So I’ve now had my first two official jump schools with my new horse Justinian. And I’ve already learned quite a bit about how I need to approach riding him and what issues we will need to work through.
The first day we did some grid work, and he was a star and a blast to ride through the grid: it’s all old hat to him. He does tend to drift left a bit, more so in between the fences that in the air; something I’ll need to work on with a bit more supporting left leg.
I find he’s much more direct when I ride directly (go figure, eh?). Looking up, riding forward and creating that elusive funnel of energy with my legs and seat seems to be the best way to accomplish the straight-as-an-arrow trajectory I’m looking for. After the grid work, my coaches tacked on a few singles, mostly to test my eye, I think. He jumped out of every distance really well.
I have never had a horse before that came to me with this much knowledge, and it’s been a bit of a culture shock: I’ve discovered I’ve kind of hidden behind my greener past horses in that, schooling them, I’ve never really had to push myself tremendously. I was always jumping below a height that triggered any nerves in me. My working student stint in Argentina definitely helped to remedy that situation a bit: my boundaries were being challenged on a regular basis down there, and I like to think that I came back with a bit of a stronger sense of where I stand as a rider, and not just where my current young horse stands in his training. And that was really valuable for me!
Buuuut it also revealed a few things that I may have preferred to keep unbeknownst to myself. For instance, I have (and always have had) a terrible tendency to let certain aspects of my position slowly degrade over time, unless I’m being constantly hounded about them by a coach (or by myself, after watching any video which might be taken…). The big one is a weak leg position, especially when I’m riding a horse that needs to be urged forward a bit more than ideal. I managed to mask this flaw quite efficiently while riding my naturally forward-going Thoroughbred, Haajes, but it’s flaring up again on Justinian, who has an engine but needs that engine to be accessed. Accordingly, there is some short-stirrup and no-stirrup work in my future, because letting my leg swing back and constantly nudge at Justinian’s sides isn’t just unproductive, it’s counter-productive!
As a general rule, though, I really enjoyed the jump schools – especially the course work that we tackled this past week. Once I find and unlock a rhythm, riding Justinian’s jump is easy and thrilling. Niggling issues like a left drift and a tendency to get “stuck” in corners I will need to work on, slowly and consistently, on the flat. And between these flat sessions I’m trying to make time to schedule in some exploratory jaunts around the neighbourhood, letting my horse see his surroundings and snort a little at some of the sights. Not that there’s much to see out on the bald Manitoba prairie beyond a sea of rustling crops… it’s about as under-stimulating as the outdoors can get! Still, though, the excursions help to clear both of our minds, and since summer here is so fleeting, I’m going to try and absorb as much as I possibly can.
Hopefully when I check in next time, I’ll have some further progress to share! Until then – hasta luego, y buena suerte con tus caballos. 🙂
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