Wednesday 19 May 2021

Just Do It!

 It's long been my goal to start seriously jumping again.

Twenty-plus years ago when I had my gelding Farly we did the 3'3" hunters and jumpers. He was a super honest and brave horse (except in gymnastic lines - it took a couple of years before he would reliably go through without running out in a one-stride, which often left me wearing a standard). He was also very rideable and adjustable, so he was very easy to place to the jump if I saw a distance, and at 3' and under he didn't worry if I screwed up.

Probably 1998 or 1999.

He had to be retired from jumping at the age of 13 due to a suspensory injury that turned out to be affected by ringbone that was found around the same time. Here's a tip - don't buy a horse you want to jump that has tiny quarter horse feet.

I had him for another six years before he went to the big field in the sky due to laminitis. I took about three years off from riding before I was given the chance to ride Phantom for a friend of mine. 

Phantom actually quite liked jumping. She is quite brave and bold. Unfortunately, she is not so rideable between the jumps. She dislikes any backwards contact or hanging on her mouth. It will cause her to become erratic in her pace, blow her leads behind, and make it difficult to get to the distance you saw. Then, to top it all off, if the distance was icky she would jump like a deer - and not in a good way. Of course the goal is to not have to pull backwards or hang on her mouth, but when you need to balance your canter quickly before turning into a line sometimes things happen, and it just never went well.

I gave it a go for a few years. It got a bit better when I found a bit she was happier with, but after I fell off  twice at a clinic due to her deer-style of jumping I kind of lost the desire to jump her. (One day I'll look for that video.)

I think this was the last time I seriously jumped her, which was in 2014. I don't think we had jumped for a bit at this time.

Then she decided that my jump saddle didn't fit her and must never be used again. She was happy in the dressage saddle, so we stuck with that.

She also would land 90% of the time from a jump on her right lead and I've always wondered if there was a physical reason. After dealing with Farly's ringbone I didn't want to risk ending Phantom's riding career early due to an injury that I could have prevented if I looked at the signs.

Farly went lame in 2000, so over the last twenty years I've maybe had 2 or 3 years of consistent jumping, and done just a few handfuls of small jumps otherwise. I'm a whole lot out of practice, and a whole lot worried about doing anything bigger than minuscule. 

But I really want to do it again.

I'm not in a position to take regular lessons, which means that there isn't the drive to do it regularly. I won't jump if I'm by myself, and though my mom is quite happy to watch me and call 911 if needed since Covid hit I haven't really taken her out to the barn with me. I ride at a barn with a bunch of eventers, so even though jumps are set up for half of the week, they are often tricky exercises that are not suitable for a green horse who isn't super brave (not to mention his rider). If I move jumps around I have to move them back, and that takes time that I often don't have.

Thus, I haven't jumped Cisco very much.

Cisco actually likes to jump. He's gotten better and braver the last few times that I've popped him over some little things (we're talking like twice in the last six months). He is far more rideable between the jumps than Phantom ever was. His stride isn't very long (I doubt it's anywhere near a 12 foot stride) and his canter can get really bouncy so my two-point position is horrible - thankfully I have no issues sitting in the saddle between the jumps. I find him really fun to ride.

On Monday everything lined up to do some jumps. There were a few little ones, someone responsible was riding with me, and I wanted to do something else instead of flatwork with him. 

We trotted over the couple of crosspoles with no hesitation at all from him. There was one more jump to try - a vertical.

I totally admit that I have a mental block about verticals (don't get me started on oxers). It's totally just because I haven't jumped one in years, but I was worried about it. I realize that there's no logical reason to be worried, it's just a different jump, but I think I've always found comfort in crosspoles - even those ones where the cups are set at the top of the standards and the horse has to do a really tight jump to stay in the middle - I always liked doing those.

I yanked up my big girl panties and trotted Cisco towards the single rail vertical, which was probably no bigger than 18". It was his first vertical, and he totally didn't care. I had a slight panic coming into it, my supervisor told me to breathe, I took a deep breath in, and just waited for the jump. Cisco popped over it and loped away with no concerns.

\We did it the other direction, which he had so little concern about that he barely jumped it, so we had to do it again.

Since things were going so well, I figured I might as well start working through my other mental block - cantering into jumps.

I know this is because I'm a control freak, and I don't like it when I don't see my distance into the jump and don't know what's going to happen. With Farly my eye got pretty good, but I'm so out of practice I don't trust myself. I know that I need to practice over poles on the ground. I also know that I am pretty accurate off the right lead, but for some reason I have a much harder time on the left lead.

I totally chose a short approach turn on the right lead - something I hardly ever miss.

I swear this canter felt much faster than a crawl.  And I think you can see a bit of his bounciness.

And we nailed it.

I was going to end it there, but my supervisor said she thought I was going to canter the vertical, so I should do it again. 

I succumbed to peer pressure. 

There was a slight moment of panic coming into the vertical where I didn't see my distance about five strides out, but, instead of panic riding and chasing Cisco into it (and probably past the distance) I just waited, and realized that it was going to be a wee bit short, but it would be okay. I was quite proud of myself for that!

Now, I get that getting over these tiny little jumps is no huge feat. When you haven't done it in ages it's just such a mental thing. Add-in being a perfectionist control-freak, and it's even harder to get over that hurdle (pun intended).

Next week I'm on vacation and I have no plans with the ponies that will prevent them from being ridden for the week. I'm going to drag my mom out with me and attempt to start Cisco on a small gymnastic line. My goal is to jump twice next week, and then at least every other week after that. The jumps don't have to be big, I just have to start doing them. 

My other tip to all those reading - don't stop. It's so hard to get started again.

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