Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finally - A Jumping Lesson!

This past Saturday I trucked Maggie out to a farm about a half hour away for our first jumping lesson with a new trainer. I've been talking about looking for a trainer to jump with (since my trainer at the farm next door is dressage-only) since last year and even made it my number one riding goal for this year. So this was a BIG DEAL to me!
Maggie may not have been as excited as I was.
Let me just talk about this farm for a second before I go into detail about the lesson. The farm is beautiful. I wouldn't say it's beautiful in the modern, brand new, everything is sparkly kind of beautiful - but it's beautiful in very historic New England way; rustic style barn, gigantic old trees lining the driveway, and a view of the forest from the riding ring. It even has some historic roots in the sport of eventing...

These pics are from the fall when I trailered a friend to a show at this farm, but srsly. Gorgeous.
Looking down at the jump ring.
Now about the lesson.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was having daydreams of a groundbreaking lesson and coming away with new insight on getting my lower leg rock solid and my release perfect. Of course though, we went back to basics first. Just like I need to get to know this new trainer and her teaching style, she needs to get to know me and Maggie and see where we're at and what we need to work on first.

We started with some flat work at first and New Trainer (aka Jump Trainer) watched us warm up. I was taking it easy and trying to not do too much, but after just a couple circles at the trot I was asked to shorten my reins and ask Maggie for more contact. Hmm...that was a familiar request. Our main focus of the lesson was on keeping Maggie packaged and getting her to think about the placement of each footfall, not just trotting or cantering around willy-nilly. 

As we worked on the flat, we focused a lot on turning from the outside aids and getting Maggie really attuned to my outside rein. I've been working on this a good bit (RE: straightness on a circle) with Dressage Trainer, but more at the trot than the canter at this point.

Here are my takeaway points from the flat portion:
  • At the canter, I need a lot more outside leg to get enough impulsion to keep Maggie engaged. Like, way more leg than I thought at first. I had to give her a good boot once or twice.  
  • I might need to put a little more weight in my stirrups at the canter in order to help regulate the rhythm (instead of letting Maggie set the pace). More weight in my stirrups will hep me control the movement of my seat.
  •  Before turning (at any gait) make sure that the new outside rein is engaged and organized. Always have a moment of straightness before the change of direction.
And then we did a little jumping. Just a little bit. Like I said - it was a 'getting to know you' not a 'let's see how high your horse can possibly jump' lesson.

After watching us trot a cross rail a few times, Jump Trainer set us up with an exercise: 4 jumps (very small verticals) in a '+' shape and we were to trot the first, then circle left, trot the next one, circle left, etc. Like this:

There were two main points that this exercise focused on:
  • As before: turn from the outside rein. This keeps Maggie balanced. Better balance approaching the jump = a better jump.
  • Do not change rhythm when approaching the jumps. Jump Trainer said I've done good work teaching Maggie the job of getting from side A to side B (that was validating to hear!) and now the next step is to keep her packaged as we approach the jump. She needs to stay balanced and tuned to my aids as we approach the jump and I had to concentrate on not letting her rush. 
Jump Trainer says that Maggie has the ability to go at least to Novice level at some point (awesome to hear!), that she's a keen horse that tries hard to please (which I knew, of course), and that I'm not too big for her (which was also good to hear, as I'm a little self conscious about that.) What we need to work on is getting her to the jumps correctly and setting her up for success to get over them, since she can't rely on her height once they get bigger.

I really liked working with this new trainer - it sounds like her training philosophy is right on and I understood what she was trying to say during the lesson. Every now and then she would stop and say "So how did that feel?" and I would have to really think about what I aids I just gave. I think I got my self in a really good place over the winter and so far this spring with all the flat work we've been doing because I think it put us in a really good place to get serious about jumping and make the most of these lessons. I'm hoping to do a lesson with this trainer at least once a month - it's a little pricey, but I think totally worth it!


  1. IMHO a good jump trainer is worth their weight in gold! It's awesome to hear you already talk about how both trainers are telling you some of the same things -- that's how you KNOW you're working in the right direction and that both trainers are a good fir for you and Maggie!

  2. My husband just did the same cloverleaf exercise at his jump lesson. Weird coincidence.

  3. yay so glad you like the new trainer - sounds like the perfect getting-to-know-you lesson! and very interesting that she zeroed right in on some of the same concepts you've been addressing in dressage lessons. it can be frustrating to step back to the basics - but this whole idea of using the outside aids and focusing on the quality of the canter has been revolutionary for me, and completely changed my horse's understanding of jumping for the better

  4. Sounds like this trainer could be a great fit for you guys! I love that jump pattern, although I'm sure it can get tricky!