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We Are Flying Solo

January 15, 2012

Encore Furthers His Jumping Education

As projected, Encore and I did indeed meet with David on Saturday; Encore's first stadium jumping lesson and his introduction to David's "death circles" of warmup (they only make the rider want to die, not the horse).  My tired brain will attempt to share it with you.  I offer no guarantees of lucidity.

The wind was icy cold, the high temperature of the day was 42 degrees, and the Canada geese next door splashed in the pond at the end of the arena.  Encore took all this as an invitation to try out his new "I iz STRONG pony" routine on a very tired me.  Thanks, buddy.  Nothing impresses your trainer quite like panting like an asthmatic grandmother on a stairmaster.

Encore's big brother demonstrates bend.
Despite his antics, David seemed to remain thrilled with my little brown boy and reinforced that I had been working in the right direction.  Establishing a steady contact on the outside rein on the warmup circle, we used inside flexion, moving the bit in his mouth to soften his jaw, at which Encore obligingly (at least most of the time) came round at the trot.  If he starts cocking his head, don't forget to use your outside rein to straighten his head on his neck, keeping it all in line, even counterbending a little so that he can't brace against your hand.   

Walk/trot/walk/trot transitions in quick succession, which we have begun to introduce at home recently, making sure he stayed soft through the transition, prepared us for canter.

David made the observation that I really needed to stay off his back at the canter and to focus on working that way for a while, as Encore learns to lift his back at that gait.  He reassured me that it is very normal for the racehorses to remain uneven behind for quite some time, which put my mind at rest a bit on that count.

Once we began jumping, Encore got much stronger than I am accostomed to!  Whether it was weather or excitement or both, my shoulders got tired in a hurry!  But it was gratifying to see my work at home paying off -- he felt comfortable finding his distances on his own and he skipped through a mini gymnastic without a hiccup. 

Because Encore was getting heavy in the bridle, perhaps because his young muscles were beginning to tire, David had me just lift the inside corner of the bit on the long side for one step to lift his shoulder and then half-halt and then lift his poll and release as we turned to the jump.  Result:  immediate shift in balance, bringing him up in front of my leg, where I could then soften and wait for the jump to come to us. 

Both David and I had a smile at the end; there were some lovely sections of rhythm and nice jumps.  Encore came calmly forward to every fence and jumped well up to about 2'9".  He is not as naturally round a jumper as Solo, but he feels already like he will be much more comfortable with height than Mr. Shiny ever was. 

Now, if anyone has suggestions on how to convince Encore that he no longer needs to transition to canter as if he is leaping from the starting gate, I am ALL ears...


  1. No suggestions from over here! We have the same problem... my girl turns into a jack-rabbit when we go into canter work. Well, here's one: We do our own 'circle of hades'. Transition every quarter of the circle, no matter what type of transition, no matter what gait, but toss a few of walk-minimal trot-canter 4 strides, down to walk with minimal trot moments. Keeps the brain active, helps them think about what YOU'RE doing and not what they expect they should do.

  2. Go Encore! Sounds like a successful lesson :)

    With my horse, who loved to leap into the canter, I first evaluated how I was asking for the canter. I had been moving my outside leg back which my mare *really* didn't like, so I moved it forward. I also thought more about lifting into the canter with my hands so that she was more balanced and didn't feel the need to rush/fall into the canter. That helped quite a bit.

    And, since doing lots of transitions into and out of the canter tended to make her even hotter, instead I would canter for a longer period of time (doing circles of varying sizes), not just one or two circles so that she decided that cantering really *isn't* all that exciting :)

    Don't know if that relates to why Encore's leaping into the canter but it worked for us!

  3. You had an awesome lesson! Thanks for sharing it with us. I really liked your trainer's tip about lifting the inside corner of the bit and it sounds like Encore did too.

    I very much agree with TBA's comment regarding the canter. I starting cantering for long periods of time so that my horse viewed cantering as a stamina activity rather than a race to "get 'er done" activity. I also learned to use the outside leg minimally and the inside coming forward and supporting at the girth as his cue to canter. He is much happier this way and starting lifting up into the canter instead of lurching forward like a rocket.

  4. Good suggestions, keep them coming! I do make sure when we canter, it is nice and long. Encore has to relax into a rhythm and get bored with it before he is allowed to stop. I do think I need to finesse my cue more though, good points.

  5. Excellent lesson! If you're taking baby 2'9" already, you're oodles braver than I am.

    Of course, you attempted a T3D, so I guess we already know that.

    As for the leap into canter, play with it and see what works. I started out using my inside leg to ask for canter, but am now switching to outside. If it doesn't frazzle him too much, do more transitions. If he gets a little rushed, then keep on with what you're doing. You'll figure it out.

  6. Haha, techincally, SB, I have not gotten to attempt a T3D yet, I only attempted a Training Level HT. And we all know how that ended!

    And hey, I've seen the jump lines you did in your lesson, you're not really that far from that, so there!

  7. My horse used to love to leap into the canter, I think a big part of it is they need to get stronger. I also started asking much much more with my seat instead of my legs by really driving/scooping especially with my outside seat bone. I had to back this up with leg a few times, but after that she really seems to like this way better, and goes into a forward canter instead of bolting canter now. I also am not afraid to give a big half halt during the first stride of canter to kinda set the pace. Hopefully that helps some

  8. I like Tatiana's idea of a big half-halt right away, as well as experimenting with different cues to see if he responds with less alacrity. Probably going to take some tincture of time as well to convince him that NO, it is not, in fact, time to runrunrun his little heart out. As far as keeping the canter going until he's bored, I wish you luck - my fitness level is such that I'd run out of gas long before he did, but maybe you're better off! ;-)

    [My instructor used to tell me I was breathing harder than the horse. I look like I'm in good shape but I most definitely am not... alas.]

  9. Hahahha, I am often breathing harder than my horses!

    Encore is good about settling quickly, he has mostly learned not to canter FAST, so within about 3-5 strides he has settled into the rhythm most of the time. It's just that initial LAUNCH. It is quite possible my leg aid is far too strong, I am so used to riding a "push" horse!

  10. I have no suggestions, but I'm happy to read that you and Encore are doing well together. Good information too; Misty cocks her head sometimes and I will try righting it with the outside rein next time.

  11. I am so happy to have come across your blog! I look forward to catch up on reading pasts post and of course new ones! I blog about ottbs and related topics, from the Chicago area. Your horses look wonderful!

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  13. Sorry for deleting I had to fix some typos. I really need to proof read. I was going to offer my two cents on the transition but it is only from own experience with Steady so don't know what it's worth. I 100% agree you have to stay off of his back for what seems like forever. If you keep at his canter work and stay up off his back my prediction that as soon as he is capable of a beautiful canter transition is the same time that you will be able to finally sit on his back at the canter. If you ask me it has very little to do with a training issue and everything to do with the Thoroughbred body structure and fitness. I am not saying he is unfit because thoroughbreds have the cardio fitness of a marathon runner but their physical disadvantage of have a weak and slow to build muscle in their backs. With Steady I did not sit the cater for a year and a half and even then it was for short spurts. I almost NEVER sit down for a canter transition only when I must for a dressage test or in preparation for one. In short, stand UP OFF HIS BACK in every canter transition, and in canter work never sit. With the correct work at some moment you will eventually find it all falling into place. Did I say stay off his back enough :)?

  14. Thank you, UO and Christine!

    And Amy, I understand what you are trying to say. Do you think I should get off his back, LOL? Encore definitely has a lot of topline muscle to build and I am frustrated because I am not able to get him out on the trails as often as I would like. I will be happy when the time change hits again!