Friday, January 20, 2012

6 1/2 Rules for Jumping

I've been on cloud 9 since the horseshow. Its been a horseless week, I had to work both jobs pretty much every day since Sunday, so that is definitely not why I'm happy. I would have loved to be out at the barn, seeing my horse and my friends. Not to mention that one of Bastian's friends, RW had a run-in with some colic and it got hairy, I wasn't able to do anything, heck I didn't even know until Friday when it was resolved, but so very happy that RW is on the mend.

The Hunter show on Saturday was just the beginning of the last week (and if you wanna get technical, I know that a week officially begins on Sunday, but deal with it :P). Showing Bastian at 2'3" was awesome. So everytime I started to get a bit stressed about anything, I just went back to that 2:00 in the ring where it was so wonderful. I also got my acceptance letter from YSU for grad school. Not sure where its going to fit, but its gotta get done! Job #2 was spent in the back stockrooms reticketing merchandise by myself so I had a lot of time to contemplate this whole jumping thing. I've come up with some basic truths that I have to learn to live by.

1)The height of the fence is insignificant. I need to ride the 18" X-rail and the 2'6" oxer and the 3'3" (not yet! lol) the same way. Forward and Up.

2) Forward. Forward. Forward. Everytime I want to say "whoa," I have to say "go." Bastian gets into a nice soft relaxed canter and then lacks the impulsion he needs to get over the fence. I'm also super guilty because I am so into the on the bit and collected mindset and that is not where Bastian needs to be to jump, He needs to be soft and through, but not with his little nose and poll in a First Level frame. As we come into the fences I keep thinking if I slow down I'll be more in control when I arrive at the fence. Not true, I need to pushforward to the fence. Forward. Forward. Forward.

3) The only bad decision is not make a decision at all. This is actually a gem from the one and only Mr. Conrad Schumacher. Giving up two strides out, freezing, closing my eyes and hoping Bastian gets us to the other side, these are all bad decisions. It may not always be the best decision to take the long spot or to put in the extra stride in the line, but it is a decision and one that Bastian and I can respond to. He will take the long spot, or he'll take the half-stride. Whatever I tell him, he does it (as I've found over the past few weeks of jumping). He says "aye aye cap'n" and takes off when I tell him too, he trusts me and we land from that awkward fence and I can say "okay we needed more (or less), so next time we come around I will push more." Bastian knows his job well enough to take marching orders, he's not to the point were he's like "I've got this mom, just stop trying and sit there." Which isn't to say that he isn't learning that. He saved my but over the last fence in our 2'3" class (I have to keep mentioning that I jumped that high, I'm still pretty excited!), we came into it pretty tight, I didn't have him in front of my leg enough, but he did his job and got us to the other side. So long story short (too late!). Decisions are always good!

4) Dressage is still uber-important! I may not be having Bastian in his super cute First Level frame, but he has still got to be soft and round and listening. If I ask him for more, he's got to respond. If I say move off my left leg, he's gotta move! All of this comes down to have a soft, obedient horse. I fully plan on dressaging my way around XC when we get that far. :o)

5) You can have a bad in and still have a good out. Just because the first fence in a line doesn't ride right doesn't mean that the second fence can't still be perfect. It requires decision making, quick decision making, but its still possible to have a nice second fence. For me, it usually involves more Forward (surprise surprise, right?). This is something that I never knew before about a year ago. I figured if the first fence sucked that the next one would too and just gave up and hoped we made it down the line. Crazy right? Yup, I think you're probably putting the pieces together as to why I have such a mental problem with jumping-my education was very incomplete. I had a few good pieces here and there, but not nearly enough of a frame to hang it all on.

6) You have to ride the horse that you have that day, at that moment. This gem is from Kristin, I think I kinda always knew it, but I never knew that I knew it, or realized when I was putting it into practice or better yet, actually put it into practice on purpose. Overall, Bastian is pretty consistent, but we have our struggles. One of our big ones is getting him in front of our leg. Obviously, I want him in front of the leg no matter what we're doing, but its much easier to fake it in the dressage ring, he can get a little sucked back and its no biggie, I have to make the choice between having him over collected and consistent or bumping him up and having some bobbles. When we jump, its pretty much all or nothing that I have him in front of my leg going forward. Some days he's there, some days we get stuck in lovely dressage canter mode around the fences, which while I like it because it feels slow and controlled, its really horrible because we're not going to have the impulsion to get over the fence. So I've got to learn to actively figure out what type of Bastian I am riding that day, a forward Bastian or a stuck behind my leg Bastian and it can change in the middle of a ride too. If he's gung-ho about jumping that day I'm going to spend the ride saying slow down and will probably be doing some pretty strong half-halts, if he's lazy, I'll be utilizing my crop and my voice, A LOT. So I may go into a lesson hoping to do some fabulous thing, but if we can't get our duckies in a row in order to be able to do that, then guess what, it ain't happening. Somewhat disappointing, but its the reality of it.

And while the following isn't exactly a truth I have to commit to memory, its definitely something to thing about....

Charles Owen Helmets are totally good luck. I like to jokingly talk about how I would never place at a hunter show or do well because I didn't have the trendy Charles Owen or GPA in the two tone colours. Well, I am now the proud owner of a Charles Owen GR8 in black and charcoal and I have to say that its like my magic helmet. Since I got it about three weeks ago, our jumping really took off (hahahaha, get it, took off....). I can be a bit of a superstitious person, so I'm gonna put this sudden burst of confidence on the fact that I have a new helmet. (I do have some awesome lucky socks and yes, I was wearing them at the show last week. I am so worried about these socks lasting FOREVER that I hand wash them, I won't put them in washer, it might eat them....)

There are still a few things that Bastian and I have got to work on. I have the darnedest time seeing my spots. Again, I blame this on not being a math/science person. I can count 1-2-1-2-1-2 up to the fence and see a few strides out if we're gonna take off on the 1 or on the 2, but when I try to count it down it never works out mathamatically. When we do related fences I always get one more stride than its supposed to be because I count our landing as a stride.

And we're working on our fitness, mine and his. My magic number is 155. I'm not going to share where I'm starting from. Bastian's magic number is 20 minutes. Once we start jumping, its about 20 minutes into it that we both start to get tired, then he gets lazy and sloppy and I get lazy and sloppy. But thats gonna change! When I can I'm trying to just go and jump, lots of jumps, non-stop. Tiny things, X-rails and 2' verticals, don't get worried that I'm overworking my boy. I try to focus on keeping that lovely forwardness that we tend to have over our first 8-10 jumps, then we get a bit ka-put. This past Wednesday was wonderful for that, good fences, bad fences, but we jumped steadily for about 30 minutes, I just took a few short breaks (there was another lesson so the breaks were good for me and let me steer around the lesson by timing my fences to try and stay out of the way).

Tonight its more jumping (provided that there is jump set up in the arena, I dont' particularly feel like dragging jumps out...we'll see!).

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