On Saturday I had a jump lesson. As the last one went so very well, I was not surprised that we had new challenges awaiting us and the instructor was going to step things up for us. During the warmup I showed off our new ability to pick up whichever canter lead I chose wherever in the school I picked.
Once we were ready we started with the first crosspole of the day which was set on the diagonal of the school. Starting the session with something that wasn’t on a straight line parallel to the track was a new challenge for us and it took me a few attempts to get the steering right. On my first attempt I got the turn wrong, and the clumsy extra leg I used meaning “shove over a bit, we’re not straight” was interpreted to mean “turn left and go around it”. On the second attempt I got it wrong again, and because we’d already been round to the left once, and again were not on a strong approach, he decided around was a good option. On the third and subsequent attempts I got the line right and there was no confusion so we went over the jump. Good.
So next we jumped two jumps with a related distance, the first of which was …
[Cue music of doom]
DUN DUN DAAAA
The Pig Fillers!
Each of the two pig fillers bears 3 bright pink painted pig faces, each with its oversized black and white eyes pointing in a different direction, so that whichever way a horse sees it, one of them will be LOOKING at him.
For our first up-close-and-personal experiences of these monsters, they were not set under the middle of the jump, but at either side, so that there was one in front of each wing, with a 50 cm or so pig-free area under the center of the jump.
I was advised to approach in trot, and knew we might have issues, so was not surprised when it took a couple of failed attempts before we got over the jump, but after we managed on the third attempt we had no further issues with the pigs.
We had conquered the pigs! To be honest it went much more smoothly that I expected. The first time he ever caught sight of them they were in the adjacent school and I had trouble getting him to go in that direction even with a thick fence protecting him from the pigs, so to have got over them repeatedly after only two failed attempts was a triumph in my book.
And so time for a new challenge…
The world’s tiniest oxer.
To me it didn’t really look any more of a challenge for him than anything else we’d jumped but I could really feel the difference in the way he jumped it. We will need a lot of practice before I can look like a rider over those! But of course he is more than capable.
We finished the lesson with a course of 5 jumps including two tiny oxers and the pigs. It took us a couple of tries to go clear but when we did, she popped the final oxer up a tiny bit and had me do just the pigs and the final oxer. She said, “I’m surprised you’re not telling me you can’t do that!” I replied, “I’ve learned to save my breath!” Which may have come across a little sharper that I meant it to, but she’s a tough lady and wouldn’t be upset even if she didn’t realise I didn’t mean it to be harsh.
When I though about if afterwards, it’s true that telling her you can’t do something is a waste of breath, but it’s equally as true that I’ve learnt she doesn’t just stick up a jump up and see what happens. Everything she puts in front of us is tailored to us. When she challenges us she does it with thought, so if she’s put a jump in front of us, I can be pretty sure it is a reasonable ask for us to do it, so I’ll just shut up and try it.
By this time we finished I was absolutely drained. It was completely different from the last lesson. In the last lesson pretty much everything went right. This time we had lots of failed attempts, poor lines, unbalanced rider moments and general iffy-ness. But this time we had more challenges and we didn’t do too badly at rising to them. With the pigs it was the first time he’s needed me to give him confidence about a jump – he’s jumped much, much higher with other riders before I had him so our little crosspoles he could do in his sleep. This one that LOOKED at him was the first time he needed support from me rather than the other way round. And it took me a few tries, but I did it, which seems a pretty good result to me.