The different skills horse and rider can develop through the use of grids are numerous and invaluable, at least for me and Eli. So we lesson through grids every few weeks, and Saturday we took another lesson through a grid.
The thing I work on most going through grids is keeping my body BACK. I get to practice NOT chucking my shoulders at Eli’s neck. For Eli, I think grids help him to figure out how to let the jumps back him off a little. I love his enthusiasm for jumping, but we have an issue of cantering right past the distance to a jump fairly frequently, and a grid prevents that to a certain extent (or you crash through an element).
We start small and build up in height, which increases difficulty. Jamming a horse down a grid already set to the maximum height you jump is unfair and disrupts the learning process. I’m not into tricking horses into doing things, and I’d rather make the learning process as easy for them as possible, so they get confident instead of apprehensive. Trust me, even with the jumps low, the first time cantering up to the grid Eli did a double-take anyway–we got through it, but I think I’ll save that video for a “failfriday” post, because honestly it’s kind of hilarious. Thankfully, he may be a bit drifty sometimes but he’s a quick learner and while we had issues to work on every other time through, we could get through it without any more double-takes.
The bounce element of the grid is what tripped Eli up the first time through, but he figured that out quickly, and I could work on letting him jump up to me and also we both could work on the right drift. Part of that drift is where my eye naturally goes–to the right no matter what lead I’m on or where I’m turning next. So I tried to focus toward the left of the jumps instead of the right.
It is really hard to focus left when you know you are going to turn right afterward because of the orientation of the grid in relation to the arena boundaries.
Sometimes, you get a bad distance. Close your leg really hard if that happens and hope you are on an athletic horse. It won’t look as scary as it feels. Maybe.
Then your horse can trust your leg again!
We added a guide pole on the ground to help with the right drift.
Another important part of grid work is knowing when to stop. The last time through, Eli was listening really well, letting the jump come up to him instead of taking a bit of a bid at it, jumped softly, and landed quietly. Especially with thoroughbreds they will just keep going even if they are tired. I could tell we had reached Eli’s optimum physical jump the second to last time through, and by last time through his brain was right where it needed to be. He even got to the middle of all the fences. Going any further would be counter-productive.
I hopped off immediately and hand walked him out. We are prepared for the show coming up this weekend, as long as I can ride him this week and he can get his turnout time. Once again, the forecast has rain in it.