"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, February 8, 2016

In Which We Really Do....JUMP!!


This happened on Sunday!
Let me backtrack first though, since many of you might not be familiar with Lily's initial history and won't get why this was such a huge deal! :)

My story with Lily, back before starting the blog, started with her as a resale training project: I would train her while my BM at the time took care of the financial aspect of keeping her, and then we'd sell her and split the profit. Lily has always had a very nice jump, nice enough for me to think she'd make a nice lower level hunter, so that's what I was originally going to train her for. During her first week at our barn, I tested her over ground poles...and discovered a mare that was terrified of GROUND POLES. I had a lot of work in my future if we really were going to turn her into a hunter.

I didn't need to worry though because less than 3 months later she was mine, and I was able to dump the hunter prospect training.

She had such a gift for lateral movement and seemed to be so confident outside of the arena (HA on the regression she'd have later...there came a time where if you'd told me that I'd be doing 50 mile endurance rides with her in the mountains, I would have laughed in your face, she was so bad!) that I entertained the idea of eventually turning her into an eventer. No big aspirations there, just a lower level eventer.

We did work over ground poles and cavaletti and she eventually became more confident over them, and I've longed her over jumps throughout the years as cross training. It wasn't her favorite thing though, and often we'd come back to work on ground poles and cavaletti after a few days off from them and it would feel like I was re-starting her over them. Back in Florida our arena was small and when my dressage instructor took over as the BM, our BO forbade jumping on property. So there went that pipe dream anyway. I wasn't upset about it because by this point I really did just want to focus on dressage. I rode in the jumpers for 17 years; I trained horse after horse after horse for it, from older greenies to baby OTTBs just off the track to start in new careers. I also seemed to have a knack for getting horses that had formerly quit jumping to start doing it again for me. It was what I did in exchange for lessons. At one point I loved it. I lived for it. But as I became more skilled, I was put on more and more technical horses and in the process got badly burned by push rides, which is what I suspected Lily would be, and I didn't really want to tackle this type of issue by myself sans jump trainer. Lily had enough confidence issues as it was without adding my own to the equation.

So we didn't jump. I was amused when she started offering it on trail: when she is particularly happy or when riding on familiar trails, she is more than willing to jump fallen trees, logs and small streams. There is even proof of us doing this...

I encouraged it and she loved it.

We'd re-visit arena fences on the longe and it was always like starting over from scratch. She did it because I asked her to, not because she enjoyed it. This became even more obvious after the acquisition of Gracie, who will hunt down jumps in an arena if you let her!

G-Mare proves that gaited horses CAN jump!
Lily always preferred natural jumps though. Like these coops that she jumped as if they were twice their height...

The first time I ever tried longing her over this, she refused. I let it go. This was on a separate day; I was longing her in the field and miscalculated my circle, which put her right in line with the coops. To my absolute astonishment, she jumped them. So I proceeded to longe her over them a few more times. These were TWO coops next to one another, at least 10' wide.
The problem was never her ability. It was her desire. And there might also have been some fear on my part: she has a knack for cracking her back over jumps and overjumping when she's in doubt, and I didn't want to deal with that particular combo of jumping style (because that's the kind of stuff that will unseat you!) + developing her confidence. If she had been super eager to jump from the get-go, this blog literally would have all been a completely different story.

This past weekend I was on call for work Sunday which meant I couldn't head out on the trails (I have to be able to get into work within an hour of being called in). So I decided to just do an arena ride with Lily. I told Charles to stick to the landfill area with Gracie, since the trails were going to be mush from the snow that continues to melt. I asked him to return in about 30 minutes...because there was a single jump set up in the arena and I was thinking of popping Lily over it.

Mind you, I have never properly jumped with Lily with me in the saddle. Like I said: only ground poles and cavaletti. We had just built jumps when barn management changed back in FL and BO decided to forbid jumping. And I just hadn't felt the urge to try it...until this particular day.

I set up a tiny cross rail, then warmed Lily up w/t/c. She was SUPER adjustable at the canter on this day, which I figured boded well for what I wanted to do.

After 20 minutes, I slowed her to a walk and pointed her at the cross rail. It was small enough that she could easily step over it. Except she looked at it as if she had never seen a cross rail before in her life (believe me, she has. And she has been longed over this particular jump before too) and wouldn't step over it. I kept my leg on her and calmly kept looking forward, not down at the cross rail. Lily danced sideways then stopped and decided to step over the jump. Except she stepped ON the rails and knocked one over. *face-palm* She half-reared in startlement. I kept my leg on but instead of going forward, she rapidly backed up. I continued to stay calm, turned her around and had her walk back up to the fence (she actually did so without protesting), where I dismounted and set it again.

Since I was already on the ground, I simply led her over the jump at a walk, only once in each direction. She was fine. I then mounted up and walked her over it, once in each direction. She continued to be fine. Right around then Charles and Gracie showed up.

I asked Lily for a trot and circled her around towards the cross rail. Her ears pricked and she picked up the pace.

"OH! We're JUMPING????! Why didn't you just say so???" she said.
"Silly mare. Since when do you enjoy jumping?"
"Since now!"

She overjumped a little bit...
Please ignore the chicken elbows and me bracing against her neck. I corrected all of that later.
Also: I'm jumping in a dressage saddle with giant knee blocks AND a sheepskin cover. I'm thrilled with my leg in these pics: this was the very best I could do given the saddle circumstances! Other than one session jumping Q during our first time visiting Liz 3 years ago, I had not jumped in 6 years!!
She got a "GOOD GIRL!" and pats after the jump. To my surprise, she was completely rateable over the fence: she went in at a trot and trotted out afterwards, no matter how much or how little she overjumped it. I was impressed: a lot of greenies will want to bolt or at least canter after a fence their first few times.

So we continued, alternating directions.

Long spot. But look at her face!! :)
And a deer jump! SPROING! I got left behind but let the reins thread through my fingers so as to not catch her in the mouth. She wasn't the least bit bothered.
Following her quietly.
I love this photo. She is listening to me (one ear flicked back) and we are both absolutely correct: she is taking the jump conservatively from a reasonable distance, my leg is solid with heels down, my back flat, I'm looking ahead at the turn (the jump was at an angle so we had to sort of figure-8 to it and away from it) and my crest release is pretty damn near perfect except for the flapping rein...which is on purpose anyway.

She was doing so WELL, so steady, so trusting, that she was giving me time to think about every single thing I was doing on our approaches. Eyes up, heels down, leg steady, wait but don't drive with your seat, etc, etc, etc. Which only helped her more in turn. So I got brave and started asking for a canter towards the jump. She continued to be a total rock star. So I got off and raised the X. Then we trotted in to it.

She noticed the height change. 

She felt the need to jump the height of the sides of the cross rail...hahaha...
Her expression though! She was so HAPPY!

We continued in both directions until she realized she didn't have to jump the height of the sides of the "X", just the center height!

Lily goes "WHEEE!"

Holy long spot. Lol!
At least it wasn't from me jumping ahead!!

This one was my favorite in the entire series, despite my leg (though again: giant knee blocks! This is a Wintec Pro Contourbloc saddle. The blocks on this saddle are no joke!) I just love her face here and you can see she's realized that she can just canter over this. 
Also: can we give Charles a round of applause for these pics? These aren't video stills, they are actual photos taken with an iPhone from a wiggly mare's back. His timing was impeccable.

We jumped for a good half hour, finishing with the giant X at a canter in both directions. She barely broke a sweat throughout all of this. We were doing a nifty figure 8 around the entire arena to approach the jump and she was, for the most part, nailing correct lead changes after the fence. Halfway through the session she was locking onto the jump when I pointed her at it, but remained quiet and listening. Like, REALLY listening: she would stay at the same speed approaching the cross rail until I put my leg on during our last two strides. 

I was so, so, so, SO impressed with her. SO impressed. 

I walked her back to the barn, Charles riding next to me on Gracie. He pointed out that I was beaming: I was grinning so wide my cheeks hurt. 

Lily received a mash and a huge hug thanks. I might still be a little shocked by her awesomeness on this day!


  1. awwww yay Lily mare!!! you both look like you're having such a blast!!!

  2. I think I smile just as big as you in those photos when I look at them all. Every time. It just makes me so happy to see you two jumping and enjoying it together knowing your jumping history!

  3. The two of you look really awesome and this post inspired Ashke and I to do a cavaletti last night.

  4. Yahoo! You guys look great -- not rusty at all. :)

  5. Woohoo!!!! You two look awesome, and like you're having so much fun. :)

  6. Wow!! Look at you guys, you look amazing!