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Oh, the trauma!

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Bridle less in the stubble!Straight after my last blog we had the clinic with Manuela McLean. She is an absolute magician! It is also good to see the improvement year on year. This year Jay was a hero. The overriding comment was that Jay just mirrors me. If I drop him he drops, if I  ride well, then he is right there with me. I am having to ride him with a lot more body tone, to remember to keep my seat bones away from him, it makes all the difference.

We also attended to some ground work that I have allowed to slip. I do find Jay difficult, he does not issue so much of a challenge, he more greases round you in a semi affectionate guise, until he is doing precisely what HE wants, not being flexible to follow my lead.

In fact that has been a theme for teaching this month, as well as with my own horse, that if the horse is generally obliging we do not realise how little the horse is actually bending to our will until we have a request that the horse does not agree with.

I have recently been working with a big horse that has got out of hand, for example it commonly needed catching with feed in the stable, would not lift its feet to be picked out, and would charge off with the owner attached to the head collar. The overriding exercise that has been most beneficial was just to have the horse lead correctly, and a little slower than he would prefer (this horse preferred to charge around and rush). Practicing this flexibility of his mind has started to "cure" a lot of the other undesirable behaviour, without having to visit each misdemeanour one by one.

Jay is not that "bad", but me allowing him to slow-time when leading (HE now has to lead FASTER as this is what will give his mind flexibility as he seems inherently lazy!) was letting him think that he was in charge. He was also giving lovely "kisses", which feel lovely and affectionate, but I KNOW that in reality I am allowing him to push into my space, again "training" him to be pushy.

After this weekend on the school at the clinic Jay had a very quiet week as I was working hard. The ground was still baked too hard for serious XC jumping on my first day off so I decided to hack at Osberton.

Jay was fresher after his time off, but in a nice way. When he has not been worked it increases his propensity to be astonished by many things! Despite this he worked well and took care of me. At one point we were having a lovely canter along the side of the river, when a duck was startled by us and flew up from right underneath us, Jay did a dramatic start to a shy, realised I was not coming with him, and jumped back into line underneath me, as though nothing had happened. Clever little horse.

I excelled in the water crossing stakes, we did the event water, the ford, the river, the stream, then we found that the bigger schooling water had been cleared of yukky algae so we did that too. That was a good finale, it was a log then 4 strides to a step down, 4 strides to another step down into water. Funny as when we did it the other way OUT of the water I was confident to push on and it was three strides, but downhill I held a bit and we did a more cautious four, but Jay still leaped with expression and passion into the water.

As the ground between the river and stream was surprisingly good we did a few jumps as well, with gusto (as long as I rode with a bit of leg). We also did a trek up the river. On the way back to the box we did the seperate part of the river that runs under the bridge in the village, for a whopping 6 water crossings in one day, and back in time for a picnic lunch!

This had us set, ready for Sommerford event. Then.....circumstances took a turn, and the person who was due to go with me could not, and I felt Sommerford was a bit too far to travel on my own. Every cloud......... well, Jay and I had qualified for the British Dressage Area Festival that same day, which is local, so we re re-routed there instead.

The area festival was great but I think Jay would do better if I did not make an error of course!!! In my defence I have NEVER forgotten a test “pre-Jay”, but I find with Jay you cannot think about “what is next” as if you stop concentrating on “what is now” then Jay drops off. Not to do anything naughty, but he just disconnects if you disconnect, fair do’s I guess. It was a silly error, I knew the course, but it was a 60m arena, and there were a lot of markers, and I turned one early. Ooops.

Jay was his customary super star self, easy, happy, trying to please me any which way he can. A very sweet, classy animal. We picked up the test where we left off, did not miss a beat. Easy and consistent, who could ask for more? We scored well, came 5th, and were only 0.3% off qualifying. Ooops, as you lose about 1% for an error of course. Well, luckily Jay did not have aspirations for the final at Hartpury this year, Jay only has aspirations to eat!

A photo of the trot http://www.jumpforit.co.uk/pet13%20sat9-11/rp6x6735.htm that is nice apart from my grimace. We are both in better balance. Not often you get a picture at the moment of suspension in trot...

A photo of his canter is nice too, if only to show just how straight behind he is!! Plus I am not grimacing. http://www.jumpforit.co.uk/pet13%20sat9-11/rp6x6742.htm

That week we also went show Jumping, and did the discovery. The distances on the course were a bit long. We started well, but Jay did seem to lose a bit of confidence in the long distances, then he started to jump awkwardly, then I started to lean too far forward to accommodate the uncomfortable jump.....

Sadly that small thing kicked off our first jumping glitch. Jay likes everything to be so precise, all the distances were long, but one distance was exactly half a stride on a 4 or 5 stride, bang in the middle, and those competitors who did it in 5 did not fare so well as the other distances were all long, and horses were less than settled at being pushed then pulled. It was to the planks, so I kicked on, and we did it in 4, but the fence after that we knocked down as we landed unbalanced from the planks, and disunited. Jay was kind of taking off normally then hanging in the air. First pole Jay has touched in a long time.

It was the cumulative effect on his confidence over the course that worried me, so I went for a lesson that week, and he did it again, hanging in the air, like a deceleration on takeoff, that is uncomfortable for me. At one jump he banged an extra stride in where there was not room, and I was nearly sent into orbit, and he had to catch me. He then went and did a good round, and we are only talking 1m as it was not feeling right, but Jay does NOT make mistakes, and I am used to it all being jolly perfect!!!!

As a remedy I took Jay to Sykehouse for the Trailblazer jumping, and in this competition the distances tend to be a bit shorter and the spreads are not as wide, and we just kicked on round for fun. Not the prettiest round, but we had a great confidence boosting time at 95 and 105 cm, and remembered that the whole point is to have fun, so it was a success.

Finally it rained, and we managed another session XC schooling with Sue Ringrose. She had a lot of correction to do, the awkward jumps had got me in front of the movement again, and the stalling in the air had me using too much leg. I guess you could say that we had lost our equilibrium.  

There was an interesting moment or two on the lesson. We tried a new jump, where you go up a steep mound and over a log at the triangular top, and land downhill. Jay was flabbergasted! He could not work out where to land, as the downward slope was so tall and steep. We had to go to another area just to practice dropping down a slope that was not quite as steep, and before he worked it out Jay even stopped at a small log at the top of the steep slope.

That was funny. I know I should be upset, in our time Jay has not been shy to try a run out XC if he is unsure, and that is cheeky, but he has never ground to a halt in front of a fence before. He was very nervous, but I was SURE he stopped because he simply did not know what to do, rather than being cheeky. To me, if he does not know HOW to do it then not doing it is not naughty!

Once we explained where his feet had to go Jay was elated. That would not be too strong a word. Once he worked it out he would jump the jump as often as I liked, and he was so happy he had his "victory dance" canter going, with his head low, back high, able to change legs at will, all happy and elevated.

Such a FAB lesson, with a bit of technicality at the beginning to lay the ghost of the jumping issue with long distances, then a chance to prove to Jay that I am trustworthy in a crisis. His crisis being that he did not know what to do. I proved that I would not beat him for not knowing an answer, and that I was able to help him to find the answer. We felt very close mentally after this lesson.

I seem to remember saying in a previous blog that Jay and I need to have some mishaps so we can learn to trust each other in times of confusion as well as in relaxed times.

Hmmm, we felt so close after the lesson I had a photo session I wanted to organise. A client once stated that her ambition was to be able and confident to canter her horse in the stubble, and we achieved this, but the emotion behind this request has stayed with me, and now I REALLY enjoy cantering in stubble as I realise it is a real privilege to feel happy and confident to do so. I have been playing in the stubble, and I thought what a great photo it would be, Jay's red coat with the yellow stubble. BUT, wouldn't it be great if Jay was also free, as in without a bridle?

I was so boosted by our XC experience, where we had both trusted that the other was doing their best, that I asked my mum to meet me in the stubble field, and we took the photo on the blog header.  There were more photos, don't think that I was irresponsible, Jay has been trained to respond to the neck strap, seat and legs, so it was all very safe. Jay can even canter a figure 8,steer and slow, all without the bridle. I like the photo on the blod head so much that I have had it framed, but some of the others are nice too. Bridle less in the stubble 2 Bridle less in the stubble 3 

We then had another jumping lesson, where Jay and I were fully on the same page, he was in front of my leg, and I was off his shoulders, and the jumping was easy!

So, back to competition. The second part of summer seems to have been fragmented with the hot weather and hard ground, so I decided to drop back down to BE90 for Frickley next week. In preparation we went to Danethorpe Hill XC near Newark on Monday, where there was a lot of grass cover to cushion the ground. Even so we did not do too much, but had a nice time with a picnic. This is a photo of the Trackhaner fence. Jay looks relaxed, but has a BIG tummy from not being able to keep up his fitness work on hard ground.

Jay at Danethorpe

The Trauma referred to in the blog title? Ah, that occurred here, in the peaceful and sunny car park at Danethorpe. As part of our picnic David and I had small tubs of ready prepared Fruit Salad. I was so pleased with Jay that I saved him my apple. Trauma? Oh yes, I fed Jay the apple with fruit juice on it. He was traumatised, it was obviously poisoned. In fact, since then he has REFUSED all apples, even whole ones. He was having 3 apples in his breakfast and tea dishes, but they are now left. How could I? Poison Jay Jay? With APPLE drenched in fruit juice?

In fact I think Jay went out of his way to pay me back this week. On Thursday morning Jay had BIG back legs. Hmmm, that has never happened before. I took him for a walk out, and they halved, so he was turned out for the day (as he is every day). Friday morning, and they were HUGE, even his hocks were big, and one of his front legs had joined in. I made enquiries, examined my stable management, and found the culprit. We have two Oak trees in Jay's field, and I know not to let horses feast on acorns, so when they fall I carefully pick them up.

This week Jay has apparently been stripping the lower branches of the smaller Oak tree of acorns before they hit the floor. Acorns have Tannin, that draws fluid out of tissue, and as there is an excess it was gathering in Jay's legs overnight. In fact Acorn Poisoning can be serious if unchecked, even leading to death (eek). So, Jay has been removed from the field and is once more turned only on the school.

Meanwhile I consulted the vet, and he agreed the very best resolution would be for Jay to go paddle in the sea. Ho, hollow laugh, the beach is 2 hours' drive away. No matter, Jay was boxed up, we went for a paddle in the sea, his legs came back to almost normal, it was fun, we had a picnic....... AND..... nice photos!!!!!

Jay on the beach 1

Jay on the beach 2

Jay on the beach 3

Jay on the beach 4

Jay on the beach 5

2 days later and it is all resolved, so quickly in fact that we are doing dressage this afternoon, and barring anything else, still plan for Frickley next week.

Ups and downs. Someone once told me, if it were easy everyone would do it, and if it were not for the downs then the ups would not be so wonderful. Me, I prefer to search for whatever fun I can find in it all, overcoming the downs, finding the ups, and liberally sprinkling all times with picnics and photos!!



Just got back from Dressage, and Jay won both the N30 and E49 with 71.5% and 67% respectively. Happy times, photos will be on the "Jumpforit.co.uk" website, and although we did not have a picnic, the bar was open and I was well refreshed with half a dry cider. Happy days.

Makes you think though, if I hadn't worked out it was acorns causing Jay a problem, it could have been different. Cherish the good times, picnics and photos, and even a cold half a cider!

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  1. Gail

    What a wonderful post! I'm so happy that giving him (and you) time to get comfortable with the stream did the trick. I love the pictures of you bridleless, and also those at the beach. Acorns are indeed dangerous, and I'm so glad you found out before any more serious damage was done. But, hey, it got you a wonderful trip to the beach! The trot picture above shows even more suspension than at the show... I also am glad you keep sharing your stories. Hugs, Gail

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  2. Cordy

    Hi Ruth, what a wonderful blog, thank you for taking the time. I love reading of your awareness with Jay's emotional states. I think it is awesome & the stuff you come up with to communicate with him, is inspirational. Don't ever stop writing. Love, cordy

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  3. Ruth

    love reading your blogs, the pictures are lovely, i like the beach ones, its looks like it was a lovely day for a picnic.

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  4. Ruth

    Thank you Crissi, he had tried to have a drink while he was in there, and I think he was saying "YUK"!

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  5. Crissi

    Another low derail Blog - thanks for sharing your experiences with Jay. I always get a kick out of your adventures! I like the photo of you both walking side by side on the beach the best.

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