Category Archives: jumping

The Lesson That Never Ended

Alternate titles: The First Time I Fell Off Macy, Lessons within the Lesson, or, my favorite: The Sh*t Show

Tuesdays lesson was set up for disaster from the beginning. I had asked for a jump lesson and we decided days ago to go out into the new jump field and hop over some of the xc jumps that had recently been placed out there. I told Sarah I wanted to see what Macy was like jumping out in the open.

It was so windy. I mean so so so windy. I couldn’t keep the end of my reins from flying all around. But, because we are eventers, and because I am stubborn, I thought, “It’ll be fine, I need to practice jumping in a new place with less than ideal conditions. What will I do if it is windy at a show? I’m way too cheap (and proud) to scratch.”

That was MISTAKE #1.

Macy was on fire from the get go. I couldn’t hear a thing Sarah was screaming at me, so it looked like I was just ignoring her. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to know you are not doing what your instructor wants but you cannot hear her and change anything. On top of that, the beast you are riding is trying to gallop back to the barn and/or feels like she is about to EXPLODE internally.

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A moment that looked nice

Then, when I could actually hear Sarah, she was telling me to kick Macy forward, but it is petrifying to kick a horse forward (or do anything other than grip uncontrollably with every body part) a horse that you think is going to EXPLODE.  Or it is for me at least.

This was when I realized riding Macy, a hot unpredictable TB, was MISTAKE #2.

What I would have given to have the safety and comfort of Georgie. Instead, I felt like I was going to fall off, be reared off (she never reared, just felt like it) or shook off by her enormously strong neck. I DID sit up and ride and TRY to make things better, but in order to hear Sarah I had to lean in, or cock my head ever so perfectly, and that would throw everything out the window. We did this for about 30 minutes but it felt like eternity. I was miserable and wanted to just throw in the towel with the mare.

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I’m not smiling

But I didn’t. And my intelligent instructor decided that yes, we would jump, but we would work on relaxing the horse (and rider) by trotting jumps AWAY from the barn.  Before we get into that, I would like to share two classic quotes from Sarah that I was actually able to hear  during the lesson:

“Well now she’s just being sour. KICK HER!” (When Macy was running through her shoulder and essentially trying to tear back to the barn)

“No, that’s just what she does. She’s a bitch.” (When Macy was not listening to a thing I was asking and was dragging me around the field and I asked if I was doing something wrong.)

So, we started by jumping a small barrel thing. It went fine. I actually think we did  begin to relax. I was able to work on my position. On the backside of the jump I need to stay up out of the saddle, continue to let my elbows move and ignore her head tossing, bolting, crap.

We moved on to the next jump. It was a narrow coop with two standards that had wooden cutout  watermelons on them. At the beginning of the lesson, all the standards had blown over so Sarah put each upright as we went to the jump. Same routine for this one, trot to it, land and halt.

Great! We trotted to it and about 3 strides out, the standard blew over, towards us, and Macy came unglued.

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Do you see where my foot is??

And I landed on the ground. Totally fine. But on the ground.

Macy took off and after making sure I was ok Sarah said “She’ll probably gallop back to her pasture. We can go get her there.”

MISTAKE #3: Don’t ride a horse whose owner knows where they run to when they have dumped their rider.  ūüėČ

Got her, got on her and came back to the STUPID watermelon standard. I made Sarah stand there and hold it upright. We got over it. Not pretty, but together.

I then jumped this stupid jump like 6-7 more times. It went ok, but Macy was getting agitated on the back side and making it tough on me. It just wasn’t fun. At all.

I felt like we had been out there for hours, but the lesson was literally 50 minutes long start to finish. I’ve never been so miserable in a lesson to the point that it felt way longer than it was.

When we got back to the barn and out of the God forsaken wind I was able to process all that had happened. I really don’t care that I fell off. I’ve basically been waiting for that to happen and know it will again. But I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with the bullshit of the lesson. I hate spooky horses. I have a tough time with hot horses. Put them together and I’m clearly totally miserable.

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Looking sweet and innocent after the lesson

But then I realized that I’m completely starting over with Macy. Not only am I starting with a new horse, I am starting with a completely different kind of horse. And that isn’t going to come easily or without a serious learning curve. Do I want to take that on? Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

Today the answer is yes. (Is this MISTAKE #4???)

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I do love this shot from the end of the lesson

I’ve already learned how to be a better rider in just the few weeks I have been riding Macy. I REALLY want to be able to ride a hot horse for the mere fact that it’s a great tool to have in my toolbelt in case of needing to problem solve for the future. But I want to do it on my terms. If its windy AF I don’t want to ride Macy in the wind in an open field when I KNOW she is going to be batsh*t crazy. I don’t have anything to prove with this mare (and she certainly has nothing to prove with me) and I’m not riding her so I can teach her a lesson or get her to be safe in situations like that. I’m riding her so I can learn from her. Safely. And see what might be fun to do with her. She’s not my forever horse, she is who she is, and hopefully with that arrangement I can still have a good time with her. Does that make sense? I guess in the end I feel like I need to change the way I look at my partnership with Macy and it may not fit into my normal plan. And I think that’s ok.

I’m still signed up for the recognized show in June, but honestly, if I get there and she is crazy, I’m not going to force myself to ride just because we are there and I paid for it. If I get to a lesson and she’s crazy, I may ask Sarah to hop on her and work her a bit for me. I just want to be safe and have fun. And I think it’s possible, and as I get to know Macy better, I think it will become easier.

So, that’s where I am today. And we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings!

 

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Our First Show Together

In the week leading up to the schooling show I was going to with Macy there was a big part of me that was nervous about how it was going to go. But there was also a smaller part of me that was like “eh, just stay on and try to have fun.” As the week wore on, I concentrated more on that smaller feeling until it basically took over my thoughts.

Our trip over was uneventful and Macy settled into her stall and was pretty well-behaved except when I was wrapping her for the night and she refused to stand still. There was a lot of cursing going on. Macy just isn’t the type of horse who is at all concerned about you and what you’re doing. If she wants to move she is going to move.

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Checking things out.

Dressage warm up was in a large grassy field which gave us plenty of space to stay away from other horses. She was mostly calm and relaxed and I felt like we would have a pretty good test. She stood still while we took video of Sarah’s ride and meandered over to the arena. I was like “Oh we’ve got this. This is the new Macy!”

We literally turned to enter the arena at A and Macy turned into a fire-breathing dragon. She cantered up centerline. She was so tense and was taking these teensy tiny trot steps as we approached our first 15 meter circle. I was completely caught off guard and was thinking “Wait, what is going on??” At about our first lengthen (we did the Training A test) I was like ” So THIS is what Sarah was talking about.”

I spent the rest of the test smiling and laughing while trying to get Macy to listen to me a little. Her head was above my shoulders during any transition and for the entire canter lengthen. Yeah, it was a shit show. But, whatever.

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I brought Stella and she and Smokey could have taught Macy a thing or two about relaxation

When I got over to Sarah she said “You stayed in the arena!” Which is what every instructor says when they have absolutely nothing else positive to say. We laughed about it and she gave me some advice and we have some things to work on (get her DEEP so she can’t pull that shit with her head!!) I feel like I got the true Macy dressage experience and I am going to be far better prepared for it next time.

My jump time was soon after dressage- I was doing 3′ since Macy hadn’t been jumping much. Warm up went ok… There was WAY more head tossing than there had been at home and I felt like Macy would suck back at the corner and then take off when we landed.

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But I wore my new lucky socks L gave me for secret Santa!! I love them!!

Luckily Sarah came over before I had to go over to the course and I asked her for pointers. Keep my elbows moving and have a plan for when I land. Don’t just do nothing. Great tips, and they helped. We had one final lovely jump before I headed over to the course.

So, no one I know actually watched my ride, but in my head, here’s how it went: Macy was ready to JUMP. She listened to my aids, I don’t remember a lot of head tossing, I let her go as fast as she wanted, I was uncomfortable with how fast we were going but didn’t feel unsafe, I dropped my hands a couple of times when we got in a little short to the jumps, but basically she was a rockstar and I had a lot of fun. A LOT of fun. I need to get more comfortable with her speed and power, but the nice thing about Macy is she knows her job and takes it seriously so I know she is going to take care of herself and since I’m on her back, will take care of me, too. Mare loves to jump. No jump faults but I forgot to wear my number so our time wasn’t recorded. I like to think we were in the ribbons ūüėČ

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Some kind stranger snapped this photo of us!

So, it was fun. I had fun with Macy. We have a LOT to work on. Especially since Sarah and I agree that we can compete at a recognized show together. So, I got my entry in today, and hopefully we will be doing our first three day event together! This mare has already taught me so much, and I think that if I just keep an attitude that is laid back and eager to have fun, we should have a great season together.

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Making It Work

I’ve been so wrapped up in who my next horse will be, and what I can afford and want, that I’ve been missing out on what’s been going on right under my nose. That mare I was kinda scared of a few weeks back is turning out to be an amazing partner.

I knew something was up on Saturday. It started pouring when I had Georgie out for a walk and I still had Macy to ride. There was a roping clinic going on in the indoor arena so my only option was to ride outside. It wasn’t going to happen in this weather. But, I’d been on a work trip Monday-Thursday and Macy had gotten vaccines on Friday so I hadn’t ridden her in a while. And I REALLY wanted to. So much so, that I made the 25 minute drive back down to the barn after the clinic ended just so I could ride her. WTF. I wouldn’t even do that for Georgie (ok, I would, but Georgie is my heart horse.)

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Love this mare. But man she is filthy these days

The next day I decided to do trot sets around the property. It was windy as f**k. That kind of wind where you can’t hear ANYTHING, but you turn your head and it’s silent and you can hear perfectly.

Macy was tense, I was tense, there were plastic bags flying around and tarps blowing twice their height, but I kept trotting her around. We got to one section of the property, where the footing is near perfect, where I always let Georgie gallop, and I was like “what the hell..” and I got into two point and urged her on. She was as happy as I was to gallop. We did it again just for fun and called it a day. I needed to know I could gallop her and enjoy it. And I can. It made me so happy to be out there galloping on a horse that enjoys it as much as I do.

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She’s full TB, but that head SCREAMS Irish

The following day we did some dressage work in the arena. I was super stressed and frazzled from work, and as we got started a horse got loose and was GALLOPING around the arena. I hopped off Macy and she got frightened by the horse and got away from me. So… now two horses GALLOPING around the arena. We caught Macy easily and had someone hold her outside the arena while we tried to catch the other horse. If nothing else I am AMAZING at catching horses. Yet, it still took some time.

I figured Macy’s brain was shot but Sarah said she would be fine. So I hopped on her and she was a really good girl considering all that had happened and the fact that the horse that had gotten loose was now being lunged like crazy in the arena with us. It was by no means a perfectly loose and relaxed ride, but still, I was really proud of her. She hasn’t pulled the hopping and throwing her head shenanigans in a while.

Then today. Jump lesson. We were going to string some jumps together in the hopes we could go to a jumper show next week. I was nervous as it was only the second time I had jumped her AND we’ve never done more than jump and halt.

Um. She was foot perfect. So easy and relaxed and FUN. It was a total blast.

And while I KNOW Macy can be a brat and I am SURE we are not done with that side of her, I have to say, I’m REALLY enjoying her. She tests me as a rider and pushes me to ride well. I can’t daydream when I am on her and I need to keep her working. And when I do, she is great. She will always be a TB. She’ll always be tense when it’s windy and plastic bags are blowing around us. But, if I can come to accept that, and have my expectations be realistic, I think this could really work out.

So, I’ve kinda put horse shopping (beyond Junebug) on hold. And I officially want to see if I can make it work with Macy, at least in the interim. She has surprised me and I can’t thank Sarah enough for trusting me with her.

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Now sure, I am fully prepared for a “Macy was the worst horse ever” post in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy her. And learn as much as I can. As for the show, we’re going to give it a shot. She is renowned for being HORRIBLE at shows, super tense and impossible in warm up. But, we’ll see how it goes. And maybe we won’t warm up, lol.

I’m excited about this partnership and where is may go. I’m so glad I’ve stuck it out with her so far and hope we can continue to have fun together!

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Jumping Macy!

So, after my last lesson I had a few days in which I would ride Macy on my own. The first day I brought her in from her paddock and she was absolutely bonkers. I could barely groom her, and when she cow kicked at me, I’d had it. I turned her out and made her gallop and gallop and gallop some more. I caught her and did some in hand ground work. She was super responsive and had settled down, but seeing as I was the only one at the barn, I decided to call Sarah and see if riding her would be a stupid move.

Sarah’s reply “Ride the f**k out of her.”

Um. Ok.

So I did. And she was foot perfect. I didn’t give her a chance to be naughty, and kept my entire ride concentrated on her. I didn’t get lazy and start daydreaming, and instead, focused on how I was going to ask for something and then asked correctly. We did leg yields and haunches in and some lovely canter work. It was totally a confidence building ride.

The following day I turned her out and ran her a bit but she wasn’t really interested so I did more in hand work and brought her in. She was lovely for trot sets. This is pretty mindless work, but since it was Macy I kept her round and tried to keep her straight. We did 30 minutes of trotting with maybe 1 minute of walking (mare did not want a break) and she was great for every minute of it.

So, because I was feeling good about where we were at, we decided that  I would  to jump Macy in my lesson. If I am going to have any sort of partnership with this mare I am going to have to be able to jump her.

Macy had no interest in running around so I brought her in and tacked her up. No draw reins, just her regular bridle and my jump saddle. Sarah warmed her up and gave me the biggest complement by telling me she felt good and that I had been riding her well. Yay!

She hopped over the jump a couple of times and just wanted me to see that Macy is a bit of a head tosser and she’s also a bit excitable after the jump. She lands and goes on for sure.

I hopped on her and got right to work. She was fabulous! We hopped over the jump the first time and when we landed she very slightly lunged forward, got all excited and tossed her head.

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Good viewpoint of her uber strong neck. And how cute she is coming to the jump

Sarah asked me to halt. Apparently Macy had done a flying lead change when we landed and Sarah didn’t want Macy doing changes right now as she isn’t strong enough to execute them well. ¬†So, we’d ¬†just land and halt. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on when I landed. It just felt a bit chaotic. Flying lead change? Yeah, I have limited¬†experience with those… Glad to know that’s what was happening.

Second go around was amusing.

Macy MAY have jumped from the placing pole.

It looked like this:

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She took the longspot.

Whoopsie. Good news was she cleared it, I stayed on, and for the rest of the lesson it looked more like this:

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Since Macy is just coming back into work, and hasn’t jumped in a really long time, we kept the jumps low and the lesson short. But the great news is, I’m comfortable jumping her! The head tossing isn’t a huge deal, and I know once we string some jumps together I’ll have to get used to bringing her back and balancing her, but there wasn’t anything that unsettled me. Oh! And I can sit lightly before the jump, which is my happy place, but some horses don’t enjoy it. I’ll have to control my driving seat, but I was happy to find out Macy doesn’t scoot when I sit.

All in all it was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to jumping Macy again!

 

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Saying No To Your Dream Horse

I’ve hemmed and hawed about even writing this post. You see, I’ve been keeping a little secret from you all, and now that it’s all said and done I wasn’t sure I even needed to write about it. But, I will. Mostly because it will be cathartic to put it out into bloggerland and close this chapter.

When I let people know Georgie was injured and no longer competing with me, I got a lot of very sweet emails and lots of people reached out letting me know about possible horses for me.

What I didn’t expect, was for the folks in Ireland who I had ridden with, to contact me and see if it would be possible for me to purchase Buttons, the horse I had absolutely fallen in love with over there. (you can read about him here) At first I was like “yeah, right.” But the more we talked, the more I realized this could actually, amazingly, possibly, happen. They were being incredibly kind and generous and wanted Buttons in a good home, so were willing to work with me to see how we could make it happen. I started to freak out a little and imagined Buttons being here with me. OMG it would be a dream come true!!!

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Buttons. Look how happy I look!

What it all came down to was the cost of shipping him to the States. They agreed to look into it and they mentioned that without an agent, shipping costs could be drastically reduced.

I know nothing about the cost of shipping horses overseas, except that it wasn’t cheap. I decided to set a budget for myself so that I wouldn’t get carried away with getting Buttons if I really couldn’t afford it. At the top end of my budget, I could have the horse, and pay his board, but I wouldn’t have any money to compete or really take regular lessons for about a year. But, at that moment in time I didn’t care, because THIS WAS MY DREAM HORSE.

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More Buttons and I looking very happy together

So, we began working on looking into shipping costs. Unfortunately, the Shannon to Chicago route, which EN teased us with¬†this past fall, never really took off. That would have been the far cheaper option, as Shannon was about 40 minutes from the barn Buttons was located at. ¬†So, we’d have to haul the horse to Dublin and fly him to Chicago. Then, 3 days of quarantine. Then, I could drive 23 hours to go pick him up, and drive 23 hours home. This all sounded like it was NOT going to fit into my budget.

And it didn’t. Despite the folks at Dartfield working their pants off to get me a reasonable price, it was still far above my budget. The top end of my budget. Shipping horses can cost anywhere between $10-$20k I learned.

Yup. Let me break some of the steps down for you:

  1. Health cert, passport, blood work
  2. Transport to the airport
  3. Groom
  4. A shipping pallet is about 15k, and fits 3 horses. So, just to sit on the plane costs 5k per horse.
  5. Quarantine
  6. Transportation from airport home

Even with the most economical option we could find, and with people being incredibly generous, it would cost me $10k to get Buttons home.

I was now $7k over my stretched budget.

There was no way I could make this work, even with both the shipper and the seller offering to take payments. ¬†I’d be paying this horse off for over a year, and literally doing nothing but paying off the horse. Like, I would be sweating every single payment and trying to make it work. Yeah. No. Can’t justify that.

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So, I called Sarah just to make sure I was making the right decision and she agreed. Goodbye Buttons.

The folks at Dartfield  were so amazingly nice and tried so hard to make this work out. I felt horrible having to tell them no, after how much work they put into it.

So, the last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From EXCITED to sad¬†to EXCITED to sad. I almost felt a sense of relief when I sent the final “I’m sorry I can’t make it work” email. As sad as I was, I knew I could move on and not set my hopes on this horse any longer.

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Maybe one day I’ll get my dream Irish horse. Maybe not. I can’t live in the “maybe” and it’s so not my personality to dwell.

With Buttons behind me, I’m ready to move on to the next option. I’m really, really, excited about a baby I am going to check out next week. She’s not Irish, but she has a great pedigree and I think she could be a great fit for me. As I said to Sarah when I was weighing the options of Buttons or this baby horse , neither is a bad option. I’d be lucky to have either,¬†despite how different they are. So, even though I am down to the one option, instead of two, I think this one can make me equally as happy and make it much easier for me financially. And if baby horse is the option I go with, I’m also looking into options to keep riding and even competing this season, as that has been the hardest part for me- not having something to consistently hop on.

So many options! I’ll keep you posted as they go from options to decisions.

 

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Riding Miss Rapid

Our barn is full of OTTBs, Quarter Horses, Quarter Horse crosses, more Thoroughbreds, and an Oldenburg. But there’s one horse that’s not quite like the other ones. Sure she’s a mutt, being 1/2 Holsteiner 3/8 Connemara and 1/8 TB but really, she’s the fanciest horse we’ve got among us. (Plus, she’s 3/8 Irish, so I naturally love her.) Sarah’s mare, Rapid, is turning 6 this June, and she is Sarah’s first departure from Thoroughbreds in quite some time.

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Her brain. Her brain is GREAT

It was a rocky start. Sarah wasn’t sure she liked her, despite having been obsessed with her since the day she was born at a friend’s farm. Having recently been told her 2* mare would no longer compete at the upper levels, Sarah had a tough time reconciling the idea that she might have to bring another horse up the levels. Top that with the fact that this horse was a behind the leg warmblood mutt and Sarah wasn’t exactly gung ho to get her going.

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It was about a year ago that Sarah put Rapid into consistent training and they kinda haven’t looked back since. Sarah found the joy (and pain) in bringing along a youngster and it was amazing to see the bond they formed. It was great seeing Sarah happy on the back of one of her horses again. Rapid hasn’t been an angel, but she’s coming along nicely and it’s pretty evident when she moves that she got some of her daddy Riverman’s talent. Mare can JUMP. And is so naturally balanced and uphill. Rapid naturally has a canter that it has taken me YEARS to get with Georgie. And Georgie isn’t ever going to move like Rapid. But that’s ok. Still love my mare.

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Sarah’s ‚̧ horse Macy with Rapid

ANYWAY, Sarah just got back from an event in California where she and Rapid came in 3rd in BN and they’ve been trucking along, hoping to go Novice in the near future. Never in a million years did I think I would hear the words “Do you want to ride Rapid in a lesson?” But that’s exactly what she asked me last week.

I obviously said yes. And then texted to say I was prepared for Sarah to scream at me that I was riding her horse wrong. But Sarah promised she wouldn’t scream and that the great thing about having an Irish (or partially Irish) horse, is that they’re forgiving and easygoing. Keep in mind, no one has ridden this horse other than Sarah. She is used to being ridden the same way, every day.

Um ok.

The lesson didn’t start out great. As I took Georgie back out to her paddock I saw Rapid, who was tied up, throw a mini hissy fit. Then, when I got on her, the only other horse in the arena left. And Rapid threw a rearing, balking fit. All I could think was, “can’t mess up an Irish horse, huh?” I figured lesson was over.

Sarah had me get her moving and then allowed me to hop off- so that we could run mare around the arena. Wanna be brat? Well you can do it at a gallop. I got some great photos of this, but they’ll be revealed in Equestrian Bingo…

After about 10 minutes of galloping around, I got back on the mare and she was a perfect angel. Greenies. They’re fun.

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I mean, the CUTEST

Rapid is a really fun horse to ride. But maybe I forgot to mention that she is only 15hh? Despite parents that were at 16hh or more, she got dwarfed. Is that a word? So, I spent a few minutes just finding my balance on her for transitions etc. When you’re on her she doesn’t feel small. Her canter, when I put her together, which took little effort, is LOVELY. I can now understand why people buy fancy movers. Having a horse be naturally uphill and carry itself is a lovely thing.

We did some warm up and then got to jumping. Rapid is FUN to jump. If I worked a little bit through the corners, it paid off. She had a rhythmical, balanced canter to the jump and it was awesome to ride.

At one point I said to Sarah that I ¬†thought that having a forgiving horse was one of the most important traits in a horse. If I screwed up my distance once, Rapid didn’t hold it against me. She went like I rode her. Ride her well, she goes well. Ride her poorly, she doesn’t go as well, but is still going to make the effort to get over the jump. It’s a lovely trait.

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Seriously love her. How can I steal her?

I coud gush about Rapid a lot more, but I think you all get the point. I was so honored to ride her, and get to see just why Sarah is so smitten with her. While of course I want my mare to be sound, riding all these different horses has been so amazing for me. I’ve learned so much from each and every one, and it has definitely been a silver lining to a less than ideal situation.

 

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Jumping Smokey

The other day I had an urge to jump that I hadn’t felt in a while. I haven’t jumped in about a month, and I was literally chomping at the bit. Lucky for me, my friend said I could jump her mare, Smokey. Smokey and Georgie “go” similarly, and while Smokey is a couple of inches shorter, the two mares get confused for each other often. I guess one grey looks like another grey.

Smokey is a QH and was originally a hunter princess. She somehow ended up in a local therapy program, and sadly she hated it. Meghan, who was working for the program purchased her and they haven’t looked back since. They’ll be going Training this spring and Smokey is proving to be a great event pony.

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Anyway, I was super excited to jump Smokey and she didn’t disappoint. She LOVES jumping. She was fun to ride as she is honest and willing to the jump so I could play around with making the approach to the jump as good as possible without worrying I was going to upset her by trying some different methods. She tends to want to veer through the corner and then grab the bit and rush to the jump. So, we worked on half halts and square corners and keeping a rhythmic, forward approach.

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I think my favorite part of the entire day was seeing Smokey’s tidy knees come up for every jump. Ahh, hunters. They jump pretty.

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A mare that uses her neck. It’s something Georgie could learn…

Thanks Meg for letting me have some fun on your mare. It was good to get my jumping fix!

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