Today was the first lesson of the three-day jumping class I signed up for a few months ago. Before going, I was mostly feeling like staying at home, partly because I feel stressed this week (since I am trying to decide whether or not we’re going to Sundsvall for 2+ weeks on Saturday) and partly because the weather took a turn for the worse today. However, since I was supposed to get Murphy (barring any of those accidents he loves to have as soon as the summer holidays start ;P), I dragged myself off to the stables. Fortunately, all was well with Murphy, and I had indeed been put on him for the lesson.
We started by dragging in the materials needed for the small course into the arena, and then we went back up to the stables to get the horses ready. While we led them down, the horses already out in the field got very talkative, and from Murphy’s reaction it looked as if he would have liked to join them right off. He neighed both loud and long after them, and tried to walk off with me towards the field instead of the arena. He does love being outdoors, even when the rain is pouring down.
Still, he wasn’t entirely unwilling to work. In fact, he was pretty nicely forward, and I was able to get him pretty responsive for my aids during the warm-up. He did feel a little hard in the mouth, however, and without the usual help rein (we don’t use it when jumping) his head did come up a little too often. But overall he went okay. The first bits of jumping went decently too, though jumping at a trot is something I tend to find quite difficulty. In particular, it makes it more difficult for me to wait for the horse to jump. Still, the result was passable.
Once we started adding cantering, the actual jumping was a bit easier, though the rest of the exercise was not precisely designed to Murphy’s strengths. We jumped on a serpentine path with three curves, with an obstacle set at each point where we crossed the middle of the arena. We approached at a gallop, but then we were supposed to trot for a few steps through each curve following an obstacle, before going back to a canter. Getting Murphy to go from canter to trot fairly quickly is pretty doable, but the reverse? Not so easy, at least not without lots of work to make him ‘trigger’ faster.
I had worked a bit on this during the warm-up, but his canter does need special attention, so overall this didn’t work so well. The main problem was that if I tried to stay calm, I reacted too slowly, and if I tried to be quicker, I got stressed and started pushing him onwards with my upper body. I did, however, do fairly well on paying attention to my approach to each fence, and to actually getting him properly curved along the curved paths. Save for when he tried to angle for a horse parked in a corner to beat it up between obstacles, of course, and on the whole it was anything but stylish. Decisive, though, and that’s decent.
The final exercise we did involved a little course that included the serpentine and a few other somewhat trickily placed obstacles. This time, I got him geared up a bit more, and told him even a little more firmly that he was to concentrate on me and the jumping and not the other horses. The concentration bit worked well, but I think he got a little too geared up, because he took off surprisingly early on every single obstacle. That’s very unusual for him, and it really didn’t make it easy for me to make sure I kept still and didn’t try to jump off ahead of him. For the last obstacle, which was a bit wider than the others, I ended up jumping way early. He jumped a moment later, and since that was pretty early too, he made it a nice, big jump.
The end result? I had keep my balance in a forward jumping position for a good deal longer than expected, to make sure I didn’t move back before he had landed fully, which would have tugged on his mouth. Fortunately, this seems to be something of a speciality of mine. I guess because I have gotten used to not timing my jump perfectly with the horse’s, so I am subconsciously prepared to end up hanging there for a good long while. I’ve also got it deeply ingrained to avoid tugging on a horse’s mouth at all costs. Of course, if a horse still hesitated, I’d likely go flying over its head, seeing how forward I get. Though, I tend to manage fairly well to keep from shifting my weight too much onto the horse’s front end. Murphy’s pretty low in front, though, so I did feel my heels coming up at the end of this jump.
After the lesson, we brushed them down fairly quickly, and then helped our instructor put them out in the field with the others. Murphy, who normally doesn’t mind standing around and waiting for a good long while, was very eager to go out (even though it was pouring down!) and seemed quite prepared to drag me along to get there as fast as possible. Hopefully, he won’t be up to any mischief in the field so that I can ride him tomorrow again. I am hoping for more of the same kind of exercises, but perhaps with more of a chance to get Murphy sharpened up and alert before we start jumping.