January 11, 2013

Lots of Jumping and Introducing the Rein-Back

As I was untacking Connor in is stall last night, my trainer was chatting with another boarder and checking Facebook.  She walked over to Connor and showed him this photo:

"This is you!" she said.  He sniffed the phone in response, trying to figure out if it was a treat.  I looked over and said, "Plus a few hands and several years!"  She laughed and said, "We do have a lot of work to do, but he is coming along nicely.  The fences will start to look smaller for both of you very soon."

After months and months of Dressage, we have finally gotten Connor's fundamentals to a point that she is ready to start some serious jumping training.  Last night's lesson was Dressage for the first half, but it was Dressage as a means to the end of getting him on my aids for a jump school.  She had me introduce the rein-back last night, now that he has an established forward.  We would back three steps, then walk, trot or even canter off.  Since he's so sharp to the canter aid right now and has decided that cantering is easier than using himself in the trot, he regularly tries to canter off in this beautiful contained canter when I ask for the trot.  It kills me to bring him down, but I have to, and then re-ask for the trot with the same aid as the time before, to teach him that cantering is not the appropriate response to that aid, but trot is.

The rein-back really served to lighten him in my hands in all three gaits.  That, plus turns on the forehand in both directions before approaching a line really gave me an engaged and forward, yet contained, pony.  The line of fences was small, and morphed from four cavaletti at first to ground line > small X > raised ground line > slightly larger X by the end.  She wanted me to feel what a good approach felt like for him.  It feels electric, and contained, and I absolutely have to remember to shorten my reins and raise my hands over where they would be for Dressage.  That's hard for me, but when I remembered, we flowed through that line like water.

After my bareback ride on Sunday, I realized that I am reverting back to pinching with my knees and bracing for downward transitions.  I self-corrected this throughout the night, and when I remembered, my trainer always complimented me on "keeping my leg underneath me".  So there is a balance and position correlation there, as well as a correlation to how well he raises his back and steps underneath himself for downward transitions when I remember not to brace.

I am almost disappointed that, with the Dressage show next weekend, we will certainly put jumping to the side for my next lesson, but I am ecstatic with how he felt tonight and the jumping we'll do over the next few months.