Friday, January 31, 2014

New Questions… Answered!

I jumped a corner!

Jumping - leave the ground and make it to the other side!
 My first corner ever.  Fancy Pony’s first corner ever.  It really was a brand new sort of question for both of us.
Coach has been great about preparing us for this question!  We confirmed straightness (well, most of the time…).  We confirmed jumping an angled fence.  And staying straight afterward!  We addressed skinny jumps (relatively skinny, anyway).
So, there I was, warming up over a small vertical and cross-rail (ducking my shoulders like mad, and everything), when she says, “Go jump that little box!”
I had already started the line, so I tried to plan my turn after the cross-rail that would line me up with the little box.  The box is something like 18” high and perhaps 3’ across.  Truly skinny!
My first request to turn was met with little response from the Fancy Pony, so I asked again a bit more emphatically.  She then complied a bit too well, and we had overcompensated.  I asked her to straighten, then she realized we were looking at the skinny little box…  And she was certain it was merely an obstacle to go around…  There was some wiggling, but I managed to get her over it!
So what does Coach do?  She builds the corner!  It’s adorable! It’s so tiny…
And the pony runs through my leg and out the skinny side.  Twice.  Undeterred, I approach again, resolute that she will not run out to the right again…  So, she ran out to the left – the wide side!
I understand that this is not an easy question, even with such small proportions.  Coach put a pole up on the skinny end to make the right answer a little more apparent.  Fancy Pony got it!  It was a little awkward, but she went over it where I pointed her!  I circled her, brought her to a halt, and told her what a clever pony she is!
You see, it is very important to tell the ponies that they have been particularly clever!  They know this already, but they really prefer that you acknowledge to them that they have been clever so that they know that you now know exactly how remarkably clever they really are. (Did I just channel Douglas Adams, there?)
We rode the corner out of a line, we rode the corner into a line, and we rode the corner between other sorts of lines.  I finally got it together and halted her when my half-halts quit going through.  Coach also gave me advice on how to ride what I interpreted as a bending line…  It was 2 straight lines with a precision turn.  It rode way easier once I did that!
By the end, the Fancy Pony wasn’t questioning the corner, even when the guide pole was left on the ground (half on each side of the jump) and a cone placed on top (to direct her closer to the narrow side).
I really love tacking these questions.  And I love tackling them at these ridiculously small heights.  There is a huge amount of room for rider error as I learn how to answer these questions.  I was able to focus on the precision of my chosen line while also concentrating on collecting my approach canter while maintaining enough impulsion to ask my pony to explode over the corner (still on my precision line!) once we arrived at the obstacle.  How much will carry over when they get bigger?  How will the Fancy Pony feel about it when  it's 2'6" instead of 18"?  I don't know, but now I understand what it should feel like on approach, over, and after.  So, when that does happen and the question gets bigger, I can be more effective than "just a passenger"!



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