We had another jump school on Monday — I actually have video of it, which is currently still sitting on my camera. So it goes. He was fantastic, as usual — very happy and game, feeling great. We had a fence with a flowerbox under it set on the diagonal, and the first time we came up to it he wiggled and wiggled, trying a little left, a little right, a little left — I just kept putting my leg on, saying no, really, we’re going over — and over he went. Good pony.

I’ve finally added lunging with sidereins back to our flatwork. Our lesson last week was entirely that, and I dragged them out again on Wednesday. It still takes him a while to settle down to work, but I think they’re going to be really beneficial. I rode him a bit after our lunge work on Wednesday, and he was much better in the contact. Yesterday was more flatwork, no lunging beforehand, and again it took him maybe ten or fifteen minutes to get to work, but once he did he gave me some really nice round trotting. He still haaangs on my left rein something awful, but we’re working on it. We got some nice (for him) canter departures too.

Tomorrow is the Derek clinic — I’m excited! Hopefully I’ll have video of that to share next week.


I did another jump school with His Poeness last night. We revisited the bounce idea, setting a little cross-rail to a pole, then bumping the pole up to a little vertical, then adding another vertical a stride out. We’re trying to make sure he’s seen the kinds of things he’ll encounter at the clinic in a couple weeks: poles propped at the sides of a jump as wings, flower boxes, bounces in general. Every time we got a smooth run through we’d increase the height somewhere or add a little element. We did get in really ugly to the bounce once, on a half stride, but he gamely clobbered on through. I felt bad about it but he’s packing around my ammy butt so he needs to learn how to get out of sticky situations! He ran out of the one-stride once after that, but a bit more aggressive ride got him through the next time around. Lots for him to think about and bounces are hard work!

After we’d built the last jump to an oxer and gotten through smoothly, Lennie pulled out the second element of the bounce and we reversed directions, coming over our previously last jump, then two strides to the former first element of the bounce. He was getting tired by this point, but still jumping gamely and well, and Lennie built the second element up into an oxer and whacked it up a couple times. The last time she raised it I thought briefly about asking if we shouldn’t end on our previous run through. But Lennie’s a lot wiser than I am, and I see some value in asking him to work once more when he’s a little tired (he wasn’t exhausted by any means), and so I just shut up and did it. It rode beautifully; he felt great and relaxed and smooth. After I threw him his little You’re such a good boy! party, Lennie says casually, “You do realize you just jumped 3 foot 3, right?”

I had not in fact realized anything of the sort. It certainly didn’t feel like 3’3″ — it felt like very little effort for Poe at all, and I try not to examine the heights of jumps too closely because I freak out a little if I start thinking they look too big. (Which is a bit funny because as the fences get taller I think my riding in general improves — it’s way, way harder for me to release properly over little stuff.) So I demanded Lennie grab a picture with her phone (I always leave mine in the car) for photographic proof.

Poe next to his first 3'3" jump

It’s blurry so you can’t tell, but I am wearing an absolutely enormous grin, and I’m pretty sure Poe is too. He was quite pleased with himself.

Jump night!

We finally, finally jumped again last night! The past three weeks we ran into trouble with conflicting lessons on Wednesdays. Last night we waited it out, and Lennie set up a couple fences for us. Pretty sure I’ve mentioned her previously, but it bears repeating that Lennie is awesome. She put up a single cross-rail along one quarter line, a baby baby bounce on the center line, and a triple along the other quarter line. Poe was awesome and super excited & happy to be jumping. One time we came in weird to the first element of the triple and he clobbered one of the rails, but I think that kind of thing is a good learning opportunity for a young horse, and the next time through he came down the line foot perfect. He just felt great, and I really concentrated on not unfolding too early after the fences, which went really well. Next time I want to remember my video camera! I love being able to look back on old videos to see the progress we’ve made, and relive the excellent moments.

sustained effort

Thanks to my move, Poe got a four-day mini-vacation. I have to admit last night I was hemming and hawing about going to the barn — it was cold, I was tired, I have so so so much to do at home. But habit and the thought of the jumping clinic barreling down on me had me pulling on my breeches and boots and dragging myself out for that long grey drive. I thought, too, about a nice little post I read a couple weeks ago on Retreadeventer’s blog: The Big S.E. (where S.E. is Sustained Effort). It really hit home for me; this winter has been a bit of a long, ugly grind, and more often than I’d like to admit I’ve wanted to do nothing more than crawl under my covers and hide away until the world’s green again. I’m crazy about my horse and what we do together, and I feel like this horse thing defines a big part of who I am; any feeling of I-don’t-wanna is kind of heartbreaking. I recognize I’ve entered this phase where I don’t want to do the things that are good for me. So I’m pushing through, trying to do them anyway, trusting that they will lead me back to happy.

And last night once I had Poe inside, that magic thing happened: the rest of the world went away. I reprised last Thursday’s ride: warmed him up at the usual swingy loose-reined walk, then had him trot around on a loose rein, stretching himself out. I took a little gentle contact after a few laps, letting him come into my hand as he wanted, then followed with a bunch of canter in each direction, just lapping the arena and letting him cruise, working on my own half seat. Long walk break, working on encouraging him into a soft, bending contact, then more trot work doing the same. I focused focused focused on sitting correctly and letting the tension out of my forearms in particular (terrible habit of mine; I get very tense in the forearms), and he came into a beautiful light contact and really started to step under himself. It’s still very much a work in progress; he pops in and out of the contact regularly, and still occasionally grabs the bit and twists his head around, all ugly and gnashy-teethed, but we’re making progress. We ended with a few leg yields and some ground work — I’ve been teaching him to walk correctly next to me, to stop when I stop, and to back up when I step back. He’s a good boy and is starting to get sharper with it.

I felt great about the work I got last night, and left the barn on a real high. Now I just need to figure out how to carry that feeling back into my non-horse life.

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