a bending trot. Then Trainer rolled out a single pole and had us trot it both directions. She then had us practice stopping a certain number of strides after the pole, starting with 10 strides, then going to 5, then 3. Casey stayed really responsive through all of this and was being very well behaved.

After trotting, Casey and I picked up the canter each way. I got a really nice canter from her going to the right (her favored lead) and an ok canter going to the left. She tends to get rushy going to the left because she is trying to compensate for not being as balanced on that side. It’s getting better, but still is nowhere near as nice as the right-lead. A cool new thing that I’m able to do with Casey is to use my legs in the canter to encourage her to get some extra power. For the longest time Casey only equated leg pressure with going fast and flat, but all of our work at collection at the trot means that she now understands the concept that a slight leg squeeze means that I want her to push from her back end. She is able to do this at the canter as well, it’s just not nearly as refined as her response at the trot. A few moments in our canter set, Casey tried to get flat in her movement and I’d apply the slightest leg squeeze and would get some power back in that gait. It’s kind of amazing to ride!
Who knew that she would be able to listen to leg without galloping?
After our canter sets going each way, Trainer set up a tiny jump line. The first jump was a cross-rail that was perhaps 9 inches off the ground at the intersection of the poles and the second jump was a tiny vertical that was perhaps a foot and a half off the ground. I believe that it was six strides between the two jumps. Trainer first had us just go through the line normally. The first time through Casey was a bit backed up. She jumped the first jump nicely, but then as we came up to the vertical she slowed her trot and then immediately launched the jump. I honestly think Casey was just confused, because we haven’t gone over a vertical in ages and she wasn’t sure if she was “allowed” to jump it. Every other time we jumped it, she jumped it normally, so I guess that first time was just a trial!

As we went through the line, Trainer wanted me to focus on keeping a steady rhythm, regardless of the gait that Casey choose. If Casey stayed in the trot, I needed to make it a nice trot that had a steady rhythm. If Casey choose a canter, then keep her in the canter and keep it consistent up to the next fence. If we had tried this activity nine months ago it would have been the suckiest activity ever. Casey used to be really hot to jumps and would NOT listen before a jump. All of our flat training is paying off though, because it was positively easy to get a nice tempo before and after the jumps. Casey was being responsive and so I was able to adjust her even a stride before the jump. We always trotted in, and cantered out and over the second jump. Even though I have no photographic proof, I could tell that Girlie was jumping super cute. Her knees were coming up and she was jumping nice and round. She also was jumping probably twice the height of the actual jump, but let her be excited, she just missed jumping!
She missed the jumping!
Since adjusting tempo was proving to be no challenge to us, Trainer gave us a real challenge. Jump the cross-rail and then stop before the vertical. As a reminder, Casey was cantering after the cross-rail, and the striding was fairly short for this, we only had six strides between the jumps. The first time through we did manage to stop… but we ended up right in front of the vertical. A tad sketchy and definitely rough. We tried twice more and each time went more smoothly and we had more space between us and the vertical. The last time through I think we had a full stride between us and the vertical! Although we were able to do this, it was never “nice.” Casey would slow to a trot and then when she stopped entirely she would throw her head down, which managed to jolt me forward every time. I think that this was due to a combination of factors: Casey not having the strength and balance to stop more balanced, Casey being slightly on the forehand after the jump, and I was not utilizing my core enough to counter her weight shift. So things to work on there, but hey, at least we didn’t crash into the vertical!
We almost crashed into this, but always managed to stop on time
After that Trainer set up a cavaletti alongside the vertical, angled so that it was on the arena diagonal. The first time through I totally misunderstood Trainer and so rode the outside line and then did a bending line of the cavaletti to the cross-rail. It actually rode really smoothly, but was not what Trainer intended. She wanted me to just go over the cavaletti and then ride straight to the wall. Oops! I think in my head I was already thinking “jump course” and Trainer was thinking “single jump.” So on that mistake I went back and rode what Trainer had intended. It also rode smoothly.
The littlest vertical
Trainer left it up to me as to whether I wanted to end on that note and I opted to end at that point. It meant that my lesson was slightly shorter than an hour, but it was Casey’s first jump lesson in nine months and she had been so good the whole time that I didn’t see any need to make her keep exerting herself. Trying to keep my now not-broken horse safe!

Trainer was super pleased with Casey, and I suppose me as well, and honestly I was too. Jumping Casey now is like riding an entirely new horse. She’s never been so good and so easy to ride. I’m really excited and hopeful for our upcoming months, because I expect that things will only get better and better. Casey has always had raw talent, but she was so hot and reactive that it was a bit like riding a tornado. We weren’t able to work together and communicate, especially while jumping. Not to say that we didn’t improve, but she was not the best listener. At this point Casey is showing that she wants to communicate with me and that she will take my suggestions and aids. I can only imagine how amazingly we’ll be able to jump a course if she retains her jumping talent, but also works with me instead of fighting me. I always joke about Casey being “fancy” when she does cute things, but at this point I’m beginning to believe that she might actually end up being a fancy (aka well-trained + talented) horse.
Will she end up being fancy after all?
After my lesson I asked my Trainer for her suggested jump routine moving forward. Vet didn’t give any recommendations or suggestions, but I want to get some advice as to how to proceed. At this point Trainer says I should jump Casey twice per week (once in a lesson, and once on our own). Trainer says that for now, when we jump on our own, focus on jumping a single jump and then returning to a walk or stopping. As we take our weekly lesson, Trainer will be able to increase difficulty and height of what we are doing and I will be able to sort of follow along that schedule when I jump without her around. If I didn’t have my trainer around I do think I could do this on my own and set my own schedule, but I’ve never had to bring a horse back into jumping after an injury so I’m not entirely sure what speed to move at. Plus, what’s the point of paying for a trainer if you don’t utilize their knowledge and skill sets?
Begging for cookies post-ride

Has anyone else in the blogosphere had to bring a horse back into jumping after a similar type of injury (tendon, ligament, or muscle tear)? How exactly did you proceed? What speed did you move at?
She's a good horsie after all

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