Drifter: A Jumper in the Making

Over the weekend, I had a jumping lesson on Drifter. He has been coming along so well, even after having three weeks off around the holidays while I was traveling, dealing with the awful mud we’ve been having and the fluctuations this week from sub-zero to 40-degree weather. It’s enough to make even the sanest person go crazy, but Drifter has mostly been like, “eh, it’s cool.”

Anyway, we tend to work on a lot of gymnastics/grid work in the winter time to focus on strength, balance and striding. Happily, one of the other girls in the lesson took a video of us going through the line at the end of the lesson.

Now, I realize that he has to stretch over the first pole, and that causes him to add a stride before the last fence, but that’s part of what I think it so cool about this video. He doesn’t get worried or upset – he just figures it out. And looks dang cute doing it, too.

IMG_4719
Look at those knees!
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Clearing with room to spare!

Yes, we could have gotten the striding better on the approach. Yes, we could have been a bit straighter and toward the center of the last jump. But those things can be fine-tuned. He has the natural talent and seems to really enjoy jumping. He’s not going to lose his head or refuse if something doesn’t go quite right.

I’m also happy to report that he has figured out how to pick up his feet. He no longer knocks a rail the first three or four times he jumps something.

We also started experimenting a tiny bit with adjustability during the lesson. At the canter, Trainer Leanne had me try shortening his stride while keeping the same rhythm. It only took a couple strides of asking, and he did it! It was very cool to feel his shoulders lift so dramatically. We kept it for two or three strides and then let him move at his own pace. Then I asked for a lengthened canter without changing the rhythm. He changed a little right away, so I asked for a little more and he really reached forward. It was so fun! This will be fun to play with in the short term to help him build muscle and really stay in tune with me.

Final note: Drifter also gave me a lead change on the flat, unasked for. I feel terrible because he swapped from the wrong lead to the correct one and then kind of dove on the forehand and shook his head like it was a little attitude, so I was kind of hard on him for that – I didn’t realize it was a flying change. Ugh. But now I can be more alert for those and reward them instead…hopefully one day they’ll be automatic!

What are your favorite winter riding exercises?

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