Hippoi Athanatoi

More Jumping, Some Improvements

This week I came the stables to find out we had lost one horse and (possibly) gained another. Sadly, the one lost was Malupin, a very charming little horse I’ve ridden quite a bit. Since he came to the riding school some years ago, he’s spent half or more of his time there injured, usually due to some accident caused by him acting like a bit of a clown. He never really seemed to grow up, and was constantly coming up with new antics to pass his time. I am not sure what happened this time around, but if I were to guess I’d suspect it was related to the serious injury to one of his hindlegs (a fracture even, I think) that kept him out of commission for over a year a while back. He’ll be missed, and he was very popular even though the riding school had been hoping to sell him since he was too small to carry most adults and too lively for most children.

The new arrival, still just there for a trial period, was Nelson, a sturdy fellow an inch or two shorter than Murphy. So, he’s just on the right side of the pony-horse limit. He’s also the whitest horse I’ve ever seen in person. Pretty much not a coloured hair on him, and lots of pink around his nose and his eyes. I am hoping he’ll turn out well so that they keep him and so that he’s interesting to ride, as he would almost certainly take my weight. As I noted last week I could really use another horse that I can ride.

This week, though, I was on Murphy again, for a second jumping lesson in a row. As we had decided last week, we continued on with a similar exercise. This meant a lot of focus on getting the right canter after an obstacle and getting the horse to be co-operative through tight turns at awkward angles and positions, such as away from the wall when the horse is expecting to go towards the wall. The latter Murphy does okay once you’ve reminded him that you’re not a beginner who will allow him to trail after the horse in front at all times. The former ... well, I went over that in last week’s post. Suffice to say, he’s not too good at it, and neither am I.

I did, however, manage to remind myself to ride more decisively from the get-go this time. That was fortunate, as Murphy was rather less forward today, which resulted in a so-so warm-up at the trot despite my efforts. At least, that is, until my instructor spotted that I wasn’t getting my knees and heels down enough. I adjusted my stirrups some (one had been a little longer), and managed to get a longer leg that supported me better and allowed me to have a more relaxed position. This made quite a difference once we started cantering, and today I got Murphy to respond quite quickly to my canter aids already from the start. He was also galloping on at quite a good pace, without feeling as if he’d lose it at any moment. So that was definitely an improvement.

The jumping, however, was fairly weak to start with. I am not good at keeping track of left and right even on the ground, and now that I had to think about landing on a left leading leg after the first obstacle and then on a right leading leg after the second, I ended up thinking far too much. It had worked okay last week, and I suppose the first two rounds with just two jumps each, were passable, but no more. I got the wrong leading leg most of the time (except when I managed to take my instructor’s advice of not thinking too hard about it), and the only real improvement was that I got him to correct it more quickly this week than last.

But the really awkward round was the first we did with four jumps. Courses, even small ones, immediately get my stress level up a notch. My mind races ahead to the last obstacle, and everything leading up to there becomes something to just rush past on the way to the finish. As a result, the first round ended a text-book example of trying too hard and thinking too much. I got the wrong canter after every obstacle, and I ended up using my upper body to rush him on even though I already had him galloping a bit too fast.

For the next and final round, my instructor once again reminded me to not stress about getting the canter right and to avoid rushing myself and Murphy through the course. She kept telling me these things between each obstacle, and this time it worked. I rode calmly, without over-complicating matters, and allowed Murphy to more or less (I did start my own jump a little early on one of the obstacles) decide on each take-off. The canter did come out wrong between the second and the third, but this time I also managed to correct it very quickly, without having to circle once before taking the third jump. This one, finally, I managed to jump without getting rushed, and I kept cool towards and over the last one too.

Now, I just need to learn how to do that without having to be reminded of it all the time. Oh, and slightly more accurate positioning of my horse would be a good idea too, as we came too much off to the side on a few of the obstacles. But that’s for next time. Too bad that its quite a while away. I could use doing this a lot more often to work it into my head that I need to be much more calm and methodical about my jumping when we’re doing courses.

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