May 22, 2015

An E-Lesson From Mary

I thought I had a lesson last night, but my trainer had canceled it months ago and I forgot - not that it mattered, since when it's this gorgeous outside, I wasn't not going to ride:

I sort of got an e-lesson from Mary, though.  She had spent the afternoon texting me from a Becky Holder clinic, which she was auditing, and we got on the subject of my stadium round from Penny Oaks, which I sent her the video of.  Below is our conversation, which since my trainer wasn't around, I was able to think about and practice what she said in a solo ride last night:

Mary : Hmmm
Mary : So what I think I see you as describing as hesitation is making me think a few things 
Mary : I really think it's his style. Not in a bad way, really. 
Mary : He's long behind the saddle 
Mary : So there is literally a pause between the time his front feet take their last step, him levitating his front end, and then pushing off behind 
Mary : It probably feels smoother when he's going faster, but that's cause it's more... Seamless?... At a higher speed?
Mary : But at a controlled jumping canter, he's gonna jump like that 
Mary : And I don't think it's poor or wrong in any way. He's actually quite a good and safe jumper 

Me: It's not that I need to work on jumping across? 
Mary : You're just gonna have to find how to meld your body to his jump style 
Mary : Well, it will help him to learn that some more. He's primarily focused on getting his forehand elevated enough to clear the fence. If he learns to jump across 
Mary : more, it means more push behind.
Mary : But his takeoff and landing gear are tied to his conformation 
Mary : His legs are short 
Mary : So he has to lift (aka pause) more than a leggier animal 
Mary : Across will teach him how to not lift (aka pause) as much, but then his knees will need to be snappier 
Mary : And more experience will teach him how much forehand elevation each type of fence needs 
Mary : Cause if he gets surprised, he's just gonna go UP to make sure he clears it 
Mary : Which probably feels like a huge pause before climbing Mount Everest... 
Mary : Fly and brush fences... 
Mary : So he realizes he doesn't have to go so high to clear it? 
Mary : I dunno. 
Mary : But a jumping from a controlled canter... He'll improve, but it looks like that's his style 
Mary : He's got short legs... His chest needs to go up more than a typical horse to clear a fence 
Me: Very very interesting. Thank you for that. I was feeling pretty discouraged even though that round represents a HUGE improvement in attitude+mechanics for him. 

Mary : You both looked really good 
Mary : You should be really pleased!
Me: Thanks. I am . XC needs work but I think its just cause we get less practice there than SJ. 
Mary : Hahaha the travails of an event rider! 
Me: That's what [trainer] has been working with him on. Keeping his chest up so his nose/forehand don't go down before the fence. 

Me: So I should ride him like I'm on a 16hh horse jumping 3'? 
Mary : Hmmm 
Me: How do kids on ponies do it? Haha. 
Mary : He isn't built like a horse, so I don't know if I'd think of it that way 
Mary : He needs to have his head up before the fence, but you keep him on a tight leash over and after, which I don't know if I'm a huge fan of 
Mary : He needs to telescope his neck so his knees can come up and can catch his balance on recovery 
Mary : Support before, freedom over and after
Mary : So his head can stay at a "relatively" even plane over the fence of the picture makes sense? 
Mary : High before the fence, low over the fence (so his back and knees come up) and level after the fence 
Me: Hm okay. Makes sense. Cathy said something similar. Should I err on the side of a loose rein? 
Mary : Bigger release 
Mary : Grab strap with colors 
Mary : Cause if his head is high over the fence, his chest will go up higher instead of his back coming up and through 
Me: Hmmm okay. My position leaves a lot to be desired. I really need to work on that.
Mary : Sure! You gotta let his head ice bucket out the front 
Mary : And not be afraid to let the bucket spill by letting go
Me: Thanks! This whole conversation helped so much. I think I'll go out to my lesson in jump tack tonight. Haha. 
Mary : :-) :-) :-)
Mary : Lemme go picture digging for an example... 
Mary: [she sent me these three pictures here:]
(This is Mary riding in September 2013)

(Me, same week)

Mary : Different fence heights, yes 
Mary : But check the correlation between rein lengths and Connors chest height 
Me: Yeah...big difference. 
Mary Bungum: Light bulb... Just think that his CHEST follows his HEAD over the jump
Mary Bungum: Up before so he doesn't have to lift as much. Down over and after so he jumps ACROSS 
Me: Okay. Hopefully I'll get to put that into practice tonight. Not sure if we're flatting or what.
Mary Bungum: Cool!!

She's brilliant, seriously!  I am grateful to have someone that technical to ask questions to.  Teaching this horse to jump and learning to improve my own jumping are two difficult things to do simultaneously.

One more gratuitous gorgeous Indiana picture:

I'll be in Florida for my trainer's wedding from today through Wednesday and then I'm flying directly to Minneapolis to help Nicole as she competes in the CrossFit Regionals.  I've got some content queued up, though, and a challenge/contest coming on Monday!  Stay tuned!


  1. People like Mary are invaluable. :-)

  2. This post made me picture a corgi jumping, which led to this image.

    You're welcome.

  3. what a great friend - and great insights too. i don't think our horses are very similar in build (my mare has a very short back) - but she's also not like the typical jumping horse that i've become familiar with and figuring out how to jump her has been tricky haha. totally worth it tho :)

  4. So. I have this problem in spades. My Cob mare feels awful to jump but will clear just about anything I have asked her to from just about any angle IF she goes forward. However, she has this massive pause then pushes up, up and away. I read a cool thing the other day. There are two types of jump biomechanics. The first is a big canter stride. The second is a true jump. The true jump has the pause in it and allows a relatively higher/bigger jump. Coupled with the cob canter I think our little guys have h to push up and over, just tricky for us to keep it together.