Small but Mighty

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While Quilla mare might be small, she sure is a fantastic jumper! I had a great lesson on her on Thursday night and still feel on top of cloud nine because of it. We didn’t do a course this week, but we hiked up the height of the single fences that we worked on to around 3′.

Q is a fairly point-and-shoot type mare, even though she was only really broke a few months ago. Apparently if you catch her in the mouth she can start to refuse, but luckily I’m pretty good at following her. So far my jumping lessons on Q have all been phenomenal and we’ve progressed pretty quickly. I think the reason for this is because I’ve been riding more fearlessly, and less defensively over the fences. I try to get the best quality and most rhythmical canter I can (because the horse can’t see directly in front of the fence, so you have a better chance of finding the right take-off spot if you have a good rhythm – the horse then knows when the fence will arrive). I also started to feel her sides more last night – before she felt too thin for me to really wrap my legs around after the chunkier mare I’ve grown accustomed to. Anyway, things went well and I think it was due to the following reasons:

  • I set up some nice lines for her (although I could have been turning more with my legs and outside rein, but I get a bit antsy and go-go-go when jumping, and sometimes forget my dressage lessons!)
  • I had her going nice and forward after the first few minutes
  • I approached the fences without hesitation
  • I looked at the line well before turning to set it up properly, and I looked over the fence and to my next objective (rather than at the fence, which is always a receipe for disaster!)
  • I followed her really well – even when she took off early or late

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However, despite how well things went, there is still room for improvement. I think the following things would really make a big difference and keep helping to move our jumping forward together:

  • Working on our striding – I’m not very good at seeing or getting a certain stride on her yet. When we try to  lengthen our stride we usually just get rushed and things are less together and uphill (ie. a messier looking jump)
  • My contact with her mouth. Sometimes I feel like my reins are a little loose (although I suppose it’s better than pulling constantly at her mouth!), luckily Q is so honest that she goes over even when I occasionally leave “doors open.” Still something to be aware of and to improve for other horses.
  • My butt in the air… in some of the photos I’m not near enough to her neck, and my butt seems to be a bit more in the air than it should be. From looking at the photos closely, I think this would improve a lot if I moved my legs forward more. And moving my legs more forward would also be safer because it would result in a more secure seat. I’m always thinking about pushing my legs forward when jumping, but now that I know how not forward they were, I can more consciously try to push them forward the next time over the fences.

In any case, I’m feeling so much more confident all-round because of how my jumping has been coming along. I forgot how good I am at following a horse (clinicians and my coach have commented on this and have tried to push me away from dressage, but I’m a bit of a nervous nancy so I’ve never fully given myself over to jumping), and how much joy I get from that feeling of airlessness and unity.

All this confidence is almost making me feel good enough to try out for the Novice (2’3″) division of my new university’s equestrian team. Almost… But do I want that much stress while doing my Master’s? Something to certainly think about. In any case, I have a few more weeks before the application sheets are due, so we’ll see how I’m feeling then. In the meantime, let me know if you have any advice to help improve my jumping or position!

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