So much fun today at Acorn Farm! After I’d warmed up on lesson horse Kobe, my trainer Nathalie had me practice the jumping position with Kobe at the trot. I knew that meant I would be doing some jumping today but I had no clue I was going to be jumping my first course–that is, a predetermined sequence of jumps. Until now, I had only ever taken one jump at a time, and was allowed to walk and regroup after it, or to canter in a big circle then take the same jump again.
To start me off, Nathalie had me jump two jumps, one right after the other in a straight line, so I had no steering to think about after landing the first jump. The first was the cross-rails at the end of the arena, and the second was the flower-box jump directly ahead of it. I did that a couple of times and was feeling comfortable with it.
That’s when Nathalie decided to up the ante by pointing out three jumps she wanted me to attempt in sequence–my first jumping mini-course. The difference was that these jumps were facing in different directions, requiring good steering and even a flying lead change before the last jump. Paige, a young student of Nathalie’s (who at 10 years old is an experienced rider and show-jumper with many ribbons to her credit), kindly agreed to video my attempts at the course.
Nathalie wanted me to start off with the flower-box jump, heading away from her, turn left PAST the cross-rails that I’d jumped earlier, then turn left between the cross-rails and the far jump, proceed back towards Nathalie to the next jump near the center of the arena, then circle round to the right to jump the crossrails at the other end of the arena. (This will make sense when you see the video.) Since this is all new to me and I tend to get flustered with new stuff, during my first attempt I made a mistake.
As you’ll see, once I had cleared the flower-box jump and circled towards the left, I looked over and saw that I was perfectly lined up to take the cross-rails jump. I completely forgot about going past it and gaily cantered Kobe over the jump as I had already done a couple times before. When I landed I suddenly realized I’d gone the wrong way, hesitated and Kobe broke stride from the canter to the trot. Nathalie laughed about me throwing in an extra one and waved me on to the next jump in the sequence. After the next jump I was thinking about steering more than speed, and again, Kobe dropped out of the canter to a trot. Luckily, I was able to get him to pick it up again quickly (and on the correct lead!), and finish the course.
We were laughing when I was done because I’d messed up and managed to sneak in an extra jump. Nathalie was surprised but pleased because she didn’t think I’d be able to turn Kobe correctly to make that first cross-rail and that’s why she’d originally asked me to go past it. Once she’d seen that I could make the turn, however, she asked me to include it in my next attempt, making it a four-jump course instead.
The second attempt didn’t go so well. After the first flower-box jump I turned too sharply left and didn’t give myself enough room to swing Kobe around for the second cross-rail jump. So I ended up riding past it, the way Nathalie intended me to go in the first place! Then after the third jump, I turned Kobe too sharply to the right to line him up properly for the fourth and final cross-rail. So I ended up jumping only two jumps of the four-jump course. But those errors showed me clearly what I needed to do.
For the final attempt I managed to get the course and the steering figured out, took all the jumps in the proper order with much better steering and speed, and got my lead change for the last jump. I was delighted!
Anyhooo, here’s the video:
The teeny-tiny size of the jumps is a bit embarrassing, and hopefully, there will be bigger jumps before too long. After every riding lesson, my son asks, “Did you jump higher, Mom?” It’s consolation that Nathalie knows exactly what she’s doing and I have complete trust that when she thinks I’m ready to kick it up a notch, it will happen. It’s so important to get a solid foundation of technique and experience first, and clearly that’s what Nathalie delivers.
As always, the mistakes captured for all time on the video (not just the wrong-jump type) make me cringe. But that’s what practice is all about, and that’s the beauty of it. There will always be something that needs work. Always another excuse to get back on the horse! 🙂