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Monday, 14 October 2019

Showjumping Training - 14.10.19

After a three week break, I hopped onboard Louie last week for a quick 20 suppling session in the school, clipped him out the next evening and enjoyed a hack on a Friday evening after a long week at work.

I’ve recently joined our local riding club, attracted mostly because of a great winter training schedule that they offer with a number of sessions taking place in an indoor arena not far from us. I can be a little cautious going to different trainers after so many years of using the same two (Cathy for flatwork and Philippa for jumping), but I wanted to make sure that this winter I committed to getting out and doing more to progress through the winter months. It’s too easy to just do a quick session at home, not really achieving much but ticking it off as a training session.

Anyway, I joined and saw that Philippa was coincidentally doing a showjumping clinic with the riding club. As soon as I saw it, I booked on. Afterwards, I thought that it might not have been such a good idea – Louie can be spooky and overdramatic with even a pole on the ground after not going over jumps for a few weeks, so it perhaps wasn’t the best idea after doing nothing for what would have been almost four weeks by the time the session came. I came to the conclusion I could always cancel if he was a bit of a loon in the few days prior… He was lovely during our first schooling session, VERY spooky and on his toes when we hacked, and I noticed he wasn’t moving off the leg laterally, so I popped him in the school the next morning. He was fine, excited and keen, but settled into his work and did some good lateral work.

Monday evening came and off we set. It’s always a bit daunting when you’re new to a club and don’t really know anyone, but the two girls in my group seemed lovely. I haven’t been to the venue for a good few years, and was never able to walk Louie into the indoor arena. I’d have to get off. Yes, even for a dressage test, he just would not go in, even with a lead horse or being led by a person. **eyeroll at a typical Louie behaviour!**

I got on in the car park and thought, let’s have a go, it’s been a while… He walked straight in. While I waited for the other two girls in my session to come in, Louie walked around on a long rein feeling relaxed and calm, but also happy and not lazy. Once we started to warm up, Louie went beautifully, although Philippa soon reminded me to adjust our frame and way of going from a lovely dressage one to a one more suitable for showjumping. As the arena isn’t overly big, we cantered around on the same rein all at once. I thought this might make Louie quite excited, but it didn’t, although he was definitely keen!

We started off over a small cross pole. Until about a month ago, we’d stopped jumping cross poles as they seemed problematic for Louie, instead always just sticking to uprights, as at the end of the day in a competition, there’s never really cross poles. However, we’d started to start our sessions with one, challenge him to get him to know it’s one side to the other regardless of what’s in front of him. He had a good look as we came in & I sat quite defensively, but he popped over. We came around and did it once more, before working up over an upright and then an oxer.

One of my biggest bad habits, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is looking for the fence and prioritising getting my line before worrying about anything else. In a smaller space this definitely becomes more obvious to me and makes a difference when I don’t focus on it. The other bad habit is letting my hands creep up or move about in reaction to Louie. Last time Louie and I did a 60cm showjumping round in this arena the turns felt tight and difficult, the space between fences felt minute and generally it felt frantic when going round, possibly also because he was very spooky. So when Philippa straight away put the six fences together, I wondered how we’d get on. I knew I had to look early…

First time round, the fence were kept quite small, and we found our way round quite well, maybe a little unbalanced coming to fence two and fence five, as well as allowing myself to get a bit too flustered after fence five to correct my canter lead ready for the wiggly plank (which you can’t see on the video). I forgot to look, missed my line, Louie had a really good look and stopped almost, but with a kick and keep looking up, he popped over it.

Hooray! Sounds so simple to some, but after three weeks of doing nothing and being generally spooky about things like this, it was a very positive moment! We repeated the red plank again, just to improve on the turn and line to it.

I watched the other two jump around, before the jumps went up a bit, maybe 75-80cm. Louie jumped round well and I found the corner straight forward to make. Philippa also added fillers fully into one jump (number three) which again can thrown a bit of a dramatic reaction from Louie. I remembered to look early and get my line. I rode a bit defensively and forgot to keep my hands quiet, but it didn’t cause any problems, and Louie jumped it like a standard upright. It was a dog leg to number four, and Philippa shouted to keep my hands still, and in a quick reaction I kept them still but practically threw them away, so we had a bit of a leap to the left over the fence. Round to the plank, and I managed to get a much better line and kept a better rhythm around my turn, leaving us with a nice jump to finish on.

As I say, usually when Louie is keen and in a smaller space, it feels a little frantic. We end up disunited and landing on the wrong lead. I was thrilled as we went round to not only find myself looking early and finding my lines well, but to be looking ahead where we were going and therefore landing on the correct lead, sometimes changing leads over the fence, including the last one!

For those of you that have followed us over the last few years, you’ll know how we’ve struggled with our showjumping, particularly with consistency, Louie’s dramatics and remembering to look early for my line and keep my hands still in a good rhythm. I left this session feeling so positive and was thrilled with how well it had gone. For the first time after our training sessions over the last month, I feel like we’re starting to take steps forward to getting out & about back to showjumping parties! So watch this space over the upcoming months as I’ve put it high on my agenda for my winter training plans!


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