Posted by: shannonc | May 20, 2009

The sky is not falling

Well, I didn’t think I’d be doing this so soon, but I pointed the little pony at some bigger jumps today.

Sarah and I met Meredith at Groton field, where the event was last weekend, for a school.  Sarah wants to do the Elementary with her pony at Green Acres in a couple of weeks and then the Summer Classic at Groton House at the end of June, so she wants to start working more on height.  For Kisses, I’m stuck between two potential paths.  One goes to Hitching Post and then the GMHA starter trials – both of these have 18″ divisions, so he’d get some mileage there.  The other goes to Green Acres for Pre-Elem (18″), then probably an AKF jumper show where he can do an unjudged 2’3″ in the outdoor ring (the indoor version won’t be decorated, I don’t think), then to the GHF Classic at 2’3″.  At GMHA then we could do either the 18″ or the 2’3″, although to enter I’d have to guess which without knowing how the Classic went first.

Knowing what I know about the pony, I’ve been figuring the best path is the slow path.  I mean, 2’3″ is more than double the height he was looking at this past weekend.  Yes, it’s still small, but I do not want to overwhelm the pony brain, because I know that backslide is likely to result, and I’m trying to securely establish a different way of going for him.  Not to mention that I strongly suspect overwhelming the pony brain will also mean picking grass out of my sports bra for the rest of the day.

If I thought this lesson might give me the magic bullet solution to my dilemma, I was wrong.  LOL!

So by way of check in with Meredith I just say I feel he’s ready to start seeing more complicated questions in terms of both variety and height, but I want to be sure to do it in a way that sets him up for success.  She nods.

My interpretation of nod:  okay, we’ll do things today that are a little bigger, and take it slow.

What she actually meant:  time to move these two along!

We started by trotting one of the baby logs from my course Sunday.  I think this may have been our worst fence of the day.  More on bad fences later, suffice it to say it almost felt as if he tripped on over.  Circle back and trot the hay bales (these were on Sarah’s course Sunday), then canter the hay bales.  All that went fine.  For Sarah’s turn Meredith had her then trot and canter the hay bales with the log on top (I guess this would have been the Elem?), then circle back and go from that jump to the triple log pile in the middle of the field on a bending left line.

My first shock of the day came when Sarah was done and Meredith looked over and said “same thing.”  Ew.  Really?  A hay bale plus a log?  Oh, well, that’s why I’m here – to follow directions.  If I get dumped it won’t be the first or the last time.

Pony does not care about the hay bales with the log on top. 

Pony lands in cruising canter with somewhat shocked rider sitting in the pilot’s seat, and I wait too long (and underestimate how long it will take) to rebalance him for the triple logs, which are somewhere in the 2′ range, so he gets a somewhat strung out approach and stops.  This was really good education for me, because he doesn’t stop dirty.  No shoulder-dipping, no bolt-and-stop.  We circle around, balance up better, and he goes fine.  Now come back and do the big log pile.  The big log pile is 2’6″.  Ummm.  Ummm.  Ummm, I’m thinking.  Am I pushing this too far now?

Pony does not care about the big log pile.

Next, little pile of birch logs…by now I have the program, so I don’t have to scoop my jaw up off the pony’s neck when I’m told to jump the big pile of birch logs after, even though they are again 2’6″.

Pony does not care about the big birch logs.  He is taking me to the jumps and my biggest problem is interrupting the battering-ram cruising canter he’s landing in, and then getting his hind legs back underneath him.  I’m having to take some pretty big pieces with this rubber snaffle and then add back a lot of leg.

Meredith mentions it may help if I stop loving and kissing all over the pony in gratitude for him jumping at all.  Maybe just establish your pace first…

The way he is taking me to the jumps is again good education for me.  His head is coming up and he’s taking a hold of the bit, but he is not giving me that bolting feeling that says he’s panicky.  He seems alert, interested, and a little excited.  Huh.  This is stuff I couldn’t find out over little crossrails and logs.  Meredith reminds me to keep the bit moving in his mouth right down to the base.  I am effectively half-halting until we actually leave the ground.  It seems to keep him a little bit more supple and keep his eye just that little bit back at me. 

We do the fake ditch and then the BN ditch, which it feels like he jumps as if it’s also about 2’6″, but he doesn’t stop.  We are getting closer to those whisky barrels.  Remember the barrel rattle I had in my head last week?  Yup, still there.  For like the third or fourth time, I almost say I don’t want to.  Almost.

Uh huh.  The pony does not care about the whisky barrels.

At the end we do a little course that incorporates one jump he hasn’t seen yet – it’s only about 2′ and it’s a hanging log next to the BN ditch.  It’s the first fence on the course and we have another stop.  This time he is wiggly but still not dirty.  Meredith gives me a smack on the wrist because I knew he was going to stop.  She realizes I am sort of sitting up there defensively, waiting for him to do something scary.  The second time he is still a bit wiggly, but I actually ride and it goes fine.  We canter the rest of the course, except we trot the ditch, and it’s actually pretty good!

The stringing jumps together thing is brand new for us and it goes well, except as I said I am struggling a bit to put him back on the pace and balance he needs for approach.  I think this is probably more a strength issue than anything.  We need to keep bringing the flatwork along.  He is also falling on his left shoulder like crazy, although mainly at the start of the ride.  More flatwork fixing.

His greenness is definitely showing as we go along: he is a little awkward at the base of the fences at times, and not yet relaxed when faced with the new questions.  What surprises me is that he’s so willing and that when he’s unsure where to put his feet, he’s more likely to go bold than sticky.  I had to slip my reins out a few times today, but Blue did a pretty good job of teaching me how to stay in the middle (not that I’m incapable of missing it still), and a big jump plus loopy reins don’t make the pony run off at all on landing.

Meredith said that he looked happy and quite confident.  She thought his expression once he was locked on approach was more “I got it, leave me alone” than “I’m thinking about not doing this.”  I thought she planned the sequences really well for me and Sarah.  Each question built on the last in a way the little pony brains understood.  Rider brains…well, this one is still a work in progress :)

So.  I thought we were going to go out and jump some Pre-Elem and maybe some Elem fences max, but we pretty much jumped their BN course.  Now I have windows upon windows of competition options open on the computer.  I know what I learned, but I’m not sure what to do with it.

Besides that we need to work hard on the flat, I learned that the pony is perfectly capable of jumping 2’6″ happily at this point in his reschooling.  Happily – that is a really big deal!  If.  Happily, *if* it’s incrementally built up on similar fences.  Log, bigger logs, more bigger logs in a schooling situation is a completely different experience than start box, more bigger logs in competition.  I also need to take his temperature over some busy and bigger stadium jumps. 

Unfortunately for me, eliminating BN doesn’t help, since it wasn’t an option in the first place!



  1. You underestimate Meredith’s kindness. Actually, my division jumped all LITTLE things – not even the haybales! So in competition she let the levels go easy….but obviously NOT in our lesson ;)

    FWIW, that big white birch jump that rode beautifully was on the NOVICE course. And so was the ditch. The rest of it was on the BN course, so we were pretty solidly schooling WAY above elementary level!

  2. BTW, I think you should do Green Acres – either Pre-Elem or Elem. And then shoot for Groton and GMHA!!!!!!!!! It would be fun to hang out together!

  3. you just made my day!! Great job!! See you at HPF!

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