Of all the rides I’ve had on Frankie, this is the one that I truly wish we had video of. Not because it was a paragon of correctness and grace. Not because it highlighted all of our natural strengths.
No. I want video for the pure comedy gold.
Our exercise this past week has been a series of trot-in one-strides, inspired by an exercise Joe Fargis has recommended in the past. It was set as so:
The full exercise was simply weaving across the ring from A to B to C to D. The first jump in each was always a crossrail, but the second jump went progressively higher. Seems very simple and straightforward, right? Right. It actually is a very straightforward exercise.
But here’s the cool part about it: since everything is trotting in, your horse cannot rely on speed to make it out over the second jump. The striding is set fairly short, so speed actively makes it more difficult (and cheating to allow more space by getting crooked was Not Allowed). The only way to make it out is to power off the hind end.
So yeah, we were basically doing super-sets of squats with our horses with this exercise.
The first time we did this earlier in the week, we ended up putting the back jumps up to roughly 3’ish to encourage a bigger effort, then backing the height back down to make sure we were still able to stay super straight and careful even at lower heights. It was a great way to work on strength for our horses and correctness of position and placement for us riders.
We’re not at the comedy part yet.
The second time we did this was during a lesson I had with our juniors. It started out similarly – working to keep Frankie straight through a combination of leg and opening rein as needed, staying out of his way when he wanted to stretch over the oxers, overall building on what we had done previously.
But you know what the juniors do? They jump big.
So Trainer jacks the back jumps up to whatever height (3’6″? more? no clue but it looked real big) and has us go again. Quick reminder that I haven’t jumped that height in a super long time but I was thinking not a big deal, I know my horse and he’s a pretty smooth ride and I definitely haven’t forgotten everything about how to jump bigger.
Turns out that I’m really quite comfortable getting to bigger jumps at speed.
What do you get when you take away that speed, add extreme power in the hind end, and jack the oxer up real big?
HOUSTON, YOU GET LIFTOFF.
I swear zero part of me was making any sort of contact with Frankie. I was completely airborne. He went up, I went up with him, and then I KEPT GOING UP. Launched into the stratosphere. The air started getting thinner. I had time to reflect on all the choices that had carried me into the rafters.
I somehow managed to land on top of my horse as he calmly and quietly cantered away. AND PROCEEDED TO DO THIS 5 MORE TIMES.
On the plus side, I very much stayed out of his way so he was never punished for putting in such a powerful effort. On the other side, the reason I stayed out of his way was because I was nowhere near him. There was a solid 6″ of air between me and my saddle.
Trainer was cracking up laughing, I was cracking up laughing (while desperately trying to keep my stirrups), and Frankie was boppin’ around wondering what was so funny.
From the way it felt and the way Trainer described it, Francis basically gave us a really incredible hunter-style jump. You know the kind you see in a derby, where the horse is not moving quickly and then they just LAUNCH super powerfully over the big jump. And then they land back in the same quiet rhythm. It’s why I don’t get annoyed at the big hunter riders for having less-than-perfect equitation – that type of explosive jump out of that quieter pace is BONKERS difficult to stay with.
And now I have first hand experience of this and no thank you I have zero aspirations to do any big hunter classes ever in my life good lord that is INSANE.
I hit the gym with our new barn manager (who I’m slightly obsessed with HI COLLEEN I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS YOU’RE/WE’RE INCREDIBLE) a few hours later because wow ok Francis if you’re going to work that hard I gotta step up my game to match.
Next time I’m bringing a hang glider to assist in my return to earth.