I 100% understand the importance of good flatwork, and a solid dressage foundation for a horse. It’s the base of everything else we do. And so Cally and I have at least one day a week focused on flatwork/dressage, and continue to do Dressage shows, even though I know she doesn’t love it. But she does LOVE jumping. You can feel her light up, and it is a wonderful feeling to be sitting on a horse that is happy and loving her job.
As we were warming up today, working on bend and straightness and moving forward into our outside rein, I could feel Cally watching Holly set fences. And I could feel her listening, but with the awareness that she was being good because she knew jumping was coming. We alternated a few 20 meter canter circles of counterbend/correct bend, than took a walk break where Holly screamed over the howling wind and I did my best to hear her plan for our lesson. We were to start by trotting into a little 3 stride line, vertical to oxer, and get a 4. Once we did it a few times, and she was getting it and being good, I was to keep going around to a big single oxer on the long side.
Naturally, the first time, I didn’t make enough of a decision, and we ended up with a really long 3 in the line, so I came back around, actually half-halted landing after the first fence, and got the 4. One more time with that, and I felt like she was listening well enough on landing that we proceeded around to the bigger oxer.
It felt totally perfect and amazing and I could feel Cally lighting up underneath me–not only were we doing jumping exercises, we were jumping real things, that she really had to jump. We did it one more time, cantering into the line and doing it in a real steady 3, and it felt amazing.
Then it was time to put a little course together. Which was pretty straightforward given that we’ve only got 4 jumps in the ring (the rest were going to come out this week, but then they started forcasting some kind of terrible mix of rain/sleet/snow this weekend), but to get the feel, Holly had us do a figure-8, so we had to get lead changes and turns, pretty close to the essence of a basic hunter course. And despite not having jumped a course since MAEF in November, Cally totally nailed it. (Maybe because I was using the MAEF saddle pad we won!)
It’s good when your trainer claps afterwards, right?
I was super happy and would have totally ended on that, since I managed to go around and not mess anything up too badly. But that ride is what I want my body/brain to remember and do every time we go in the ring. And since we’re going in the ring to jump at a show for the first time this year, tomorrow, that was important to reinforce.
The lesson seemed to be sinking in, since despite the fact that I could barely hear Holly over the howling wind, we managed to jump around like a competent pair with only a few chips, but those were polite, and more like finding the deep spot. It felt amazing, and I really really concentrated on setting us up well to the fence, then letting her alone in that last two strides to the fence, and again on the first two strides landing. And she went fabulously.
Originally, I’d entered us in the Low Adult Medal and Low Adult Hunters for tomorrow. However, given the weather forecast, I’m rethinking that and probably going to go try our luck in the 2’6 jumper divisions, since they offer both a regular 2’6 and a 2’6 OTTB division. That should get us out of there earlier, hopefully before it gets too rainy. Not that I haven’t packed up an old (brown!) coat and my least-fancy pair of show breeches, just in case we get soaked anyway. I guess we’ll see how it plays out when I get there in the morning, and what the sky is looking like. Fingers crossed!