Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lesson Photos: Over Fences

So much power and "potential energy" all coiled up in a thousand pounds of electric elegance, just waiting to be released, THAT is the enormous privilege handed to those lucky enough to ride horses----

For certain, there`s accompanying risk and danger, but once you get your head past that, and realize that even couch potatoes just as inevitably kick the bucket, you are ready to rock and roll.

Addictive? You got that right.
~Denny Emerson

The jumping portion of my lesson was focused mainly on helping Loki learn to better use his body to jump. When we first started jumping Loki had a tendency to want to run at the jump at full speed getting all flat and inverted in the process. We are working on getting him to slow down and start to "think" about what he is doing as well as getting him to use that powerful hind end of his. 

We started off just warming up over some cross rails. For the purpose of this lesson none of our fences were very high. I wish I could have gotten pictures of my lesson before when we were doing the gymnastic line. At the end we were jumping about 3'.
Loki is pretty much just cantering over this little cross rail and I'm slightly ahead. I don't know why but I actually find it harder to wait for these little jumps than I do for the big ones. Psychological maybe?
We started adding some width and you can see that even though his front is sloppy he is really starting to stretch his whole body and neck over the jump. I like my position in this photo.
Same jump at a different angle but Loki's knees are up and square, a little loose but this is such a little jump I am hopeful he will get them tighter as the fences get bigger.

In these next few photos my trainer widened our jump and placed a pole across it to make sure Loki didn't mistake it for a bounce. I'm not sure if I've ever jumped anything quite this wide before. It was maybe only an extra 6 inches but it really freaked me out at first. As you can tell from the pictures. 
Our first time over the wider oxer and you can tell that I've sort of gone into "fetal" mode. Instead of releasing I've taken back with my hands, bringing them to my chest in sort of a fetal position. Of all my bad habits this one bothers me the most. Luckily Loki is a very good boy who can forgive my occasional bad riding.
This was actually the third time over the wider jump. The second time was about the same as the first but you can see by this time Loki had figured out that there was most definitely some scary monster hiding out under this jump. After all his rider was freezing up every time he went over. He's not stupid!!
But he went ahead and tried to jump it anyways. Notice that I'm looking at the ground and have attempted to fling my body ahead in order to jump for Loki. Bad, bad bad!
Now we're both looking at the jump of death!
At first glance this might look okay but you can see that I am still trying to cling a little to my fetal position.
And the end result is a rail. We actually brought the whole back part of the fence down.

After that my trainer "yelled" (she doesn't really yell) at me and told me to get my shiz together. She sent me to jump a couple of easy fences to get us back in the rhythm and then told me that I needed to get over this jump and I was going to need to add some serious leg to the equation to make it happen. I chanted "Be aggressive, be-ee aggressive" up to the fence, put my leg on and this happened:
When in doubt add leg! I am still riding defensively and ideally should have my center of gravity a little more forward but I am actually releasing and we got it done and did it a couple more times after this all with the same results. We ended on that note

So my takeways are:

1. When in doubt add leg!! I'm not entirely certain how to keep myself from doing the fetal impression when something scares me but I know that is not a safe reaction. I'm very grateful for a horse that seems able to handle it, though, and the more we encounter these kinds of situations and push through the more trust I gain in him. I'm not sure if that works the other way around, though!

2. My position over fences has really come a long way. My leg is no longer swinging like a rusty gate caught in a strong wind. But, I need to continue to think about letting go with my knee so I don't get that hinge action. I also need to work on staying up in the saddle longer after the fence. After all, as someone, somewhere said a dropped rail is just as expensive in the back as it is in the front.

Overall I was pretty happy. We worked through something that intimidated us and came out stronger on the other side. 

I am really stoked for next show season. If we keep this up it could turn out to be a really great one!


  1. Your leg is so solid! And I love how honest Loki is -- even when you are unsure, he still tries his very hardest!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I think Loki has really only refused once but for the most part when I say go he goes, even if he or I am unsure. He's a good boy! :)

  2. You look fabulous until that wide jump intimidated you... and it would intimidate me too! Good boy Loki.

    1. Yes, it just goes to show how integral confidence is in ability. Physically I have the ability to jump this stuff. I only really get into trouble when I let myself get unnerved. Loki is a very good boy!

  3. love the pictures! Love that you worked through something that was intimidating.. keep up the good work girl!

  4. Geez, I think we're twins, as well as our horses... I ALWAYS find it hard to wait for the little ones! (I think because if it's bigger it's like, you better sit up or DIE!). And I'm terrible at reverting back to fetal position when things go wrong! And I also need to stay over longer- I noticed in some recent video that I am kind of coming back down into the saddle way too early. While Wiz is WAY tight with his back end, I'm sure he doesn't appreciate the inadvertent jab in his mouth on landing- I don't realize I'm doing it, but I think I am... and maybe that's why he's started rushing fences?

    And our horses are twins because Wiz also has a very powerful hind-end, so he always over-compensates with his hind end and then isn't super tight with his knees. But I HAVE seen him be tight over a bigger jump, so I'm hoping he's just smart enough to know that these don't require that.

    All in all, I think you all look great :) What a good boy for jumping that third time even though I'm sure he was like "mom you've been hanging on me every time and it's no fun!" He is going to be SO lovely!

    1. Yes, the bigger ones definitely make you sit up more. No way I want to go first over THAT! lol

      That could be a reason to rush for sure, he might be expecting the jab and is trying to avoid it. I know for me that I don't do it all the time but I need to train myself to grab mane if I feel like I'm getting nervous. When I jump confidently I never hit him in the mouth. It's so hard to do anything when you are making like a fetus!!

      Loki has definitely shown to have tight knees before so I too am hoping he is just smart enough to know when to fold them tight. I think the solid fences make him tighter, too.

      And thanks! Loki is really a very good boy. He had every reason to dump me on my face that third time through and yet he still went ahead and tried for me. Makes me love him even more!

  5. Agree on the small fences, they are very hard to wait for. Great that you have all these pictures, its good to get a visualization of what you do and what you need to do, completely valuable resource.

    1. They are great tools, even the yucky ones.

  6. I don't know much about jumping but DANG I think you look really good! It's nice to see pictures of yourself to evaluate yourself :-) Sometimes when I see pictures of my riding, I think, I didn't "feel" that balanced! I must be getting better! LOL Good job!

  7. I like how he's starting to jump up through his wither in the last pic! I think he's going to be really nice as you guys continue on. :)

    Do you have a mantra or something to say to yourself on the way down to the fence that tells you what to do and counteracts the fetal position? I use "sit away from the neck," but mileage may vary!

    Totally agree re: it being hard to wait for small fences. Maybe because they don't help you fold, etc., the way that a big fence does, so you (general "you!") feel like you have to dooooooo something? Not that you need to fold over a small fence the way you do over a big one, but it's a hard conviction to shake!

    1. Well, chanting Be aggressive did really help but I try saying "S.T.A.R. sit, tall and release." When I remember to do it and don't freeze up it does help! It's the freezing up that gets me... so I also find that if I count strides it makes my brain stay with me.