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Jumping to it!

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Grange De Lings HedgeI guess the thing we have most worked on this month with Jay is his Cross Country training. In the first section of owning him we just played at a bit of everything, then we did not have a jumping saddle, so we had a phase of just Dressage and hacking, then the third “stage” we got a saddle and we did show jumping.

Our first time Cross Country Jay was <BLOG_BREAK>a star, but I found that when he jumped XC fences he launched like a baby, and I could not sit to it! I think we both got a bit upset with ourselves, no “bad” incidents, just frustration. We did have a look at steps and a ditch, but did not touch water. In fact Jay was spooky just to be in the same field as a water jump, and as things were not feeling relaxed and happy we just did not go there.

For our second outing we went to Newton, and I asked Sherlock’s new owner, Johnny, to come too. I knew that Johnny would not have any predetermined ideas as to what we should or should not do. I was right, he brought his dog, and came for a walk with Jay and I, and we had no agenda between us other than to have a nice day out.

In fact we took a lunge rein to the schooling area with us.  Although Jay has always been a gent to me, I was aware that Newton was the one schooling ground that he had been to in 2010, just the once, and he apparently spent the first 20 minutes on his hind legs. So, just in case he “remembered” the experience we had a lunge rein so if it all got out of hand I could work him from the floor, and have him thinking in a logical way before re-mounting and working in a more productive way.

I need not have worried, Jay was quite excited, but very well behaved. We warmed up, and although he scooted forwards a couple of times when some other riders were having a good time and squealing and laughing, and galloping about, he did not back it up with any vigour. Once we were worked in we started to jump.

With the XC fences I found that if I rode at them a bit “gung ho” the Jay would jump them, but he was again launching. This time I had taken the precaution of a neck strap, so I could at least stay with him! My mistake came with the water, I decided to cross a ditch to approach from the easier side, I was not afraid of ditches, we had done them. HOWEVER this time I jig jogged to the ditch without purpose, just presuming we would step over, and Jay nearly stopped, so I slapped him to go, and this was his first slap, and he was AGHAST! He leaped, and shot off, and was very upset with himself, and stood spinning at the water’s edge. Poor Jay, I had to laugh at his horror as it was so theatrical!

We walked around a bit until he was more settled, we “made up” and then he deigned to walk through the water. Then trot through the water, then even canter! When we went to the second water complex he was dithery but he went, first time and without fuss. I was so pleased I dismounted and made a huge fuss of him, and we went back to the box!

The weekend after we went XC schooling again, this time with Andy to Epworth. Andy had not met Jay before, and he was a bit taken aback at just how small Jay is! Again, we had no agenda, just out to have a nice day. We warmed up, and Jay was very dozy, we have only been to Epworth to do Dressage before, and Jay finds dressage a bit uninsperational. He perked up once he realised we were jumping though.

This time Jay was much easier to sit to on the straightforward fences. We did have a spin at a ditch, a spin at the water at first attempt, and a near run out at a very narrow fence, but all was completed on second approach with good humour. In fact there were some photos....... Thank you Andy!
Epworth Water
Next week, another XC course; next was Grange De Lings, again with Andy. This time Jay seemed a lot more confident from the outset, as in “Ah, cross country”. Again lovely photos, and I think we now have ditches sorted out.
GDL Ditch and rail  GDL ditch

This was the first time also that Jay went straight into the water, no spin. We just walked and the first step he tested it with his foot, and you would have thought that it was electrified, but he steadied himself and went in. Good Boy!

Oh no, this time the trouble (well it has always been a trouble for us, but this time it was the major one) was with a step down. The course had a step down then a few strides later a skinny fence. I tried to trot to the step steadily, but Jay does not like this, he spun off. If I come at a strong canter he would jump it, but he then LAUNCHES off and lands on all four feet. This made me shaken up and he ran past the skinny fence!

Poor Jay, he knew he had been naughty, he ran a circle as fast as his legs could carry him, and pulled up once he noticed that I was not so annoyed. Hmmm, we went back and just did the skinny fence, and he was so upset from the first time he ran past it again. We re-presented and he did it, and was made a fuss of. No demons Jay, we are all just here to have fun.

There was a smaller step on the course, like a podium on and off. This was better as he was up and straight off, no time to launch. We did this a few times, but I still found that if I leaned back as I should, Jay is scared as I am in an unusual place on his back. When he is scared he shoots forwards, and I was in danger of sliding right off the back of the saddle! Hmmm, need to think about this.

We jumped a simple fence to finish on a happy note, and I went to think about it. The hedge on the title of this blog was from this day.

In fact I knew the answer. I need to have Jay walk off a step in a calm and happy way. It is no good to me if we have to be “Gung Ho” at everything. We can then “practice” Jay seeing and feeling me wobbling like a Weeble on his back, we can work the mechanics out together, where I have to sit, and how he can just drop his front end off the step without also launching outwards. Once we are comfortable with the stakes and movement low, then we can go for bigger steps, and then trot off, then build it up from there. No gung ho, no danger. Suits me that way!

Next weekend was to Sommerford Park. I competed there last year, but I had no idea how big and busy the yard area was. They have a load of facilities, and there were about 20 lorries there with day visitors; lorries were arriving and departing all of the time. In addition there must have been about 70 stables; horses and people everywhere. A busy place to take Jay on my own, a long way from home.

I had just hired the “farm ride”, which is 6 miles of all weather track, with XC fences at 70cm and 90cm, water, steps and ditches; running all around the estate. I tacked up, and a second set of horses was in front of me, Jay was a bit fidgety to mount, but was good, so we set off and then two more slotted in about 100yds behind. I did not know where to go, so I just followed between the turnout paddocks. It was all very exciting, and Jay did think about spinning, but he did not. We had some emergency stops while he took in all the excitement, but then he walked on when told, what a star.

The front pair went on to this grassy lane, and just as we got to the grass too the pair in front promptly galloped off and jumped the fences. I was a bit concerned as to what Jay would do, and he was VERY excited, but he held it together, and I decided to walk to the first fence to see what it was like. I did not like the thought of doing what they had done, to mount up then go gallop and jump, so I decided to trot back to the start, then canter to the fences. As I trotted back the pair that had been behind me started to go, and cantered at speed past me, again Jay was a super super star, and stayed with me.

Once we started though he was silly and theatrical, the initial fences were against the hedge, and Jay did not want to canter near the hedge, he KNOWS things can jump out and attack you from the hedge, so for the first few fences we were cantering sideways and he was jumping like a 3 year old learning for the first time! He does make me smile.

When we got to the water jump there were 5 of us there, and he was magic, we took our turn to walk, trot and canter through the water, and the only major problem we had was with a pair of human sized bunches of balloons belonging to the house next door. As we exited the water for the first time, we cantered up the slope, he saw them and FROZE. There was a mile of bunting and these huge balloon creations blowing in the wind, and Jay got stuck, like a statue. Unfortunately a girl chose that moment to come crashing through the water behind us, and I was urging Jay to move his royal backside out of the way, and the pressure as all too much. He did a bit of sideways canter in excitement, but all in all he was brilliant!

The other horses all left us, and we had the water jump to ourselves so we could work a bit on the steps. As I said, I have found that Jay will do steps if I am all Gung Ho about it, unfortunately he then launches, which I do not like. Previously if I dilly dallied to the step (or water, or ditch) he would lose courage on the way, and spin round. After our last XC I decided that Jay will learn to walk off a small step or two, then learn to jog to it and step. I do not “do” Gung Ho very well. So, we spent a bit of time walking off the step firstly onto dry land, then into the water We managed to trot the water and canter up the step the other side, and I was done!

Hmmm, the balloons were guarding the path to the rest of the course, and Jay froze up as we approached, but I just let him take his time, requested that he did not spin, and every few minutes he offered a few more steps, and soon we were past them and away!

We then did a run of jumps from a rhythm, and Jay is teaching me why Sherlock would jump to the left with me! I always thought it was because my left leg is weak and does not work so well, so I try to weight that leg so I can use it better. Jay has taught me that actually in my attempt to weight it I shift my bum to the left, then cock my shoulders to the right to then balance on the jump. I knew the last bit, but did not know that the root cause was not my weak leg, but me perceiving that I needed to counter the weak leg, and doing it in the wrong way. So, over these fences I tried to shift my weight to have him jumping straight, with fair results.

As I did not know the route I was surprised to find the coffin, on a curving line, but we zoomed over. Yes, it seems that we have “sorted” ditches! Then a staircase down and up, and again I did not let him “tackle” it at speed and launch, we went at walk and stepped off the first, jig jogged the second and trotted the third, then cantered the steps on the way up. Good boy.

After this we needed a breather, and when we walked I dropped my whip (doh), but Jay was a gent while I dismounted and picked it up, he then squizzed over to a jump so I could re-mount. The next bit of the ride was non jumping, but lovely riding in beautiful sunshine in FAB countryside. We then dropped down into the main Event XC part of the park, and there was another line of jumps to jump in a rhythm, and it felt great, much improved.

Then.... the river. There is a river, that goes quite deep, you go in, turn right and go about 100yds upstream, and it is quite quick flowing. Jay went into the water, as he is an obliging chap, but when it got over his knees he lost courage a bit, and stopped to dither. I just sat, and asked him not to spin, and not to go back, and bit by bit he gained trust to go forwards, and we did it, did the full 100yds. Then we did it again, and the second time he dithered but did not stop. The third time he swaggered up the river, feeling very pleased with himself, so I left that there.

There were a whole load more jumps, but I just did a couple, then I found that the soft sand with fairly big stones in that made up the all-weather surface were making him a bit footsore, so we just walked back. He went round the field where they were setting up for the event, and he saw the tents and stands, and was a good boy. He then stood tied to the lorry while I washed him off. I was so tired when I got home, it was a nice place, but a bit far to go to on a regular basis. Especially on my own.

Other than that we have continued our showjumping. One lesson we went up to a course between 1.05m and 1.10m. Gosh,  I had Jay so slow that it was scary to me, as I have always kicked on a bit at this height. I was told to sit still, and Jay makes it easy, and in a one hour lesson we did not knock a single fence down. Yeah for JJ superstar!!!

We have also done 2 more British Novice classes at BS shows. The last one we could have done a discovery, but I had to go to work afterwards and did not have time to wait. For an Intro event it is only as high as British Novice anyway. One of the shows we had a problem with the “scary cafe” where Jay could see people inside. We cantered 3 illicit circles, but it was before we started, so it did not count. In fact, once we were “on course” the cafe was not half so scary as he has his mind on the jumping.

We have also been hacking. I travel Jay to Harrogate to be shod, and one day I was up early, threw Jay into his lorry and was into Harrogate by 7am for shoeing. After Jay was shod I tacked him up and took him for a ride in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.

We had a FAB time, we even did the same “Troll Bridge” that caused Sherlock such consternation (and over an hour) to cross. As with Sherlock Jay got half way over, then saw the drop and water through the open slats and slammed into reverse. I knew what would happen when we exited the bridge, so I already had a hand through his neckstrap before he spun left, and because I was quite inert, and laughing, he was soon back to relaxed Jay. I then dismounted and lead him over the bridge, so I could show him it was safe. On the other side I was confronted with the fact that there was nowhere to re-mount (not off the floor please- I am over 40!), so I led him back over, remounted off the fence and rode him over in the original direction. First time OK, it was as though he said, “OK Mum, you showed me it was OK, I trust you, I can do it”. Superstar.

Later on the ride Jay was attacked by a small flock of sheep that had escaped, which made me laugh again. He would have spun, I think, if he could have worked out which way to spin for the best! Unfortunately he usually spins to the left, and the sheep were.........to his left! Aaaaaaagh! He scooted forwards instead, I just looped my hand through his neckstrap and he was back to walk within a few yards, trying to regain his air of self importance. Not easy when a few sheep have scared you half to death!

Finally we met a family group who had a little boy who rushed to Jay very wildly, waving his arms and shouting, and Jay tensed and I did not know what was going to happen, but he was calm and gentle. The horse is a saint!

Other than that Jay has been his normal characterful self. This is a photo I took of him this morning, jumping the fence we have lowered so he can feel clever and self important without jumping the steel gate all of the time. We have bought a whole load of wood to higher all of his fencing to 6’6”, I only hope that this will stop him!!!

As all is going so well I decided to enter an event, at Aston le Walls. It is an unaffiliated Intro, and it is on SUNDAY! I have not had Jay in such a busy place yet, there will be both tannoys for Cross Country and Show Jumping, and I believe we have to cross the Cross Country course just to get to dressage! On Jay’s history though he will turn to liquid and hold my hand and see me right.

If not, we will take the lunge rein and I will just play around in the atmosphere to help him feel more at peace with it all. No pressure. Just there to have fun!

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  1. Cordy Coupland

    It is really a joy to read your blogs and I am constantly learning from you. Your patience and understanding is admirable. I can hardly wait to read the next adventure. Jay is a superstar!!!

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  2. Gail

    Ruth - I love reading your blogs! I feel like I'm actually there in your discoveries, and often think "catalog that one for use". I know you and Jay will get along well, and Sunday will be a successful outing!

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