Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Quarter-Circle of Death

The thing with having two horses is that it seems that it's never time to get one horse going again... it seems like it's always time for both!

It's been a while since I jumped with Sparky, and if he's going to play at IEA horse this year, let alone play at any eventing-like things, he needs to continue progressing in his jumping - preferably without the attitude.  Therefore, last night was jumping night.

I planned on starting out in the usual manner - W-T-C, followed by some lateral work and circles, but Sparky had a different idea.  He quite clearly wanted to work off some steam, so I gave him the reins and let him set the pace.  He picked up a brisk trot, went a few times around, then picked up the canter.  After a couple of circuits at the canter, he came back down to the trot, and then walk.  We changed directions, and he did the same thing - trot, to canter, to trot, to walk.

Now that Sparky was content and ready to focus on what I wanted, we moved onto some lateral work and circles.  He's still not quite figured out haunches-in, but he's getting there.  He was definitely less frustrated with it when asked on the circle rather than on the rail.  His shoulder-in, as always, was quite good, and his leg yield is continuing to improve.  Well, really, I should say my leg yield is continuing to improve, because I know the issues we have with it are really more mine than his.

Once I felt we were sufficiently bend-y and warmed up, we moved onto jumping.  Honorary Big Sister Jen had set two jumps at 9:00 and 12:00 on the circle of death.  I'm usually too lazy and/or too pressed for time to move jumps much, so those were the same jumps Sparky did.  I had set the 9:00 jump as a cross rail to start out.  We approached on the left lead, and I used the same approach Greg had me use in the clinic, of starting to the right of center and landing to the left of center.  Once we had done that a few times, we reversed and did the same on the right lead.  Sparky behaved perfectly, so I hopped off and changed the crossrail to a 2'3" vertical.  We again started on the left lead, and repeated what we had done over the crossrail. 

Once we had gone both directions over the 2'3" vertical, I decided it was time to move on the the 12:00 jump, which I'd set at 2'6".  Sparky was listening well on the approach, but I will admit, I had a moment of worrying that he was going to stop.  Instead of continuing to worry though, I quickly formed Plan A and Plan B.  Presented in the order in which they were formulated: Plan A was that if he stopped, he was getting his butt beat, and it might turn into the previously-predicted knock-down, drag-out battle;  Plan B was to sit up, keep my leg on, keep a slight, but soft feel of his mouth, and ride confidently to the jump.  Plan B prevailed, and Sparky jumped the 2'6" off both leads very well.

Finally, I decided that we were doing well enough to attempt the quarter-circle of death, at least on the left lead.  Twice in a row, Sparky complied and neatly jumped over the 2'6" vertical at 12:00 and then went right over the 2'3" vertical at 9:00 with no hesitation.  I was very pleased with all his effort, so I called it quits with that.

There is still room for improvement in the areas of bending and following the track for Sparky; he didn't have quite enough bend through his body to execute the ideal bending track between the two jumps, but I was very pleased with his willingness to try.  He is still green, so perfection is definitely something I cannot expect.  On the plus side, he was really good about moving off my leg to correct our track, and his canter continues to improve.  He very readily took both leads, even during our Sparky-guided warm-up, so that indicates to me that he is getting stronger and more comfortable on his right lead.  Overall, I was very pleased with my Napolean Dynamite.

When I was done with the Sparkplug, I hopped on Star to do some work on the flat.  I had changed her Pelham back to the one she seems to prefer, with the longer shank and the ported mouthpiece.  It was like I had a completely different horse than I did the other night.  I don't think bending is ever going to be Star's strong suit, but she was much less stiff, and just seemed, in general, more happy.  The current plan is to do some jumping with Star on Thursday, also with this Pelham, and evaluate which bit to use for the IEA show from there.

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