He had us canter in a circle over a small jump working on using a slower pace in a half seat, focusing on getting the horse to relax their back over the fence. He stressed the importance of focusing on the rhythm instead of hunting for a distance. That if you have a good canter and the horse keeps its rhythm, he can jump out of any distance. For the babies if they land on the wrong lead turn to the new direction and continue on the circle the other way, being more insistent overtop the fence that they land on the new lead. Sometimes it takes them a few figure eights to get the correct lead. Then the jump would go up to a larger skinny oxar, but the canter must stay exactly the same. For horses that want to be a little tight in their backs overtop the fence, Bruce wanted us to get close as possible "knock it with their knees" so that they were forced to lengthen their backs to make it over the fence.
Then we took that canter to a different oxar on a larger circle, which made it all the more tempting to get too quick or hunt for a distance. But the trick was to keep everything the same as we were jumping on the smaller circle. Bruce had the back rail high, and the front rail to the oxar much lower, which he said fills in the jump to make it look more solid, so they jump it better. I thought it also rode very well because we had the height of the back rail, the double rails of the oxar to assist with the arc, but not as high as the back rails so it wasn't as scary!
We then took the canter we gained from the first two exercises and took it to a triple. And the triple felt so nice because of the relaxed back!
Then the scariest of scary.....a max oxar to circle over to finish. But because of the great canter from the previous exercises, it really felt like no big deal. Just a huge confirmation that a relaxed good canter is the key to jumping well.
It was a fabulous confidence building day, I really enjoyed a great time learning with my fellow riders and learning from the master!!! Until next time....
Jump like you mean it!