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We Are Flying Solo

August 26, 2010

An Epiphany Every Ride

We almost missed our jumping lesson last night.  We had a 7:00 pm appointment with David and I even left early so I would have lots of time to stretch Solo out before David's intense warmup sessions.  Only the entire interstate was shut down and it took me 45 minutes to go 0.75 miles.  Apparently people don't care if you scream at them, "Get out of the way, I have a RIDING LESSON, dammit!"

David, being the patient, saintly type, was waiting for us when we turned up at 7:30, sitting on the mounting block with feet swinging like he didn't have a two hour drive home to get to. Meanwhile, I frantically parked the trailer and tried to simultaneously unload Solo and put my spurs on. I tripped and Solo decided he didn't WANT to get off right then.

I hopped on as fast as I could. Poor horse had been standing in the trailer for almost two hours by that point, so he wasn't too thrilled about instantly being asked to bend and round himself, but we got him loosened up and then began our jumping exercises.

And here is why I love David: Solo has what he calls a "fragile" balance and will tip on his forehand in a second while jumping. A last dive step or two before takeoff is his trademark. If you tip your shoulders at him at the jump, he'll drop a knee. So as I'm riding towards the jump, David calls, "Keep your hand very soft and focus on lifting his shoulder with your thigh and abs all the way to the jump."

So I did.

So my horse jumped awesome.

I don't know how he does it -- EVERY STINKIN' TIME. He gives us one simple direction and it's like a lightbulb moment and things just work. What I wouldn't give for that kind of insight.

We kept the jumps small (David is big on technique -- if you get it right over 2'6" and you can do it right over 4'6") and put a few little courses together. I worked really hard to stay focused and make sure we kept a slow, balanced canter between the jumps and lifted the shoulder with the torso in front of the jump.

And holy crap, the jumps rode amazingly. It was smooth, it flowed, and the rhythm was just there. Solo stayed up and light in the hand the whole time. Of course, by the time I got off, my legs were twitching with a mind of their own. Ow.

The $64,000 question? Can I do this at home without Mr. I'm-A-Teaching-Genius keeping me honest?


  1. I love moments like those. I recently got to start working on jumping again with a school master for a lesson horse and all the sudden I keep having these "OMG, I CAN do this" moments.

  2. Oh, Amanda, I am so jealous! I would love to be able to get on a push button schoolmaster and learn from an equine expert!

  3. I have to admit it is TOTALLY awesome! This is my first opportunity to ride a school master and it makes such a huge difference when you can concentrate mainly on yourself and not so much on your horse.

    Of course I'm only having this opportunity b/c my current horse has turned into a rearing lunatic so I'm not sure how jealous you should be, lol.

  4. Well, here's hoping the lunatic finds his way to sensibility soon. I know how frustrating that can be -- Solo was a loony I couldn't canter for about 8 or 10 months, it was such a terrible feeling, but we got through it. I've known more than a few rearers who were successfully convinced that up was not an option with time, so all is not lost.

  5. I agree with the "if you can do it lower it will follow you higher" but how do I know he can do the course higher? At what point do I challenge him at higher rails? We work in 2-6 mostly. Every now and again I will throw in a 2-9 or 3ft... but that is only one rail, not a course.

  6. Well, PruSki, I think it's a balance. Yes, you practice your technique over the low stuff first. But then, I think you do need to set yourself bigger courses too. We intersperse. If I'm working, say, on the concept I wrote about, I will ride it at home over lower jumps for a few times, then I will point at the higher jumps. When I set up our schooling field, I usually set two or three jumps low, around 2'-2'6" (BO has a greenie), then two around 2'9", then two at 3'-3'3". Then one big wide honkin oxer b/c those always freak me out.

  7. Technically he's only reared with me once but he is so tense u/s that he has convinced me he is truly unhappy. He is a much calmer horse out on the trails and my trainer and I both feel that he would be happiest as someone's trail horse. I think if I were still 20 something I'd try to stick it out but I have to say falling seems to hurt a lot more now that I'm in my 30s than it did when I was younger and the bruises seem to stick around longer as well. Then there is the fact that I have three kids at home who depend on me to return every night in at least some semblance of how I left them. So, right now I'm working on trying to find Bugs a great trail riding home. It's a bit akin to looking for the needle in the haystack in this economy but I'd like to do what is best for him and me and hopefully someday I'll be in a position to find the right partner for eventing!