"Mornin' Ms Wild Thang" Grayson said playfully to the pony as she greeted us after our morning ride. The pony and I were up and moving way before anyone else on Elon's campus or on the farm this morning. With class at 10:30 I determined I would need to get up around 7:00 am to achieve everything I want to achieve with my day. But no matter, I have a remote control for the property's gate and my stuff is all in my tack trunk.
First things first as always, after I pulled up I went inside the barn to say hi to the pony. Her forelock and tail had shavings everywhere, so I assume she had a great night's sleep. After saying good morning, I went out to the ring and began rearranging jumps. I put the barrels on their sides, lined up the green boxes, set up a bounce, and two single jumps. Then I went inside to tack the pony up. On my way back to the barn I noticed something amusing - one of the barn cats was sitting on my car!
Anyway, because of how heavy Zena has become on the bit, I decided it was finally time to make a second bit change. The first change came within the first three weeks of me taking her on as a project - plain full cheek snaffle to a slow twist full cheek snaffle. Today I switched to a french link full cheek. Sadly, the results were not as I had hoped. I had been hoping that a bit change would regain her attention under saddle, as she has begun to ignore me with the slow twist. Instead, the french link seems to have lost it all together. I'm going to give it one more shot though, before switching back or trying something else new.
Today I decided that I'm not longer going to mount in the same place everyday, I have found a new way to break the pony's routine. There are several places around the property, in and outside the ring I can use. I think it will also be good for her head to have to walk in and out of the ring on a regular basis. Today I mounted off a stone structure which she originally spooked at and then walked into the ring - no issues with the gate. As we walked into the ring she started to look around, and then she bent her head to the inside with her ears pricked as if to say, "you didn't think I wouldn't notice that you set all these jumps up, did you?". Nothing gets by you, little one!
We practiced the same things on the flat today as we normally do, with an emphasis on lead changes. They are almost automatic, and they are consistent when asked for! Thats certainly a huge improvement from where she was at the beginning of July when I first started working with her.
My goal for today's ride was to jump her around this new set of jumps at a low height so that I can work on consistency before working on any kind of height. She needs to ride straight before she can jump around a course. I want her moving from my leg, staying in front of my leg, and I want to be able to move her over to straighten her body with the application of pressure from my thigh and calf. All these basic dressage principles are crucial to a successful and safe jumper ride.
The first half of today's short jumping session included the bounce, the green boxes (with no wings), and a single cross rail. Straight, straight, straight! The leg yielding practice has really come in handy when it comes to moving her into a straight line, so when she was having consistent success over these fences I added the barrels and the vertical. I also practiced an exercise I learned in the last lesson I took at Equi Sport over the summer. In this exercise you ride two jumps of a line, however you ride them in a figure eight pattern. Cantering into the line you start counting your strides when you think you are eight strides away. After the jump you turn towards the rail (the tigher turn) and continue on until you have to come off the rail to jump the next fence. And repeat. Its just as critical to ride these fences on a straight line despite jumping the jump on a diagonal. Zena had success in this exercise, but when the barrels and vertical were added into a little course, she began drifting left over those two fences.
For our next jumping session I will be setting up a combination (with the interesting fences) to practice straightness. For now though, I will continue to develop her abilities on the flat by seeking advice from several dressage riders, including a girl my age who has competed to the FEI levels.