Small horse, big hops

In lessons and on my own, we jump anywhere from 2’3″ to 3’3″. We’ve become extremely consistent on the flat; Sabra is quiet, soft and relaxed. She stays that way when we warm up over singles, as long as I ask her to down transition as soon as we land. When we start jumping lines or courses, Sabra “wakes up” — she gets REALLY excited about jumping and often has trouble containing her excitement. Yay, awesome because she’s a jumper, but aaah, I do still need her to pay attention to me and not just the jumps! She never bucks, hops, rears or does anything bad, but she gets very “up.”

Some days, Sabra stays soft and in my hand so that she comes back to me quickly and easily after fences, meaning we can turn quickly. Some days, she’s way too full of herself, over-confident and gets quite strong (by strong, I mean she pulls, but doesn’t lean on my hands), and I feel like I’ve lost my brakes and ability to turn. There are mainly two times when she gets strong: (1) She’s a small horse (15.2 1/2 hands), so she often has to open up her stride to nail the distances; and (2) She jumps big over a fence (she’s quick in the air, but she jumps HARD and really pushes off the ground, which sometimes jostles me a little and makes our landings a little scramble-y).

Last weekend, we jumped around 3′ – 3’3″ on our own because she was listening so well. This week, she obviously thought 2’3″ wasn’t worth her time of day, and tried to barrel through everything, with or without me.

From two weeks ago, here’s what it looks like when everything comes together. By everything coming together, I mean my brain is staying three jumps ahead of Sabra (she’s very quick and responsive, and we get in trouble when she gets ahead of me, literally and mentally), and she’s coming back to me as soon as we land off each fence.

From this past week’s lesson, here’s what it looks like when I’m doing everything possible just to manage and channel her over-excitement about jumping. Trainer’s comment: “She’s a little full of herself today, isn’t she?”

So what’re you supposed to do when you’re sitting on an over-excited, high-energy, extremely sensitive, non-marish mare? Sit still and just wait. Do everything in your strength to sit still, despite her bouncing and head tossing and jigging and wanting to burst forward.

But also, we have homework: Lots of transitions and no more courses for us for a while. Possibly no lines either. We’re jumping singles only from now on, until she can remember how to come back and wait for me. Whether we jump small or big, or her step is small or big, she needs to come back to me when we land. I’ll need to help her balance through the turns and as the jumps continue to go up, so she needs to learn now that she can’t run through my hands.

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