Hippoi Athanatoi

Jumping Ahead

Today’s lesson was to be a jumping lesson, and I hoped that this would ensure that I would be put on Murphy, as he is usually used for jumping lessons (a few of the other horses, such as Malupin and Sammy, aren’t used due to old injuries). Much to my delight, I was right.

His relatively good mood when being curried and tacked up was still intact, save for when I got close to his right foreleg. From time to time, he is very peculiar about his right side, and this was one of those days. I keep wondering if maybe he has something there that hurts him, or if his eyesight is a bit bad on that side, but they’ve not found anything when he’s been checked up. Could be that he’s been scared by someone in that position in the past, I guess. Either way, it wasn’t too bad, just a bit of teeth showing. He also decided to be a pig-headed pony about letting me mount up; he’s clearly picked up a few new bad habits from doing mostly children’s lessons. Fortunately, he does give up pretty quickly when you let him know you’re not a nervous nine-year-old.

The exercise for the day turned out to be a rather basic combination of three low obstacles down one of the long sides of the arena. We started by simply walking over them, then moved to carefully nudging the horses into a trot, first between obstacle two and three, then between obstacle one and two. The aim was for us to do as little as possible, to let the horses figure out how to handle things. As usual, Murphy started out barely lifting his hooves—he never puts in any effort when he doesn’t have to—but once we started trotting more it turned into his idea of fun. In fact, I soon had to check him just a little, to keep him from moving into a trot, and later into a canter, at too early a point.

Most of the time, however, my instructor was very happy with my performance. She was particularly pleased that I seemed to have gotten the idea of how to jump him more passively, and wondered if I had spent much time thinking about it during the summer. Which I had, although I must admit that to some degree its due to Murphy being much more forward now than he was last semester, yet not so forward that I start checking him too much. In short, I know he’ll keep a good pace, but not rush ahead, so I can confidently allow him to handle the obstacles anyway he wants to handle them. All I need to do is to set him on the right course, keep him moving straight ahead and give him plenty of rein while keeping pretty much still in a light, balanced seat. With another horse, I suspect I’d fall back to doing too much again, but if I keep getting Murphy for the jumping lessons for a while longer I imagine this approach to jumping will become more second nature, even if I then ride someone else.

Of course, I would not mind being stuck on Murphy for a few years, either. He fits me perfectly.

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