March 15, 2021

Amateur Hour and Rocking Chair Equitation

Last weekend, Mary and I finally pulled together an "Amateur Hour" on Saturday, in which we did a group jump lesson taught by Mary (free and with no remunerations exchanged of course) and then we all hung out for wine, fresh bread and a charcuterie board from the local butcher shop.

Hangin'  in the the barn's office

Mary took her job very seriously, and she's a darn good eq teacher. She started us off with a really cool unmounted exercise, in which she had us stand on a rocking chair to get a feel for why the motion of the horse leads weenie ammies like us to do many of the common jumping position faults. She said a lot of problems occur because horse and rider are moving in a static pace together on the approach, but then the horse has to accelerate over the fence (not in terms of speeding up to the jump, but the takeoff power required to get over the fence), which the weenie ammie's position is not ready to absorb.

First she had us stand on the rocking chair in a good jump position, and feel how the motion of the chair rocking underneath us mimicked the horse's head, neck and shoulders launching forward into the jump from the takeoff position. It really did! For the rest of this, imagine the horse's head, neck and shoulders is the chair's back, and the tail is toward the mounting block.

My barnmate A here has never really jumped before, for the record.

Next she had us do it "wrong". First up, jumping ahead. She had us straighten our legs and put our hands forward as we rocked the chair back and forth a bit. As an expert jumping ahead'er, I was kind of shocked by just how much this position felt like what it really feels like in the saddle. My weight immediately went onto my toes, and my center of gravity got pitched forward over the " horse's neck".

Jumping ahead

Next, getting left behind and catching the horse in the mouth. For this one she had us straighten our legs and put our hips forward until we felt our center of gravity move. Your hands couldn't not move backwards in this position when the horse's neck went up. It was pretty eye opening how interconnected all of these faults are.

Getting left behind and catching your horse in the mouth

Finally, she talked about how the movement of your hips closing to absorb the motion properly over the fence feels like a backward jump squat on the ground: solid position, lots of energy propelling the hips backward, but with enough control to land in a good solid energy-absorbing position on the other side. So we jumped off of the rocking chair backwards, and then immediately upon hitting the ground did a second backwards jump squat.

After that, she built up an exercise that eventually at the end became placing pole, crossrail, one stride, crossrail, one stride, vertical, placing pole. She jacked up my stirrups to hole 12 (I do Dressage at 3, jumping flatwork at 5, and the highest I had ever gone before was 11 on XC back in the day) and had me do a bunch of times through the exercise going into it in my jumping position with my hands "touching Connor's ears" to encourage my hips to go back. 

Started out a little rough, but look at my hips going back! If you want to know what my normal jumping position is like, it's that picture of me on Flounder I posted a week or so ago. Standing up in the stirrups and neutralizing all my shock absorbers for no reason.

This is the first time anyone has REALLY worked with me on eq. I've gotten a lot of functional position lessons in the past, but nothing that has gone into the physics of jumping like this. And part of it is that Connor is finally normal enough over fences to be a good platform for learning how to jump on.

Look at this progress!

At the end, she put the last one up to a "probably 2'3" vertical. And as I was trotting into this line, staring down the biggest fence we had jumped in quite honestly probably 5 years, I was struck by how not worried I was about it. It looked huge, but I trusted my horse, and that was a super cool feeling.

My position wasn't quite as good over these, but getting over the vertical at the end was a huge mental accomplishment.

Finally, at the end, we convinced my barnmate who has never really jumped before (and sat out the lesson doing her own thing while we jumped) to get on Connor and go through the line with poles on the ground. Connor is starting to earn a status as everyone's lesson pony at my barn after he taught a barnmate about connection two weeks ago and then this barnmate about jumping last weekend. Makes my heart happy <3

Lesson pony extraordinaire, taking care of everyone


  1. I love his ears in the last clip with your barnmate, checking on her as he goes over the poles. Yay, Connor!

    1. Awww I hadn't noticed that but you're so right. He does that when the baby is on his back too, like he's constantly thinking "You good back there? Anything I can do to make your flight smoother?"

  2. This sounds like so much fun! I love the rocking chair concept, I've never seen that!

  3. I haven't seen the rocking chair concept before either. Fascinating! It sounds like you're having fun while fostering a great community in your barn. And it's wonderful to see how seriously Connor takes his job as a teacher.

  4. Your position looks great through the grid!! Love the rocking chair idea too.

  5. I would probably fall off the rocking chair - also when I come visit can we do charcuterie board at your barn? lol my mouth is watering

    1. There is nothing my husband loves more than to make up fancy charcuterie boards (although this one was from the butcher shop) so absolutely! Fun fact, you would be just the non-local blogger ever to come visit us if you came, nobody has any reasons to visit Indiana ever, womp womp lol.