This weekend we put all the pieces together from the gymnastic exercises we've been doing for weeks. Tight turns, shifting weight, staying in a balanced jump position, bending lines, drastic speed changes, all kinds of technical things. My riders have worked really hard to master these things in individual exercises, and today I set a course that put it all together.
This diagram is from a hunter derby type competition. Instead of brush as obstacles near the ends I used the barrels, which still made for tight turns. To just go out and ride a course like this as written is very tricky. I like to set up my riders so they can finish the course successfully by the end of the lesson, so I break it down into pieces.
First I had them individually ride the outside line of three fences (1abc) which were ground poles to start, and ride through the turns in the obstacles (2, 3, 4).
Next time through they repeated this, and I added on the diagonal line (5abc).
Third time through we repeated everything they'd done so far, plus added the second set of obstacles (7, 8).
Next time through repeated everything so far, plus the bending line ((8, 9).
Lastly they rode the entire thing, including the last time through the barrels (10, 11, 12).
Doing it this way breaks it down into manageable chunks so the horses and riders can calmly and confidently accomplish each section, and by the time they've done the whole thing it's all very familiar and easy. To increase the difficulty I have them do it faster and/or over larger fences.
The first lesson of the day was Joan with Sam, and Alice with Beauty. Rozie was here helping and videoing, and she even ran the barrels portion of the course on foot for us as an example.
This video shows the course as we introduced it, as ground poles at the trot.
This video shows what it looks like once we raise the jumps to crossrails.
Beauty was awesome, quiet and conservative with her jumping efforts as always. Alice did an incredible job of changing speeds to get the distances between jumps and then slow down to a collected jog to get through the barrels portions.
My dogs of course were here helping as moral support and running the course with the horses. They tend to just work with the horses they know from helping me ride in training rides, not lessons. So they always want to help Sam, Dewey, and Silver, but when it's Beauty's turn (who I don't often ride), they just watch her do her thing and take a break.
Speaking of breaks, Highboy was enjoying spectating today. While moving big round bales this week one of the bales burst its hay twine, just snapped and the bale exploded. I tied it back together as best I could to get it into a paddock, but there was a good size pile that I wasn't able to reattach. Rozie raked most of it into Highboy's paddock, and today he used it as an edible mattress.
Back to the arena, Dewey had a fun time with the course. He and Sara are better every time they work together. It always impresses me how much better Dewey jumps when fences look substantial enough for him to feel it's worth some effort.
At the end of their ride I did have Dewey and Sara do the final bending line of the green to the blue, and they really nailed it this last time. It makes such a difference when you can master the elements individually.