Monday, January 10, 2011


Holly Breaux and Flecken Awesome at Rocking Horse
Horse Trials in Florida (2010).

I've been thinking about (and analyzing) my typical jumping position and noting places and times where/when I should be adjusting that position and not just always riding the same way, in every situation. For an eventer, having a natural and quickly changeable riding style is such an asset, since no step, effort, or movement is ever the same or even predictable. Having come from a mostly hunter, dressage, and pony club eventing background, I have a mix of instruction that has influenced the style of riding that is mine alone. I have a fairly good seat, decent sense of balance, and relatively soft hands (hunter/equitation); a --usually-- good eyeline (chin up, eyes forward) and occasionally correct elbow-hand-bit connection from my dressage instruction; and, I have a scrappy way of managing to stay in the saddle when I'm not particularly tight, strong, or centered (learned through pony club eventing and growing up riding a scopey pony). However, I would like to work towards training myself to ride more like an eventer on a regular basis (and, I mean a talented eventer; a good eventer; a capable eventer) who has established a style and position that is light and balanced in dressage, strong and forward for cross-country, and accurate and controlled during show jumping. Basically, what I want to do is learn how to ride EXACTLY like my friend, Holly Breaux. But, then again (judging by this fabulous photograph), who wouldn't want to ride like Holly?
I don't endeavor to look like Holly (I haven't been that small since I was in the 4th grade!), but as a rider she is always centered, always secure, her upper body is not falling forward (since she doesn't collapse over Fleck's neck like other people I know do to Eddie their horse), and -- most of all -- her release is soft and very giving, yet she always maintains solid contact and she is balanced and in control under all circumstances. In this particular picture, Fleck has twisted slightly over what is a very big and solid table, yet Holly has hardly moved in the saddle and her body is not in the way of her horse as he adjusts to this effort. Her hand is forward, freeing Fleck to move as necessary to land well and continue on to the next fence at a gallop, and not have to regroup for 3 or 4 seconds after an awkward landing. Although I can't see the take-off in this picture, I would imagine they didn't trickle down to the fence, prop, leap heavily off the forehand, arc over it with little to no momentum, and then land in a heap on the other side. This is how I would characterize not just a few of my and Eddie's jumping efforts. Rarely do we come down to a fence when Eddie is moving out, in front of my leg, allowing him to jump up to me....instead of me collapsing down onto his neck. 
I want to work on riding Eddie's canter and gallop so that he doesn't have to prance over courses like a hunter (loopy, trickling, flat, and sucking back) just so I can sit his jump. I want to ride like Holly so that I can let Eddie jump 4 feet over a 3-foot-fence, because I need to be able to ride my horse......not force him to jump my ride (if that makes sense). Otherwise, I'm not rising to the level of my talented horse, but rather asking Eddie to "dumb down" to my comfort level. I know this is a lot to take on in one schooling alone and it will take some time this spring, but I will start with sitting tall down to the fences and giving forward with an automatic release, and not leaning into the fences and releasing way up his crest, thereby throwing away my contact (sometimes even before we take-off, effectively "dropping" my horse at the fence.....which I have not paid for nearly as much as I'm sure I should have in the past). This will be a good start, at least. Then, maybe one day, we'll have even one fence that rides as successfully as Holly and Fleck!
Me and Eddie show jumping at a combined test. Notice
how my leg has slipped back slightly, my toe is pointed out,
I'm too far forward on his neck, and my release is broken over
at the wrist (making the contact too loose and ineffective).
But, hey, I'm not exactly falling off, either!

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