We have also had a couple of very enjoyable and productive schooling sessions in the last 10 days. Most noticeable to me is the improvement in our downwards transitions which have always been a bit abrupt and caused Jack to lean down the rein and go tight in his neck and jaw and end up on his forehand, more falling down into the transition than stepping through into it from behind. Since Rachael sorted out his neck and shoulder tightness issues he has remained softer and lighter in his downward transitions and in his lateral flexion.
We had our first jump last week, just a couple of times over a tiny cross pole, but it was good to get that first jump under our belts with no issues!
We also had our first gallop, not top speed yet but it's a start. We had been out for a hack with a couple of the other girls and Jack was finding it all very exciting having company when we usually hack alone. His excitement piqued when another group of riders turned onto the bridlepath just in front of us and then proceeded to trot off ahead. We were on the way home at this point so Jack was already pulling and jogging anyway but that just really wound him up and at one point I thought he might go up, he was getting so stressed out and het up but he did managed to keep a lid on it. We got to the last field which had been freshly cut and decided to have a canter round the edge with Jack in front, when we got to the bottom end and turned for home again one of the other horses came alongside us so Jack took it upon himself to turn it into a race and take off! We managed to keep them under some control so we weren't going flat out but it was great fun to finally open the pipes a bit more and really let off some steam! He felt fantastic and would easily have gone faster if I had let him but I am still being a bit cautious. I was relieved to see the next day that he was none the worse for his exertions and I think I am underestimating just how fit he actually is!
I'm still mostly hacking keeping him in a long and low frame, only schooling and lunging once a week and it's obviously doing the job nicely! He is muscling up over his topline and starting to look much fitter again now, his grass belly is finally disappearing too!
During our lunge session this week a buckle on my roller broke so I couldn't use it, instead of just loose lunging I decided to make a homemade Equicore style aid from some old bandages and a numnah. I wasn't sure if it would work but it actually did and Jack worked really nicely in it too so I think I will be incorporating this into our routine regularly from now on. He had nothing attached to the bridle, just the lungeline over his head so I could apply a little poll pressure to lower his head and neck, then the bandages round his girth, hind quarters and under his belly. I kept it simple as it was the first time we had attempted this set up so no poles, just walk ,trot and Canter on each rein but I was really pleased with how forward and relaxed Jack went stretching down to the floor and opening his spine nicely in his trot work. I will try to get some pictures next time!
Also last weekend it was the Equestrian Sport UK national championships held at Arena UK which I had qualified for in the 60cm open show jumping on my best friend Lucy's fab little horse Jay. She had also qualified in the Intro and Prelim Dressage so it was a busy weekend for the little guy! We arrived on the Saturday morning with a plan that I would walk the course while Lucy got him ready and I would be one of the first to jump as Lucy needed to dash off to a wedding that afternoon. The plan went wrong from the start when I couldn't walk the course as the clear round was still going. I decided to go back to the lorry take Jay round to the warm up (which was miles away!) and get on and warm him up until the course was ready to walk but just as I all the way back to the lorry they announced that we only had 5 mins to walk the course then the class was starting!! So I ran round to walk the course while Lucy brought Jay round so I could hop straight onto him and warm up as soon as I'd walked the course. We were 11th in so luckily had enough time to give him a decent warm up before we got called over as the next competitor in. I wasn't expecting anything as we have only jumped 3 courses together and Jay doesn't jump much but my plan was to just get into a rhythm and leave the fences up, not take silly risks and have fences down. I knew there weren't any clears in my section so far. As I watched the previous competitor jump their jump off section I realised to my horror there were 2 more fences than I had walked, I thought it finished at 12 but there was actually 14 fences! Good job I was watching her!! With no time to worry about that we were in and the bell rang for us to start. As soon as I turned him into the first fence I could feel Jay was up for it and he jumped it beautifully, I knew then if I could just keep up a nice flowing rhythm and ride the turns, especially near the gate, he would jump his heart out for me and I was right, what a round we had! He flew everything never touching a pole and we grew and grew in confidence as we progressed round the course, I even did a few jump off turns over the last few fences and was beyond thrilled when we completed the course clear and went into the lead! Beaming I walked him round the warm up area to cool down before returning to the lorry to wait for the next 35 odd riders to jump. I left Jay tacked up as it was looking like we would get a placing. As the class progressed we lost the lead which I fully expected as we had not gone flat out by any means, but at the end of the class I was thrilled to hear we had come 4th!!! A super day on a super little horse and we are having so much fun jumping together but coming 4th nationally was not enough for little Jay so he returned the next day with his owner Lucy to contest the Intro and Prelim Dressage championships and only went and won the intro and placed 4th again in the Prelim, what an absolute star! I'm very excited about the prospect of taking this little trier eventing, I think he has the whole package and should do very well eeek!
Thanks for reading
Hannah and Jack