Inspired by one of my favorite articles about improving a horse’s form over fences, I set up an exercise for Eli and me to work through during our Saturday lesson. While I didn’t exactly set any exercise from the article, I set up a variation tailored to the things Eli and I (meaning mostly me) need to work on. I set a cross rail, measured 30′ feet and set an oxer, and measured another 33’6″ and set another oxer.
After warming Eli up over a small, square oxer off each lead, we took the exercise. The first time through, I really abandoned Eli and wasn’t there for him with my leg, or any kind of contact really, at all. This is an ongoing struggle for me–I have been doing this kind of thing since I was a kid, just assuming that this time around we’ll just coast through a combination, when that is not at all how riding works. Fortunately Eli didn’t seem to mind and went through with a chip at the last oxer. I helped him out a lot more the next time through and we got to the other side without an issue. Like, hey, Karen, put your LEG ON. What? No way!
Once I started actually riding, we could go up in height a little, and Eli’s form really shined in this exercise. Like Mr. Pletcher says in the article, stay out of your horse’s way and let the exercise do the work for you.
We went through the grid a total of 6 times. That’s all Eli needed, if that. I could always use more practice, but not at the cost of Eli’s well-being. When he does well, he works less.
As you can see, we still have that right drift issue, although it wasn’t too bad Saturday. I was literally doing nothing to correct it, and Eli was just right of center. Had I applied my right leg better/more correctly he could have jumped the middle easily. Again, that’s a “me” issue, not a “horse” issue.
Eli’s jump sometimes feels like flying. It’s crazy to me because although I have jumped other horses at similar height, none of them had a jump quite like his. Not better or worse, just Eli’s is so different from any other I’ve experienced.
The exercise certainly kept Eli’s form tuned-up! We don’t have anything upcoming on our calendar until the spring, or maybe even summer depending on my day job. I decided to skip the final show in November because of the expense of fixing my car. We’ll spend the winter staying fit and improving flat work. OR hand walking if it rains a lot. Eli seems to be getting fluffier than usual, too, so I may be screwed as far as skipping a body clip goes.