So if you asked me a month ago what kind of riding I do, I would tell you with a bit of a smirk that I attempt dressage. I have schooled 3rd level on my mare, although that seems like many moons ago. Indeed it was over 3 years ago, as that is when she had colic surgery. Since then (with a few breaks when I didn’t ride for months), we’ve been working on strengthening the topline and the self-carriage muscles in an attempt to reach that magical 3rd level again. I feel as though we’re finally getting somewhere. Jewel’s wither pocket is filling in and while her back isn’t completely flat, its not tent-shaped either. There is muscle and fat over her loin and when we do long and low work across the diagonal, she still speeds up a little, but the power and lengthening is amazing. It gives me goosebumps for sure!
In the last year, I’ve been living vicariously through my friends that jump their horses (most of whom are all OTTBs). I have gone to shows with camera in tow to take pictures of them strutting their stuff in dressage and the jumper ring. Some of them are also eventers. I’ve secretly been longing to get back into the jump saddle. I mean really…they were just having so much fun out there. Why couldn’t I?
Now, let me paint you a picture of my past….Way back when (nearly 15 years ago now), when I was in college, I called myself an eventer. I participated in small, local combined tests and mini-events. I never participated in a sanctioned horse trial (alas, as a poor college student, I was always riding borrowed horses), but I schooled XC and rode in those small shows when ever I had the chance. Aside from a few jump lessons and XC schooling sessions when I first bought Jewel, I pretty much have been on hiatus from jumping since 1999. And to be honest, until I saw my friends having so much fun out there, I really didn’t have any desire to do any jumping.
And then a few weeks back, I received a mass email from a friend of mine. It essentially showed how a horse in correct jumping form is engaging its haunches, using its hocks, and is round over the topline without being behind the vertical in the bridle. The comments were anti-rollkur and brought to light the question that if dressage riders really wanted to strengthen their horses’ toplines, why weren’t they cross training over fences? Hmmmm…this got me thinking. What kind of fun new activity could Jewel and I do that would help strengthen her topline, improve her dressage and yet be really fun and different than our normal rides? Why jumping, of course!
Having only owned a dressage saddle for years, and boarding at a facility that caters to horses on the flat, I really don’t have the facilities to just train and jump. However, this has not deterred me. What do I need to get going?
– Jump Saddle
– Jumping Instructor
– Ride to Lessons (I don’t have a trailer)
I set off on a search for a new-to-me jump saddle and within a couple weeks, I found exactly what I was looking for. I took it on trial and it fits my mare beautifully! I ended up with a used Courbette Cresta Jump saddle. Not only is Jewel (the ultimate princess and pea) comfortable in it, but it is black to boot (i.e. it matches my dressage bridles). Yay!
Jump Saddle. Check.
So lessons….obviously, if I’m at a facility that caters to horses worked on the flat, there is little opportunity to jump. Plus, it was important to me that my horse got good basics. I wanted to do grid work and bring her along correctly — not just rush into jumping courses. As I thought about all this, I determined that a 3-day eventing trainer would be a good option. I contacted Lee Ann Zobbe of Come Again Farm to see if she had openings for new students. She responded that she did and we’re currently just working around schedules to set an initial lesson date.
Jumping Instructor. Check.
The biggest issue I faced was getting a ride to the actual lesson. I don’t own a trailer. I do own a truck, but its a Dodge Dakota, which I consider not big enough to haul anything but a Brenderup. And so that left me in need of borrowing a truck and trailer, or schmoozing a ride from someone else. Thankfully, my barn owner is pretty much the best BO a boarder could ask for. Aside from the fact that she is not only a great friend and for the last 3.5 years has taken excellent care of my horse, she also lets me use her truck and trailer when she isn’t using them. She confirmed that I could use the truck & trailer for hauling to jump lessons. In addition, Kim (my trail-riding buddy) also said that she would be interested in taking lessons with Lee Ann and that she could give us a ride. Woo hoo! Ask and ye shall receive!
Ride to Lessons. Check.
And so, with all of this in the works, I got to thinking about what my goals were for taking lessons. Did I want to take lessons purely to strengthen my horse and improve dressage? Did I just want to get out and do something different with my horse? Or perhaps, was the dark side taking over and I might actually want to event my horse? Well, I think its a combination of all three. My excitement over lessons was solidified this past weekend after taking first in a Hunter Hack class at an open show. Ok, so we were the only ones in the class, but my mare did fabulous, never refusing a fence (after not jumping in years), and really confirmed to me that she thinks this is going to be fun too! And so, I have set a goal to ride in a sanction horse trial at Beginner Novice. I haven’t set a date for accomplishing that goal, but I’m thinking fall 2010. We’ll just have to see how the jump lessons go. Stay tuned!