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We Are Flying Solo

January 10, 2011

A Day With David

Saturday was jump lesson day.  Blowing snow be damned.

Solo is not an easy horse to jump, or should I say, jump well at height; he does not have a naturally uphill balance, so his preferred method of jumping is to dive at the base of the jump and then hurl himself over.

However, if you use a combination of 47 different muscles, perfectly timed aids, and stick your tongue out a bit, you can get him to jump with a lovely, smooth bascule.

I know, what's the holdup, right? I, unfortunately, seem to only be able to occasionally coordinate about 12 of the 27.5 required things to get him straight, balanced, uphill, and round.  About every jump out of 8, I can pull it together.  The odds are getting better, but it's still frustrating when I can't get in "the flow."

I will not admit how much time I spend mulling it all over in my head.  A constant refrain from David is "lift his poll." At the same time, I am supposed to keep my reins short, but not lift my hand.

Thus far, I have failed to work out how to achieve these two seemingly contradictory things.  Or, to be more accurate, I understand how to do them in theory, but fail to get my body to perform said theory.

Join us, then, for parts of a lesson with our jump coach, eventer David O'Brien; he is unbelievably patient with my blundering and has played no small part in bringing Team Flying Solo along.  Apologies for shaky video -- the wind was blowing hard and cold and our dear friend/videographer, Cindy, was shivering!

Part I: We've done our flat warmup of bendy death circles and now we do some small jumps and combinations.

Part II: Moving on to courses and some great Solo tips from David.

I have a lot to work on.

Solo was busy trying to figure out where his friends were and OH SOMETHING MOVED OVER THERE! so he never really softened and focused.  I am still riding too defensively in the stadium ring (being flipped over a pair of ears will do that to you) and I need to allow myself to be a bit more forward coming to the jump and stay softer in my waist.

Before each jump, I need to be more focused on my body in general and remember to use my thigh and core to lift my horse's shoulder as he prepares to pat the ground for takeoff.  My legs are slipping back and getting sloppy.  And I need to have a firm discussion with my arms so they figure out what to do!


  1. Those are great, thanks for posting. I have always been at busy show barns where there are lessons going on all the time and I love to watch lessons, there is always something you can learn just watching. I am at a boarding barn right now and I miss the opportunity to watch a good lesson.

  2. Solo is one handsome hunk o' horse!

  3. I see big improvement! Solo looks very confident and happy tackling those bigger fences.
    It's nice to see some of my old trainer's sentiments repeated -- he was always telling me to build my pace, then half-halt a bit to get the horse back on his haunches, then send him forward to the fence. I know that really helped me a lot, and it looks like that same advice has been good for you and Solo.
    Bravo! :-D

  4. Thank you, ladies! Solo gets quite annoyed when I make him do things properly, naughty boy, but he has gotten much more willing to play along now that his body has caught up.

  5. Darn... I wish I looked half as good as you do over fences (talk about a slipping leg, yikes). I think you AND Solo both are pretty terrific! Reading about all the technical improvements you want to make is useful, though. It's great that you have access to such good trainers for jumping and dressage.

    Out of curiousity, what kind of winter weather gear were you wearing, especially under your helmet? I'm looking for something to cover my ears, but it's hard to find something that fits under a helmet.

  6. P.S. I just became your 100th Follower - YAY! :-)

  7. Thank you! And I was secretly lusting for number 100, so I love you!

    I get hot fast when I ride, so I do layers and generally start with one less then I am walking around in. On that crazy blowing snow day, I had on cheapie fleece-lined breeches, regular socks, Mtn Horse Ice Rider paddock boots (love them!). On the top half, I had a turtleneck and a fleece pullover. David makes me work hard, so any more than that and I would sweat to death.

    I just got this cool cap thing that Mtn Horse makes that goes under your helmet, cause I lost my earmuffs. :-( I think it's called like the alert beanie or something, SmartPak sells it and it's really great. It's super thin but insulates your head and ears.