Here are some things that have been on my mind… (Yes, I’m numbering my random thoughts. I’m organized like that.)
1. Hunters vs. Show Jumpers: I am now certain I want Baron to be a hunter and not a show jumper. My reason for this is purely aesthetic. I’ve been watching some show jumping events on TV and the horses don’t go around as prettily as they do in the hunter ring. They seem to race around with their heads in the air and tossing their heads and being generally amped up. This makes perfect sense to me because show jumping is all about speed and the rider is more concerned with moving quickly and efficiently around a course than she is with having a nice pretty headset. Also, show jumpers are asked to go over some high, scary stuff. Horses that are brave enough to make it as show jumpers are probably not the type to trot slowly and prettily around the arena. I want Baron to be slow and pretty, so hunters it is.
2. What “look” does your horse have? I’ve also been watching some eventing on TV and those horses have a different look to me than horses who do straight dressage. Event horses look more like racehorses to me, very lean and lanky. The horses I know that do straight dressage have a more heavy, muscled look. I think Baron looks like an event horse. He’s long legged and lanky, and no matter how much I feed him, he still looks a bit like a string bean.
3. Lucinda Green Clinic: Lucinda Green is a British equestrian and a member of their Olympic team, although I’m not sure what year. I caught an eventing clinic with her on RFD-TV this weekend and it was suuuuuuuper informative, even though I have no interest in eventing. The clinic focused on the cross country portion, but she had the horses and riders start out in an indoor arena before moving outside to the cross country jumps. The participants in the clinic were not terribly experienced, some of them not much further along in their riding than me. In the indoor portion of the clinic, she had jumps set up and she kept them at low heights, like not more than 2 foot. Despite the low height, each one was a little tricky. She said height wasn’t important; what mattered was getting the horses over the jumps confidently and getting them used to a variety of questions, essentially making them brave before making them skilled. I really liked her approach. She was very creative in setting the course.
She gave some great tips that apply to what I’m doing with Baron. She said to imagine your legs as a tube that squeezes your horse. When you’re approaching the jump, it’s important to have steady contact with your calves to encourage your horse to move forward even if he’s a little unsure. You don’t want enough pressure to speed him up, just enough to remind him that you’re up there and you have a task for him. The steady contact reassures him and keeps him from running out. She also talked about the tension between directing your horse over jumps and letting your horse learn to think for himself. It’s important not to micromanage because you want him to take responsibility for himself as he jumps, but you also want to guide and reassure him in his efforts. She highlighted the partnership aspect of jumping. I really enjoyed watching her clinic because I’m new to jumping and she had a lot of good foundational information.