I've been having a blast with Xena, the new thoroughbred mare who arrived for training last week. She is exactly my favorite kind of horse: hot, sensitive, smart, athletic. Here are a few free jumping photos from the round pen so we can all take a moment to appreciate her natural jumping form.
Her rides have been notably better each time I've been on her. By only her third ride with me I've discovered that she knows not only walk, trot, and canter under saddle, but also leg yields, shoulder in, flying lead changes, and has significant jumping experience. I suspect she has had problems because she is such a finely tune creature, and gets incredibly upset if cued too strongly. To get a left lead canter I just very slightly alter my weight in the saddle and think "canter," and off she goes. To stop her I can't use my reins because she is so bothered by strong signals. So I exhale deeply and slow the motion of my seat, and she comes down into a very balanced slower gait. I adore this mare, and this kind of high-finesse ride is my most favorite to work with!
This weekend I rode her in a group of three horses, and when she realized she was to have fun with friends she got pretty wound up. I lunged her over ground poles for a little while until she began thinking. After playing on the line a little she said she was ready to ride by calmly coming in to the middle of the circle to talk to me and Mahzi the dog. I led her to the block to mount.
Once I was on, Xena expressed that she was pretty excited to be out with other horses, and there was a little bit of hopping around until she realized that Dewey and Rain weren't going to play with her. Then she was all business! We had a thorough warmup which included serpentines, trotting through ground poles, and practicing lead changes over poles and cross rails.
Lastly I had her work through a gymnastic exercise which consisted of four trot poles, a cross rail with two strides to a second cross rail, then either 4 or 5 canter strides to another low fence
The second time through the gymnastic she stopped to look (the lighting was funny with the shadow from the covered portion of the arena), but then hopped over much more quickly. By the third time through she was boldly jumping everything I pointed her at in a balanced and forward manner. I'm sure she hasn't done any jumping for some time, but whatever past training she has had came back to her extraordinarily quickly.
When we were done schooling I let her cool out by walking on the buckle. She was relaxed, swinging through her back, and had a pleased look on her face! I really really like this mare.