Today we had a group jumping lesson, the first in what felt like ages because of weather and holidays. We had 3/4 of the blender set up. Normally there are four fences, but today we just worked with three. This exercise is good for steering, creating consistent bend, and pacing.
If introducing this exercise to a horse or rider who hasn't done it before, we start out with ground poles. The jumps/poles are set 60' apart, so from center of red to center of purple is 60'. From center of blue to center of the fourth (missing) fence is also 60'. That sets it up so if an average size horse is cantering the exercise at a medium canter and is riding it as a round circle, there are five strides between each jump. If the canter stride is shorter, you can get six strides between each one.
If the blender is being ridden more as a square, an average size horse in a medium canter will get four strides between each jump.
Today we worked on getting an easy rhythmic canter in the round version, and making sure the rider is looking ahead before the horse is in the air over each jump.
Carol and Ladd did a great job with the exercise.
In this first purple jump photo you can see Carol on Ladd, looking straight ahead, so he lands and goes straight.
In this photo, you can see Carol looking through the turn in the air over the jump, and so Ladd landed turning.
Silver and Gillian did well, too. Since the two of them are farther along in their jumping training I raised the fences a bit. Most of my exercises are very challenging unless you build them up gradually. We sometimes start as simply as walking a course of ground poles. This gives the rider and horse a chance to figure out the technique while the jumps are very low-risk. To increase the difficulty we raise the fences, and do the exercise faster. So eventually the blender is ridden at the canter over verticals. But first ground poles at the walk, then crossrails at the trot, then cantering over verticals.
Beauty and Alice had a mental breakthrough today. They made the shift from thinking of this as a jumping course, to thinking of it as a canter circle with three slightly larger strides (the crossrails) in it. It made a wonderful difference when Alice rode the whole circle, and just stayed put as Beauty negotiated the poles. Riding it as "jump - canter five strides - jump - canter five strides - jump - canter five strides" can mentally get stressful. When it's just cantering along and once in a while you have a slightly larger canter stride, you can ride it as a circle and it all goes much more smoothly.
Dewey and Sara are making some tack changes to make it easier for Sara to keep her lower leg in the right spot. Today I loaned them Raven's jumping saddle for them to try. The balance on that one is very different from Dewey's jump saddle, and the flap puts Sara's leg in a much better position.
Today's extra member of the peanut gallery was Bhakti, Carol's new dog. He's about six months old and so he and Pascal did a LOT of playing today while I was teaching.
It's really good for young dogs like Bhakti and Pascal to go places, meet new dogs, learn social skills, and observe horses riding around. Just good life lessons and acclimation to the world. When the lesson was over, Bhakti was content to lie down and stay with Carol and Ladd.
Rizzo worked hard all day, and when we were finally done, she hopped up on the picnic table, curled up into a little ball on top of Kimberly's sweatshirt, and went to sleep.