Bonus Lesson: Big Jumps and Schooling Ditches

I asked for an extra lesson this week, since we hadn't jumped BN height in so long, I couldn't remember what it felt like.

Also, Yak shaving Welsh Cob mane pulling.

He plays with his tongue when he gets bored.

A strange animal.

 I expected to be afraid, and I wasn't, and I expected not to have an eye for the bigger fences, but I did.  The biggest takeaway from the arena work is that my job is to ride his hind legs to the fence.  I should feel him push forward into the bridle from the hind end when I put my leg on, ears up.  If I don't, there's no connection.  The one fence we took with no connection, he had a rail at.  (Also, ride the placing pole and not the jump behind it, but that's beside the point, sort of.)

The fences we jumped yesterday were much bigger than we've jumped recently, and a lessoner commented that they may have even been bigger than BN's 2'7.  They did look really big.  "I don't know," I said, "I never ask or measure as a general rule.  I don't want to know the numbers, just how they feel."

After that, we walked out into the field where she had laid out some lumber in the shallow depression that our ditch is built into, just in case #7 ends up being a ditch instead of a drop:

Up for debate.  Pretty sure it's a drop, but we wanted to be prepared one way or another anyway.

On the far left was a single piece of lumber, in the middle was two bigger pieces a foot apart from each other, with a diagonal piece over them, much like our real ditch is built but without the actual ditch.  The ditch itself was on the far right.  Baby ditch training!

This was a big learning moment for both of us.  He was NOT going to go over that single piece of lumber, so help him.  I learned:

- Not to commit with my shoulders
- That the best way to approach things like that with Connor is in the Dressagiest sitting trot I can muster, giving him a moderately long rein so he can look at it, but not so much that he puts his head all the way down.  We need more impulsion than a walk, but that slow level of speed and high level of control that I can get in the sitting trot.
- That I need to approach the fence squeezing him like a tube of toothpaste, and EQUALLY on both sides.  If I do that, he goes over it and straight.  After he'd done the middle one quietly a few times, he took a flyer out of nowhere and I let my guard down, and almost came off when he darted left on the other side.

"You cannot get complacent on this type of thing!" my trainer said.  "He'll do strange things out of nowhere, I know that [referring to her experience on him in the XC clinic in March].  You have to anticipate that.  Leg on him, shoulders back."

We didn't do the ditch (I wasn't wearing my vest and didn't feel comfortable - last weekend was on my mind), but I feel confident that I know better how to present him to both the ditch and the drop now.

13 comments:

  1. Good lesson! I find too with fences that they are uncertain about, to really focus on that connection and be supportive with your whole body! You guys will rock your first BN!

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  2. I am curious to see what that obstacle ends up being. In Appendix 1 of the USEA rules, BN XC obstacles "The cross-country should include a variety of introductory obstacles, including a bank-up, a shallow natural ditch, an inviting water crossing and a brush

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    1. I didn't think to check the rulebook, that is interesting. Maybe #7 will have an option? They have a 1* at this event, I would assume it would follow the rules more closely than anything I've done before. The photo of that jump is so confusing, I just can't tell what it is. Sometimes it looks like just a log laying on the ground to me.

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  3. Doesn't mention a down bank but I wonder how strictly they follow the rules?

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  4. He's a lean mean eventing machine!

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    1. Getting there! I have a ton of Chicago area relatives coming to watch this weekend, I hope my green-over-BN pony doesn't scare the crap out of them!

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  5. I'll be surprised if there is a down bank on a BN course. It will be interesting to hear about. Either way I'm sure you guys are going to do great!

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    1. I'm curious now too, after Heidi's comment. I find out this afternoon!

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  6. I have to tell you that Rory does that tongue playing stuff too! Sometimes out of boredom- but sometimes when he is not in the mood to work and then I know I'm in trouble....:)

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    1. Haha! That's awesome. Runs in the family. :) Connor only does it when he's starting to get bored at the end of like, mane pulling or tail shampooing.

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