Tag Archives: jumping

It’s a Little Chilly

But since when has the weather stopped any of us from enjoying some good times with ponies?

Saturday began with a nice morning breakfast with Allie, at the lovely Tom and Ray’s restaurant in Damascus.  Highly recommended for pancake aficionados as well as those who love a grilled cheese & tomato sandwich.  [/random plug]

Later that afternoon we travelled up to Westminster, MD, to do some listings for a large Thoroughbred farm that is looking to downsize.  After my many visits to the racetrack and the small surrounding farms, it felt like I was visiting a palace.  Acres upon acres of rolling green pasture, beautiful bank barns, and a pond with black swans in it, it was like something out of a movie.  We listed six horses there- two yearlings, two two year olds, and a couple of broodmares.  It’s often hard to sell the broodies, they’re generally offered when they’re older, and haven’t had any riding time since they raced eons ago.  But on the other hand, if I had the money for a second horse (despite me wanting ALL the horses all the time) I’d be thinking about bringing this fine lady home:

I'm sooooo pretty!

I

 I dunno.  She just seems sweet and sturdy, and looks like she wants to snuggle just a little.

After terrorizing the lovely black swans in the attempt to get some pictures, we called it a day and went home.

Sunday was another Funny Farm visit, where thanks to the presence of multiple volunteers, we got to check on almost everybody at the farm.

Klondike is still fat.  Rosey is dying for love and attention but otherwise happy and gaining weight.  Whisper is still a Barbie horse, but he looks like he’s been getting into some tiffs with someone out in the field.  Call Sister (who is not available yet or on the webpage) is settling down finally- she likes to act jumpy and spooky, but is finally coming to realize that spray bottles will NOT kill her after all.  Truckee is a bit of a pest, and needs a job (his big moment of the day: driving Klondike away with a flurry of heels and teeth, so HE could get more attention). 

Mikey thinks he’s a dog, and even AFTER we put him back out in the field post-grooming session, he insisted on following us all the way across said field and then back to the gate.  Kasper is, like Sister, calming down a little bit and learning about standing for grooming and attention, rather than pretending to spook at everything. Gutenburg (also not on the website yet) is doing well, but as he came off the track relatively recently he looks a little thin. We think he’s recovering from the various substances in his system- nothing nefarious, but supplements, bute, maybe some steroids.  But on the plus side, his skin and coat look good, and he seems to be in gain mode.  We also spent some time with a new guy we’ll call Parker, who is super sweet but had to learn about standing still tied.  I think he normally would stand still, actually, but there were three other horses in the immediate vicinity and he kept trying to snuggle with them.  Got some pictures of him, too, so hopefully he will be up on the website shortly.  In the meantime, feel free to browse. 🙂 

After our visit there, it was back to Damascus to take Afton for a nice mosey.  He got new shoes on Friday, and already seems to be moving much better.  He came off the track with his heels “crushed forward” (probably the best description, though maybe not the technical term for it).  With this trim and new shoes, he looks to be walking MUCH better and is not “stabbing” the ground so much.  His trot feels much smoother and at the canter he seems quite happy to stretch forward and really throw his legs out in front of him. 

This was only Afton’s third trail ride, and I think, total, his sixth or seventh ride EVER.  And it figures that in a group of three, the horse with the least amount of training would be the quietest and most reliable.  The teenaged trail-master?  Feeling a bit full of himself.  The other 4 year old had much more training and trail time than Afton, but was also feeling a little twitchy and goofy.  Afton took turns leading the two goofuses when it was time to stretch out and go.  He also showed he has a great sense of direction- you can tell he knows when he is close to home, or pointed towards home- he starts moving out just a little bit when he thinks he’s headed back.  He’s better than a compass.

We did some trotting and cantering (even approached an almost gallop at one point) and he is just a joy to ride out.  After a few little runs, he starts to anticipate a tiny bit, so if you lean forward to pat him, he’ll start to trot.  But all in all, he’s quite easy and super fun.  Also on this trail ride, we did a little jumping.  We are fortunate to have a small trail set on a slight slope uphill, that has several logs and small jumps set at related distances.  It’s a great confidence builder, and there’s nothing big enough to really intimidate anybody.  Afton jumped or trotted all of them, with absolutely zero hesitation. 

The impressive part (to me) is that the trail used to be set so that the woods on either side sort of “funnelled” you through the jumps- it made it so riders didn’t have to do much but sit there, and the horse had few options except going over.  Sometime recently this trail was cleared out a whole lot- all the brush is gone, so there’s no “wall” and you actually have to steer over the jumps.  I can see this presenting a problem when you’re as monkeyish a rider as me, but Afton was perfectly honest through the whole thing.  Not only that, but he LED the way through, with the most experienced horse taking up the REAR of the group.  Good pony!

Later on, I realized that Afton had not, in fact, ever seen a water crossing before.  He’d been so great about everything that it just didn’t even cross my mind that he might be worried about anything.  So I was a bit taken by surprise (oops) when we got to one crossing and he balked.  To be fair to him, it was sort of a scary looking one, with a lot of leaves floating in the water, a bit of gravel in the middle, then more water and a steep bank up.  We had one of the other horses go in front of him, and he put his head down and very tentatively started stepping forward.  Because a lot of horses take a big flying leap their first few times across streams, I had a full handful of mane and was preparing for the worst.  But Mr. Afton just stepped across VERY carefully, and came up the bank perfectly.  He did essentially the same at the next crossing- head way down, checking things out, but only very gingerly tiptoeing across.  He’s definitely a thinker, and I’m still sort of amazed he didn’t do any huge deer jumps over it or anything.

On the way home, we hopped over some stuff in the driveway again, quitting on a great note over the end log (we had to do it twice- the first time he sort of stumbled over it, so we had to go back and actually JUMP).  Next up for Afton? Boring, boring ringwork.  He’s a super horse but needs to learn a little nuance. 🙂  And, um, at some point we’ll get some photos/video of all this.  It’s a little harder in the winter 😦

Rosey Untangles Her Legs

Last night we had a fabulous ride.

Liza has been doing some great things for this horse, I think.  I found, last night, that Rosey has gone beyond the “stretching to the bit” phase and arrived at the “learning to go round” phase.  When I was good with my contact, she actually lengthened stride and arched her neck into the bit.  I remember when Klondike got to that phase, and how fancy he looked, so I can only imagine Rose looks SUPER-fancy in comparison to her first few rides. 

Her canter transitions are getting better and better.  Of course, especially travelling to the right, I have got to remember that the outside rein is more important.  Otherwise on a circle she starts to drift out and pop her shoulder. 

Probably the biggest success of the night was related to jumping.  She’s jumped before, as I’ve talked about here, but she seemed to have some confusion about jumps of a certain height, or trotting jumps.  Trotting to a jump, her way of dealing with it was to stop, then step over, then resume trotting on the other side.  It just seemed like a lot for her to coordinate, and she didn’t quite “get” the idea. 

A session of free jumping, and a couple Liza-rides later, and the lightbulb has turned on.  We trotted up to a crossrail last night, and the first time was a little shaky.  She gave sort of a half-hop over it, landing cantering in front and trotting behind.  Remembering what Liza had told me about horses like her- to always, always GO away from the jump- I kicked her up into a real canter and cantered the turn.  On landing, it was like she was asking a question… “is…. this what you want?” and I hope I answered with an enthusiastic and positive, “yes, but more!”

I think I did OK, because on the next approach, she focused on the jump, increased her energy on the way to it (but not her speed- yay! I love that feeling!), and actually jumped it, landing in the canter with all four legs.  We repeated that a few times, and then she got loads of pats and hugs and kisses for being so excellent. 

The word from observers is that she jumps very cute- knees up, straight, adorable.  Hopefully we will have some new photos soon!

Monkey-Proof Your Horse in Five Simple Steps

1- Turn and face obstacle

2- Set off at a nice trot

3- Drop your eyes and LOOK AT THE JUMP!!!!

4- Jump way ahead of the horse

5- Collapse in fits of giggles when horse has no clue what to do and stops.

Yep, that was our ride yesterday. 

To her credit, it started out very well.  We warmed up in the big jumping ring, and here is where I think Rosey really shines.  Back when Klondike was with us, he went very well in enclosed, defined spaces.  But when you brought him into the big ring, he wiggled around a lot and just seemed lost.  He would drift like crazy, and look at things more (not in a bad way, it was just like he didn’t know what to do with all that space).  Rose treats the big, fenceless ring exactly the same way she treats the small one.  Could not care less (except that there are new horses to look at turned out nearby).  She may get a little quicker as there’s more space to gather steam, but all in all, the different venue? Not a problem.

After playing for a few minutes there, we went on a little mosey again (not the original plan, but it’s hard to say no when you’ve had a bad day).  This time we tried going to the jumping trail.  It’s a fabulous, very short section of trail that has about 8 jumps in a row.  The first is a log, where you can choose-your-own-height as it is much smaller on the right than the left.  The next few are some very tiny logs and piles-of-sticks, and then there are several slightly larger obstacles, all set about 2-4 strides apart.

Rosey brought up the rear going up the hill to the jumps, and though she sort of stumbled her way across the first, she landed cantering and then cantered out over the others.  All but one were pretty perfect, and I’m really impressed with the way she jumps (when she jumps, that is… more on that in a bit).  I’m not the most “feeling” rider when it comes to jumping- things tend to come up quick and by the time my mind registers that we are taking off, I’m usually in the process of landing.  So it’s hard for me to sort out the mechanics of the whole thing, or really describe how it’s going.  But in Rosey’s case, she has a very neat jumping style that you can feel quite well- her shoulder rises up and she really lifts in front of you quite nicely.  It’s a cool feeling, and not one that I can recall ever feeling before.  Klondike jumped very smoothly and levelly, and my own horse just launched over everything like a cannonball when he started jumping.  My memory prior to that is fuzzy, so I’ll just stop trying to compare now.

After we came out of the woods, we tried another little jump, a small stone wall with a plank over it that connects two fields together (it’s in the middle of a little stand of trees, it sort of funnels you in and is quite inviting).  From one side it’s very small- 2′ maybe. From the other it’s slightly bigger, and I think that’s the side we jumped from.  Her first time over was perfect- she broke into the canter about four strides out and lifted over it with her amazing shoulder action, and cantered off like she had been doing it her whole life.  We did it again, and it wasn’t quite so perfect, but still pretty good.

After that, we moseyed back towards the farm, and this is where Rosey got her lessons in dealing with a Monkey Rider.  The tire jump.  I happen to love the tire jump- it’s a real XC style jump but it’s… well, it’s padded, because it’s tires.  So if they bumble their way into it, or if I should fall on it, you kind of just bounce off.   We took up our position following everyone else, and it felt very much like all systems were go, when she decided… “hmm, not so much” and ran out.

We tried again. Stop.

And again. FAIL!

Several times she got one leg over, and then sort of stalled out, not sure where to go.  At one point she even managed a foot IN the tire jump, twisting her splint boot neatly around her leg so the buckles were on the inside.  Oy.   She was not scared of the jump in any way, shape or form, like many greenbeans are, she just doesn’t seem to understand organizing her legs from the trot.  She’s trying, and she’s watched other horses do it… she just… doesn’t understand.

We kind of gave up on that count, and headed back to the barn.  Went down the driveway to try her over that stuff, and had the same sort of experience at a log that’s no bigger than the stuff she jumped in the woods.  There was much confusion and getting stuck on top of the log.

Not helped by my monkey riding… if nothing else, she will get out of this experience a great patience for all kinds of craziness from people, because I sure wasn’t helping her out.  I think we need one of those robot jockey things, it would probably work better!  In any case, our next step is to do some free jumping in the ring.  If she figures it out on her own, it will probably go much easier next time (she is super smart, after all!).