I wanted to take my first jump lesson since Murray’s hock injections easy(ish), but also prep for my Novice debut in ten days. I told B that we should warm up, then start at Novice height and just build up to the course. My goal for this was manifold.
- Avoid jumping every fence 3-6 times at varying heights
- Start out at the New Scary Height (2’11” in case you’re wondering)
- Ride “easy” lines to prevent stops before they could happen
Importantly, I wanted to focus on my position and see if I could find that magic “spot” again over fences, as well as keep riding correctly and insisting on correctness from Murray. Pertinent to the second point, Alli said something to me that has totally revolutionized my rides this week: she realized that when she feels Dino get light in the bridle, she pulls to get the feel back, instead of kicking the pony up to it. I realized that this is exactly what I do, especially when jumping: I feel Murray duck behind the bridle, and I take up more reins to get a feel of his mouth back, instead of pushing him forward to the contact and the fences.
So for my last two rides I’ve been thinking about squeezing Murray forward into the bridle when I feel him duck behind it. Not kicking or bullying, and definitely not pulling, but just squeeeezing him with my whole leg until I feel him come back into my hands. It worked and got us a really fabulous trot toward the end of my (short) ride yesterday, and I thought “if I could trot like this up to a vertical, it would be pretty fucking awesome”.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to achieve the beautiful trot up to our warmup fences, but I kept squeezing and pushing and Murray softened to the idea. It’s not his favourite idea — being told what to do OR being told to move forward into contact — but it’s probably the least offensive way I’ve ever asked him for this, so he was willing to accept a bit.
We started with a simple, long bending line of vertical to oxer. When B was setting the oxer I remember thinking “gee that’s big! Murray doesn’t even barely have to put his nose down to touch it.” That’s what you get when you don’t jump height for a while. I felt Murray hesitate as we approached the green oxer, that kind of shrinking-stride check in he sometimes does. I knew it was an opportunity for him to sit down and stop if he chose, so I squeezed him into the bridle — not too aggressively — and he went right over. I was very, very proud.
Next up, we built up the combination. The kids had put together a barrels-two strides-quarter round skinny-one stride-quarter round skinny combo across the long diagonal. I didn’t want to fight with Murray about it, so B had me come in to the barrels like I was on a big circle and just turn left before we got to the skinny. Murray actually locked on to the skinnies in the combination and I felt him pull me to the right. But I was committed to going left, so I made the turn happen. Our next go through he eagerly jumped through the whole combo, though we did jam three in the two stride.
Our attempts at the barrel line were not without fuckups, however. After one successful go through, I leaned as we approached the barrels in a backward attempt to push Murray toward the fence and encourage him to get the striding. Murray was like “girl, you cannot lay on my neck like that” and stopped. I, of course, lay all over his neck. Like, straight lesson kid laying on the neck posture. (I would have a picture, but google photos won’t give me the high resolution version of my video!!!!)
Next we came in to the oxer to liverpool. Murray and I have walked over the liverpool every. single. day. and yet we still had trouble with it during the lesson. The first time I was coming off of some shenanigans so Murray was flustered and disorganized and I tried to commit to the oxer anyway. It was the wrong choice. The next go through Murray went over the oxer and then spooked hard at the liverpool. I was like “Nope! Nope! You have to do it, Murray!” and pointed him back at the liverpool. After a moment’s thought he jumped over. Subsequent attempts were slightly less awkward.
The last few fences on course included a series of rollbacks that were a little more challenging upon execution than I expected! We overshot the turn both times we took it, but Murray was game to take the second fence at an angle, which made up for my poor navigation.
In our last course, Murray arrived at the big green oxer on a fantastic open stride and at just a hint of a long spot. I squeezed him a few strides out as encouragement, and he launched himself over — I mean, really launched himself. Sadly B was very far from the oxer at the time, but we FLEW!
The last course was really fantastic — we made all the strides, didn’t get any awkward spots because we had such a good quality canter, and Murray was on fire! Seriously, I could not have asked for a better jump lesson before Camelot. Murray is clearly feeling… something, since his hock injections. (Though honestly, if shenanigans is what I’m going to get when my pony feels good, I’m willing to take it.) None of the stops were unreasonable. All basic rider error, things that I ought to know better than to do/try/flub.
Oh, AND I didn’t crumble because of the height! Murray and I jump 2’11” not infrequently, but we usually work up to it. We don’t usually just start at that height. And I didn’t let it get to me in the first few fences, so after that it immediately felt fine.
We will probably jump once more before Camelot, to keep the confidence up. But now, I really, really, really need to figure out how to ride Novice B dressage test.