… many, many people, animals, and opportunities that have bolstered me up throughout the year. And also, I am thankful that my pony doesn’t eat standing bandages. See below–those are standing wraps, the day after. They basically look almost how they looked when I wrapped him the previous afternoon, except with more shavings. Eli may be a destroyer of blankets, but he can wear wraps and not bother to mess with them at all. It gives me hope that I may one day be able to actually wrap him entirely in bubble wrap. I am in the process of catching up on blog reading. Reading about everyone’s Thanksgivings has been so inspirational! So just because I’m not liking and commenting just yet doesn’t mean I’m not reading!
I managed to get a lesson in on Saturday morning before wind started gusting steadily and blowing over the jumps. Eli and I worked through a very tough exercise that looks deceptively simple, but the pay off was basically one of our best courses, as far as Eli staying focused and getting to all good distances. The exercise is this:
Trot in, snug 2-stride to a forward 2-stride (forward for trotting in the first element). This exercise was designed with Eli specifically in mind, with the jumps at about 2′ to 2’3″. The distances would have to be adjusted depending on the horse, and if adjusted improperly I think this could be a confidence-killer, so make sure you have a ground person helping you if you want to try it! I also would not put the jumps up with this exercise, because it is more for pace and adjustability–even poles on the ground would work really well, I think. But for him and his typical stride, the exercise was designed to get him to move immediately off my leg upon landing into the second 2-stride to get out of the exercise. And also to get me to use my leg immediately upon landing to get out of the exercise. To do it somewhat easily, aiming it up properly is key. I tried to trot in, aimed up to jump the right side of the first vertical to get to the right side of the second vertical.
The exercise was definitely tough. My trainer had a lot of feedback for me about aiming up correctly and really keeping my leg closed through the air and on landing, coming to the last element. The first time through, I didn’t aim up well at all, bowed way out, and got 3 tiny strides. The second time, I aimed up much better, and while Eli had to reach a bit in the second 2-stride, we got out smoothly. The third time, Eli’s focus was off, and we had 2.5 strides of pure crap in the second 2-stride. My trainer took this as an opportunity to reiterate to me about not being a passenger and getting Eli to focus consistently means RIDING, not just sitting. The last few times through, we got right through it, with Eli going very nicely forward out of the exercise.
It paid off! We did one course, and Eli was so good that my trainer and I decided we accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and he could end on that. The course:
Fence 1 to 2 was an easy 4-stride, and the jumps were set at about 2’9″. Eli was very forward through that line. Jump 3 was a rampy 3′ oxer that we got to on a very nice distance. I went between 6b and 6c to go around to 4, a 2’9″ vertical, then to a large, spooky, airy oxer, fence 5, probably 3’3″ (or 4’6″ as it looked so ginormous to me!). Between 4 and 5, I could hear my trainer say “stay on it!” so I closed my leg lightly to keep the impulsion and forced myself to keep my hands still and we hit a beautiful distance. Getting Eli to trot after it felt a little rough, of course, after the forward momentum coming off of the oxer, but he consented and we finished through the exercise easily. My trainer said trotting in the middle of a course would be a good exercise for Eli to do, if we wanted to do something similar on our own, even if over just cavaletti. I am getting very excited about how adjustable he is getting–this horse used to melt down if I picked up the reins at all or closed my leg at all, so this is major progress! Now I just need to set up the mirror image of the exercise and course for the left lead instead of the right.