Thankfully, horses are not math problems. Unearthing a pattern of behavior in a horse is not so precise as a math problem, and there is no one final answer. That would be tedious and boring. But over the course of the last few weeks, and last few lessons, I have realized something about Eli that, hindsight 20-20, was probably kind of obvious. That is this: jumping him once a week is not enough. Physically, it probably is, and we’ve both got our conditioning back (for the most part on my end; Eli is totally swole). But mentally? If Eli goes 5, 6 days without jumping, he becomes a bit of a handful over fences. He wants to play a little too exuberantly for my tastes after every fence. I did get video from our lesson, just a short clip, and he’s not playing too hard, but he is also not paying that much attention to me. This is the instance where we almost ate it in the combination because he wanted to do two strides in a short three. No.
I can even provide a little more play-by-play. The video is not the whole course, but we come off the white single through a right-hand turn to the Swedish. No problems there. Eli plays just a smidge after the Swedish, but nothing bad. As we come through the corner, he is speeding up and I am trying to slow him down. The distance is fine but we touch a rail at the vertical–I think Eli was simply late with his left front. But then he gets all pissed off because he hit the jump and proceeds to play and accelerate through my hands coming to the combination. Hence the scramble out. You can see me physically trying to reel him in the get the three.
That was the worst of it for that lesson. Overall, I’m still pretty happy with his performance. Our lesson this Saturday, he was REALLY interested in playing and running through my hand, so we had that to work on through the whole lesson. He also wanted to drift right and add a step regardless of my right leg, so I had to get a spur. He stopped drifting with the spur, but expressed some pretty strong opinions about that. Thankfully the combination was opened up a little so we didn’t have a repeat of the 2 strides and a scramble. I did have trouble lining it up through the turn and that took some time for my trainer to fix. Fix meaning fix me, not Eli. Like, learn to steer, cookie lady.
Sunday was my epiphany. Eli was quiet, broke, simple, steerable, and jumping well. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing with him on Sunday after Saturday’s frustrating but still productive lesson, and the only tack I had on him was the saddle and his hunter bridle, no running, and I did wear a nubby little spur. The jumps were about 2’9″ and Eli was flatting nicely, so I decided to jump a few short courses of singles and easy turns. Too bad I didn’t get this on video. Eli was doing his best derby horse impression–no sass, jumping well, turning easily, landing on the leads I asked for, simple distances … So my realization is this. He needs to jump during the week BEFORE our regular Saturday lesson so we can have a more productive lesson. I don’t think he needs to jump a lot, or at the height we jump in lessons, but he needs to go through a few courses to iron out our disagreements about steering, playfulness, drifting, and what not. In short, make him rideable. Flat work is not enough for his mental development.
In addition to Eli being basically perfect on Sunday, I rode a friend’s horse at her place and I want to steal him. He’s so pleasant and has floaty gaits, and nice instinct over a crossrail. So Stacy if you are reading this, yes I am plotting to take your pony.
My barn is having a very small playday type of mini show soon. I’m planning on doing the gambler’s choice, but I am kinda toying with the idea of the derby, too. I guess it depends which Eli shows up.
My schooling tall boot search is still ongoing, due to my incredibly scrawny calf measurement of 12 1/2″ in jeans. Definitely not looking to go custom with these, and I do prefer the brown, so right now it’s looking like the Ariat x-slim with my shoe size is the closest fit.
A few things upcoming — I’ve got two custom bonnets on the way, should be here this week! And my new take-everything-to-the-barn-in-one-bag bag should be here, too. I might review it. It’s not specifically an equestrian bag, but I kind of like the idea of doing a series of reviews of things that aren’t specifically for horse people but that fit in the horse world all the same, something like a horse-friendly but non-equestrian brands series.