Okay, so I already gave away the good part.
Sparky turned 8 on Saturday. Eeek! Where does the time go?!? Last I knew, I'm pretty sure he was 4. Anyhow, so Sparky's chronological age is now 8, and his "training age" (yes, I made that up) due to his injury and related set-backs is 6 1/2, and he should be "all grown up" either way.
And he *just* might be (knock on wood).
On Tuesday, Honorary Big Sister Jen hauled Tiki and Sparky to her place of employ so we could ride together and kick each other's butts. This was going to be Jen's last jump school in preparation for her (and Tiki's) first outing at Novice at the May Daze horse trial in Kentucky. My goal with Sparky was to go somewhere different, jump around fences he hasn't necessarily seen in those particular spots, and do a little bit at 3'0". My rationale was that if one of the PWF IEA kids can jump him 3'0", there's no reason I can't!
Everybody pretty much knows that the journey with Sparky has been, uh, interesting (Greg Best saying Sparky was an asshole, anyone?). So it has taken a while for Sparky to get to where he "should" be training-wise. And the goals for this trip were not a "given."
We started out in the covered, due to an annoying thunderstorm rolling through. Honorary Big Sister Jen had some stuff set at 2'-ish, a vertical on the diagonal at 2'9", and a 3'0" oxer on a short, awkward diagonal. Sparky and I were not going to attempt that one. We warmed up on the flat, for which Sparky was pretty good. Honorary Big Sister Jen then did some 2'-ish stuff with Tiki, and then I followed suit with Sparky. It wasn't all perfect (and I certainly wasn't!), but Sparky never hesitated. In fact, he was forward enough that I was *quite* glad that I had chosen to use the Sprenger WH bit for the day. We progressed through the line (it was set as a two to a one, or a one to a two, depending on which way you were going) each way... and eventually I got brave, and we cantered up to the 2'9" vertical. And the Sparkplug looked a little bit, but he went right over! I did my job to make Honorary Big Sister Jen jump the 3'0" several times, even though Tiki was being a shit. *shrugs* I do what I can to make others' lives more enjoyable. ;)
After the rain let up, we moved to the (much) bigger outdoor arena. Because of the rain, the footing was pretty darn near perfect. Honorary Big Sister Jen had set herself an entire course at 2'9"-3'0", which she planned to jump "cold" (no schooling over anything before going in and jumping the course). So she and Tiki started out over the course, and then decided on a do-over. Second attempt was perfect-ish - Honorary Big Sister Jen sat up, rode, made decisions, and didn't take anything for granted. I was very proud of her!
Then it was my turn. Honorary Big Sister Jen watched Sparky while I went around and dropped random jumps to various lower heights. I dropped the square oxer to 2'3", because I really haven't done too many of them with Sparky (and this is clearly Jen's fault, because she doesn't like oxers and never sets them at home... so since I'm too lazy to set anything other than what she's set, I don't do many oxers!), and then walked around and lowered a few others that seemed somewhat imposing.
I vaulted up onto my trusty steed (ok, really I used the mounting block to get on the pudgy pony), and off we went. I didn't have an actual plan in mind (good thinking, I know) other than to just jump everything in the arena. We started with the oxer because it was low and oxers generally don't scare me (except for 3'0" ones set on an awkward short diagonal). And it went well. So we continued along to the single verticle on the outside line. Which also went well (not perfect, but well enough). And we continued around to a single hanging gate (Sparky and I had never jumped a single hanging gate before). And it went well. And next thing I knew, Sparky and I were doing exactly what Honorary Big Sister Jen and Tiki had done - going in and jumping an entire course "cold." And every single fence was just. fine. After the gate, we strung together the outside line, the other gate (this one had flowers underneath), and a ramped oxer. And Sparky perfectly willingly jumped everything. He looked a bit at the oxer, but said, "OK - if that's what you want!" and jumped it with a foot to spare.
And I was pleased as punch.
The sequence of jump heights was 2'3"-2'9"-2'9"-2'6"-7 strides (we did 8)-3'0"-3'0"-3'0". Holy crap! Sparky did it! He actually did it!
We still have some things to work on, but I could not be more happy with Sparky on that day. Everything I asked, he did. He trusted me to not put something in front of him that he "couldn't" do. And he looked super-cute doing it!
As for me, though Honorary Big Sister Jen complimented on the fact that I've become much more of a stylist and a thinking rider, rather than "seat of the pants" (hmmm... that sounds familiar as well), I am terribly out of shape for jumping and have developed the habit of letting my stirrups be too long. I *might* make it a point to spend some quality time in two-point for the next several days-weeks-months-as-yet-undetermined-timeframe... and I am definitely going to make it a point to get my stirrups to a *proper* length. Too-open knee angle? No thanks.
And without further ado, here is the link to Spanky's course! http://youtu.be/rathK9Jn5iU