Well, it’s safe to say that winter definitely feels like it’s arrived. I always forget how long it takes to defrost a car windscreen, and I’m not looking forward to defrosting the lorry before our next outing. All has been quiet on the show front for Mary and I, as we have moved yards as I have started a new job! I have been very lucky to land a grooming and riding position for a very well-known showjumping family, and I can’t wait to see what they think of Mary. I feel like we’re finally in a position to start asking her some more technical questions and to maybe start thinking about changing her way of going, so I can actually put the correct number of strides in a distance for a change!
The main focus of our current training is to try and slow down the canter without losing any power or engagement, which is blooming difficult on a horse that likes to canter like a runaway freight train! We’ve all seen the exercise where you put two poles in the school and then change the number of strides you put between them each time, and whilst I’m sure it is a super exercise for some horses, for Mary it just doesn’t seem to click with her. Chances are that I’m not riding it as I should and that’s why it’s not working, but either way, I don’t find it actually teaches the horses anything particularly clearly. An exercise I’m really enjoying at the moment are the humble canter poles. If I’m feeling particularly adventurous and brave, I’ll set them quite short to really encourage me to collect the canter properly, and seeing as I really hate climbing on and off horses to rearrange kicked poles, the quicker I get it right the less faffing around I have to do!
Another exercise that I’ve been given to do is to set up two high sided cross poles at four strides apart. This would normally work out at 20 human paces, but I’ve reduced it to 18 paces just to try and encourage the steadier canter. You simply jump the first cross pole, then circle. Jump the first cross pole, then circle the other way. You repeat this until the horse is popping into the distance quietly and doesn’t land and take a hold towards the second jump. This can take several attempts, but it’s important not to rush down the distance and undo all of your work. When you do ask your horse to continue down the distance, the four strides should come up level and easy rather than feeling like you’re about to get launched into orbit!
In between working hard on Mary, I’ve been seriously lucky to have been given the chance to ride some unbelievably smart horses. It’s such a privilege to ride horses that can teach you things as well as being able to help improve them.
Here’s a random fact about me - I have a phobia of being on the receiving end of a leg up, and I know exactly why this is. In a previous job, I have been launched onto a newly backed three year old that then proceeded to bronk around the arena until it managed to eject me. When I was told today that I was riding the only horse on the yard that required a leg up to get on, I literally got sweaty palms. It’s ridiculous!
Spoiler alert, but I am here writing this blog after receiving said leg up, and no one died. Success! I’d love to know if anyone else has any stupid or random phobias, purely just to make myself feel better really…!
Until next time…