Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jumping on Terrain

Yesterday we put together a dressage arena back in the area next to the pond to school in today, and set up some jumps back there that we schooled over yesterday. Man, was it a lot of (icky!) work hauling the standards and jumps, completely covered in mud, goop, and spiders, into the back of mom's truck, then unloading them and carrying them around the hills until we got everything set up.

And how many jumps did we make? 4. 5, if you count the one that was a pole wedged into a small split tree, held at the other end by a human "standard". We had a combination that could be ridden either uphill or down, a jump in the woods augmented with some real logs, and a plank-jump by a large tree.

We warmed up in the field by the pond, then walked over to the jumping area. We had some barrels set up just before you crossed a small trough made by two equally small hills, and we jumped those a few times before we moved over to where the real jumps were. We started with the plank fence by the tree, which was a just a cross-rail for warm up.

Our first approach to it, Val spooked and actually ran out to the left, and I didn't do as much as I could have to stop it. I did reach back and smack him, but I didn't pull the right rein like I should have to redirect him to the right. So, I got a bit of a talking-to about not riding every fence. My trainer pointed out that since I most likely could have gotten him over it the first time, I should have, because if the same thing happens at nationals, we won't want the points that come with a run out if we can help it! On the plus side, though, I wasn't even vaguely put off balance by his refusal, which is definitely an improvement. In the past, refusals would at the very least put me very off-balance and only half-on my horse, and at the worst, I would fall. That's a good improvement, anyhow.

We approached the plank-jump again, and this time got over it, although I was a bit tight on his face because I wanted to prevent another run-out. He jumped pretty happily over it, although I didn't release the way I should have. A third attempt had him jumping it like it was no big deal, and me releasing well. It turns out that we use a crest release, which we do probably 98% of the time, the place where his mane switches from white to black is where my hands belong. How convenient!

We then jumped the second piece of the downhill as part of a circle with the plank jump going the other direction. Once we had that well, we did the downhill. We trotted it the first time, because the approach to the first part of the downhill is a pretty sharp turn, and we weren't quite as balanced as we should have been. We then tried it again at a canter, this time with instructions to go to the "natural" fence with the logs in the trees if things went well. They did, and as we approached the jump, Val hesitated and dropped to a trot, but I added leg and smacked him on the shoulder with the bat and he jumped it gamely enough. Then we were instructed to ride the natural fence the opposite way, and do the uphill combination, which we did.

After all these uphills and downhills, I was really starting to like the influence terrain had on my horse's stride. This is probably the first time I've really jumped uphill and down besides banks in our XC schooling, and it's quite a bit different. We practiced getting a good, balanced canter going downhill and keeping our impulsion going uphill, both of which were fun.

Finally, we jumped the jump in the split trees. Val had absolutely no apprehensions about it, and although we did take a few small branches with us, he jumped it well. We ended on that and went back to the barn feeling pretty good. Another of my trainer's students, an older woman who primarily does endurance, was waiting in the dressage arena for us to get done, and assumed the lead on the path to the barn, which is very long and straight. Val is always ansy about being behind other horses, so I always try to make him deal with it.

He got exceptionally displeased when Elmer began to trot, and we began leg yielding to the right and then back to the left. When he broke to a very prancy trot, my trainer told me that he could either walk, or he could piaffe back to the barn. So, although we obviously couldn't produce it under normal circumstances, we got to do a few steps of what was apparently a fairly decent piaffe as Val threw a fit that he wasn't allowed to trot after Elmer. It was a very, very cool feeling. I'd never really realized just how much they shifted their weight back to their haunches when they did a piaffe, and you could really feel that shift while Val was doing it. He finally calmed down and was allowed to walk back to the barn on a loose rain, happy as a clam.

Today we're back to dressage, and I'm going to drop my whip before going in to the arena we set up yesterday to simulate the conditions of the test on Friday. I am doing lots of mental "prep" for the AECs; every time I think about them, I try to imagine myself setting in front of the dressage arena waiting for the person before me to finish, and then I try to push away my nerves and exchange them for a very calm, sedated feeling. This year, we had a couple of dressage tests that started with us cantering center line because of my nerves, so I'm doing everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen at the AECs! I have no idea if this well help or not, but it certainly can't hurt!

Finally, Val got his tail and mane washed last night, and for the rest of the days leading up to the AECs, his legs will get washed every night to help get out any embedded stains, so that they'll shine nice and white for the competition! His tail turned out especially nice; it's even in a fairly decent braid to keep it as clean as possible until Tuesday evening when he gets his final bath.

So, the schedule until we leave:
Today- Dressage lesson. Wash white. Bring all tack home.
Monday- Val's day off. Wash white. Clean tack/boots. Wash sheet.
Tuesday- Bring tack back. Dressage lesson. Wash Val completely. Pack trailer.
Wednesday- Wrap legs. Leave! (Wash legs in morning if necessary.)

We leave early Wednesday morning. 3 days. Here we come!


  1. AECs! Awesome! Now I'll be watching you and Eventing-A-Gogo! Can't wait!

  2. Wait, is the endurance horse's name Elmer Bandit?

  3. It is indeed :) He's an incredibly cool old horse; his dressage is a lot better than you would think! His owner, Mary Anna, is a bit eccentric, but she's pretty awesome too. She takes lessons pretty regularly from my trainer.

    Unfortunately, Elmer had a really hard time making it through last winter, and no one knows if he can make it through the coming one :(

  4. Sounds like dragging all those jumps around was worth it!

    I think it sounds like you dealt with all of your (little) problems very well.

    AECs! Good luck!