Barrel Jumpers, Not Barrel Racers

It’s a double post day! Curse my poor planning. But I had such a great lesson, I just want to share it with y’all before the memories fade.

You may have noticed that it’s been a relatively quiet few weeks at the barn. After the pressure of preparing for team finals, we have taken a noticeable step back from our training.

I think that’s been more mental than anything else- I’m still lessoning every week, Francis is still getting at least one training ride every week, we went to a show and XC schooling and we’ve still been working hard.

But we also have not schooled any height since finals and my “homework” rides have been more about enjoying my pony than anything else. This week’s lesson was the first time that we played with tighter turns/combos/bigger fences since we went in for our last round at Culpeper.

And I think that taking a deep breath to relax was exactly what the doctor ordered. Our canter work felt balanced and adjustable, Frankie jumped out of his skin, he carried me forward through the combo, and felt really fresh the entire time (not like, sassy fresh, just energetic in a good way. Because Francis.) I didn’t have to find a spot to the jumps- we had such a great canter and so much adjustability that the spots came up to us. Funny how having the right canter makes everything better, right?

While warming up we did have a moment that warranted some strong correction: Frankie likes to dive left. Even if we’re on a nice straight track to the jump, he will throw himself left over the jump and then immediately fade left upon landing. If I let him. This time I booted him HARD with my spur off the left side as we were warming up, and lo and behold: my horse jumped a straight line. Correcting that firmly early on in our ride made him pay attention the rest of the time. And when we do that, we land our leads/get our changes!

We warmed up with a couple basic exercises, then Trainer jacked the jumps up and gave me this course:

oct12_course

The first “jump” was just one of the brick walls we use as fill, without standards. Frankie was pretty sure that going around was the right answer, so I had to really over-ride this and get him balled up between my leg and hand. I sense more wingless jumps in our future.

Then it was down the single outside- this rode up wonderfully every time, since Frankie was carrying a lovely pace to flow up out of the corner. The short rollback to 3 was tough- I needed to get my left leg on HARD and then straighten with my left rein to get that to work.

Then the bending out over 4 was either a bent 5 stride, or a more direct galloping 4. The first time through I held for 5 and didn’t love it, so the next time I booted up for the 4 and LOVED IT SO MUCH OMG WE HAD FIRE IN OUR STEP.

Then it was down the faux coop- Trainer stacked some cavallettis and put some plywood sheets on them. My job upon landing was to control that left shoulder so that we actually had some straightness to ask for a change.

Then it was up the one-stride and I was honestly thrilled with that. I’ve mentioned before that Frankie tends to back off in combos and needs a ton of support from yours truly. But homeboy must’ve been feeling like a fancypants rockstar, because he galloped right up and carried me through like an absolute professional- even though the oxer out was a big lofty swedish.

IMG_1015
That one in the background. Frankie jump big!

Now for the fun part: it was a bending four strides from the green box down to the barrels. My trainer is a generally nice person, so these barrels were on their sides, with the fake bamboo acting as wings. But she hates me likes to challenge me, so she stood them up and said AIM STRAIGHT.

So I landed off the green fuzzy, locked on…and Francis did a drive by. I’ll be honest, it took us a couple tries to eventually make it over.

But I don’t really count this as a refusal. I genuinely think that Frankie did not realize that he was supposed to jump it. He wasn’t peeking hard or spooking or anything like that, he’s just always gone around the barrels in the ring instead of over. Once we made it over once (with the help of some guide poles), we had zero problem locking on and jumping it like a pro- even after we took the guide poles away. He’s not the fastest thinker in the world, but he is very willing once he understands the game.

IMG_1023
We started trying to get his ears up for the pictures, but AT said “this face is more true to his mood right now.” Poor, long suffering Francis.

Takeaways: we need to practice more wingless skinnies to test our steering! I need to be more active in telling him “yes this is a jump” and he needs to be paying attention enough to say “yes ma’am.”

Another takeaway is to let go and let my horse do his job. He’s so much more educated now and I can trust that education instead of needing to micromanage every step. We are going to be trying some new bits to take advantage of his buttons- remember I mentioned that I didn’t love the slow twist for shows? We’ve got some ideas to play around with so I’ll let you know what we end up using.

I do really wish we had gotten some video from this lesson. Not only did Frankie go SO well, but I had shortened my stirrups a hole. It was a revelation. Everything was better. All of a sudden, a whole bunch of bad habits went away. Like. Guys. The skies opened up and the angels sang. I would love to get a visual to see if it made as much of a difference as it felt like. If nothing else, I felt tons more secure in the tack so it’s for sure a win.

I’d also like to take some official confo shots of Francis soon, maybe this weekend. He got his first clip of the season and honestly AT did such a stupendous job that I want to capture it on camera. He looks like a stud. I also want to do a comparison- we’ve worked so hard on building muscle and developing him, I want to see if there’s a visible difference from last year. I also just want a million pictures of my horse, so sue me.

frankie_side
His Coggins pic from the day we vetted him, March 2016. I def see a big difference in the shape of his body.

Your turn to share! What are some of the stranger looking jumps you’ve done lately?

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10 thoughts on “Barrel Jumpers, Not Barrel Racers

  1. Centered in the Saddle 10/13/2017 / 11:28 am

    In my lesson this week we did this fun and deceptively challenging exercise to work on steering and bending lines. Two jumps set as a line that would be a forward 5 or steady 6 if jumped in a straight line. Instead, we sliced the first one going from the wall toward the middle of the arena, bent and sliced the out going back toward the wall. I feel like I didn’t describe that well and perhaps should diagram it in a post of my own…

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  2. Karley 10/13/2017 / 3:24 pm

    I bet he was thinking ‘ugh mom let me help you and not run into these barrels’ 😂😂😂😂

    Dude the right canter makes everyone’s life easier, why don’t we get this the fist time every time?! Lol

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    • hellomylivia 10/18/2017 / 12:08 pm

      He really did think he was helping hahaha. Good boy Francis, even if a little misguided.

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  3. Holly 10/13/2017 / 8:37 pm

    I got guide poles yesterday too! Except mine was because I had an inability to jump the oxer straight and not drift. Steering, it’s a bitch.
    But seriously, better stirrup length is amazing. I felt like a jockey with mine, but damn if it didn’t make the lightbulb go on.

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    • hellomylivia 10/18/2017 / 12:07 pm

      Ugh steering is harddddd, why can’t my horse learn his own darn course??

      Like

  4. NDchick1 10/15/2017 / 8:22 pm

    Great lesson recap! Isn’t it bizarre how a 1 hole stirrup adjustment changes sooo much?

    Tip for getting ears up (and sometimes crazy eye) photos of your horse: download All Ears app. It is totes worth the $2 or whatever. Game changer for getting attentive ears forward photos. 2 ears up review for this app!

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    • hellomylivia 10/18/2017 / 12:05 pm

      That .5″ difference changed everything! Haha I’ll have to look into getting the app!

      Like

  5. Stacie Seidman 10/16/2017 / 9:44 am

    I haven’t done anything too crazy lately, but I may or may not have a couple of stegosaurus skeletons just waiting to be jump fill…

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