I am a broken record, but I will tell you again and again: my horse is SO fun. We have a long way to go and there’s plenty I want to work on with myself, but hot damn it is SO much fun working with this animal.
Let’s get into it.
Homeboy was rarin’ to go despite the high temps and humidity. And by rarin’ to go I mean he jigged for a second when I picked up the reins, I told him to calm the eff down, and he was like OK and settled. WILD HORSE IS WILD.
Trainer had us do a really interesting exercise as we moved up into canter work. Like so:
Does this diagram even make any sense? Lemme try to explain. We did small circles over the poles at each end of the ring, then went to the other end and did another circle. Except imagine there’s a bunch of jumps in the way. And 4 horses all doing this at the same time. A little chaotic.
But this was a fantastic exercise to get the horses tuned off our leg and a little more contained between our leg and hand. Frankie showed some weakness on his right side- he likes to get long and low and heavy when he feels off balance and working to the right has always been his tougher side. My job was to help him keep his balance and rock his weight back by using my leg and seat to half-halt him up. The left was a little better; still heavy, but more balanced.
We then warmed up over a crossrail. Uneventful. Francis has begun a habit of trotting over little Xs without actually jumping them so my job is to squeeze him up and over BECAUSE IT’S AN ACTUAL JUMP FRANCIS. Way to overachieve, buddy.
Here’s our course for the day!
First time through was up the green box, turn left to the rail and come back to trot, rollback over the yellow box and canter out over the oxer in a bouncy bending six, outside vertical around to the gray oxer, and then down the red jump off the short turn.
Uneventful. Especially over smaller jumps, Frankie just kinda plops over them. I was very happy with the bending six- I was able to sit back and shorten his stride early in the line so we could flow out. I took the long way around from D to E and the long approach to the oxer set us up a bit long and reachy.
So then Trainer jacked the jumps up! I gotta tell you, I used to get TERRIFIED when the jumps would go up over like 2’6″. That was my happy place. Then 3′ was my happy place. Now I’m like PUT THEM ALL UP FOREVER KEEP GOING MAKE EM BIGGER because seeing a spot to the bigger jumps is like a thousand times easier with Francis. Maybe because he’s so tall that we need tall jumps to be in my line of sight? I have no idea. It just makes my job SO much easier when the jumps go up.
We did the same course, but made a few small tweaks. B was no longer a trot jump, so I really had to get the motor going out of that short rollback so I could gallop out in 5. I also tried the inside turn from D to E- between the green and yellow boxes. With standards and poles and muck buckets in the way this got a little dicey, but Frankie don’t care about none of that. It rocked us back enough that our spot to the oxer was muuuch better. Then packaging back up around the short turn to the red- not quite as pretty but we made it work.
SO FUN. SERIOUSLY SO FUN. Frankie clobbered the first jump because he didn’t realize the jumps had gone up and he is a total goon, but then he got his head in the game. And guys. My horse is like the most fun ever to ride. We just flew around that course with the biggest grins. At least I was grinning, I can’t speak for Frankie- though he had the sweetest pricked ears.
Lots to work on? Totally. My trainer has noted that we’ve vastly improved getting the impulsion and pace we want, and now it’s time to really wrap around him and fine-tune our controls. Get that bouncy canter back more quickly after every jump instead of loping away like a hunter. Wait for him to jump up to me instead of crawling up his neck when we get a closer spot. Tighten up and make sure everything is holding still that needs to be still, so the moving parts can be more clearly effective.
It’s happening, though. Little by little, we’re figuring each other out and getting tighter and more controlled with every ride. And jeeeeez we’re having a blast with it. Even covered in sweat towards the end of the lesson, Francis perked up and galloped up to every fence. He’s a very happy boy with a very happy rider!
Does your horse have a weaker side? How do you work on building strength more evenly?
PS- I expected my tack post yesterday to be more of a filler post, but was so happy to hear from all of you! I hope to see some posts from y’all with your own set up, it was really fun getting a glimpse in the comment section 🙂