Wow. All I can say is...wow. After today I KNOW we made the right decision to come all the way across the country to train with Buck. Today I did a little flatwork and jumping on each of the horses for Buck so we could make a plan for each of them. I was a little nervous at first when I awoke, but then calmed myself down and thought "He's not judging me or my training, but assessing where things are and where we need to go". That put me in the right place mentally. Amy was so excited she couldn't sleep last night!
The first horse I rode for Buck was Thomas.
Above is a pic of him (this was him last july at Rebecca farms, 4th in YEH 4yo). Thomas has been my pet project for almost 3 years. I bought him as a 2yo off the track. I saw him buck and gallop on a longeline (in a video) and that's all i needed to see. Since then I have been cultivating his mind and body, teaching him about his new job. So far, he seems to really love eventing.
Buck was riding a new import named Sean while he watched Thomas do some flatwork. After some lengthenings and transitions, Buck approved: "He's really cute". I asked about his slight paddle on the LF, Buck didn't think it was a big deal (yesssss, insert arm pump). Next for some jumping. The weather had been horrible back in Oregon before we left, and we had not jumped in a couple weeks, (uhoh). I looked for a comforting plain brown vertical for a warmup fence. We found none. Oh well, here goes! The smallest jump was a vertical with "scary" black barrel underneath. Thomas sauntered on up to it and jumped about 4 feet over, just in case it bites...After he determined the jump was safe, he came around again and jumped more like a normal horse should. We then continued to jump some striped verticals on an angle, then a vertical, 4 strides, double quarter round, 3 strides, vertical with barrels underneath. He was perfect! Not an eye blink, in perfect rhythm. We finished with another combo: vertical 2 stride vertical one stride vertical 5 stride to a liverpool with oxar over. SUCH a good boy
Buck: "He's a cute jumper, I like him" with an approving nod, yahoo ;)
As for me, I need to remember: keep thumbs rotated up, reins short, elbows in front of my body(and intowards my body) and moving with horse, and stand taller in the irons. Keep Thomas moving forward to take the hand, keep his poll up.
Then I jumped off Thomas and on Fizzy. We went through the same routine. Buck has known Fizzy for a while, so he knew she was a nice mover. We jumped the same course as Thomas doing very well. Buck: "She will be a fun project. We need to build her confidence. She's a good jumper but she doesn't know it."
Me: So I have to keep my leg quite well on just infront of the fence and hold on to her up front in the bridle, then send her on after fence. This will teach her to jump better and higher over even the lower fences. Buck mentioned if I give my hands in front of the jump, much like giving the reins to a green horse in the dressage ring: they wander around and fall out of rhythm forward, not having the confidence/stability to do without rider, and much like to have the comfort of someone there.
Next was the new project Atlas. Buck really liked his canter, asked if he had won races on the track, hehe.
Trying to warmup over the black barrel, Atlas prided himself on saving me from the wall I was trying to run him into (AKA....the warmup fence) Once he figured out that big thing was, indeed, a jump, it was pretty smooth sailing from there on out. He also jumped the large double quarter rounds 4 strides to vertical, such a good boy! I had no idea little Atlas was ready to do that, but took so well to the challenge!
Then...piece de resistance....Lusty dressage lesson! I learned so much I most likely can't post it all here. Buck was happy with our progress from the last time he saw her, and we tried some new techniques.
Lusty began trotting her usual excited, erratic "I hate dressage wouldn't you rather gallop?" warmup trot. (it didn't help that there were horses on the track galloping literally 75feet from us). Buck had me actually post taller and plop in the saddle on my sit beat. so odd, years of training had taught me not to do that! By doing this, he said, will show her when/how to bring her back up underneath the saddle as well as get her more used to seat movement. I fully expected her to be pissed off and kick out/take off, but after the first "plop" she twitched her ears back to me in question, then miraculously, relaxed! It was freakish, like magic!
Also, when she gets tense, Buck had me post faster, (again, something one should traditionally not do if their horse is getting quicker already), but it worked very well, because my seat was not telling her to do the opposite of what she wanted. She is so opinionated, I think she was confused that I was agreeing, "yes, lets go quicker" that she actually just relaxed instead of speeding up!
So at this point we had a relaxed stretchy trot, wow. That usually takes 45 minutes to obtain!
Lastly and most difficult of all, Buck had us counter canter a circle around him, and spiral in making the circle smaller, all the while LENGTHENING THE CANTER....yikes! Lusty already enjoys her changes far too much, I was concerned she would switch at a moments notice. What actually happened was this encouraged her outside hind leg (in counter canter this is the inside hind leg) to activate and work extra hard, so that when we moved out of the circle back to the true lead changing directions, that inside hind reached forward in a way I have not felt with her before, it was magical!
Besides these new fantastic exercises Buck again encouraged me to keep my thumbs up. By keeping my knuckles up, Lusty feels pulling rather than elastic connection to my hands, so she fights. Also, when asking me to slow down, he had me use my outside hand and outside thigh. Very simple, yet specific requests made all the difference, and Lusty had a fantastic and productive workout.
Well, internet time's up at Starbucks, back to feed the ponies, they deserve carrots today!!
jump like you mean it!