Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jumping Over the Fear

In October, we kept moving forward with jumping. With Dom, we jumped and pushed into a canter and tried to keep Spyder moving after a jump. With my trainer, we worked on jumping and then trying to stay in a straight line after the jump. It was good to work on both ways considering that we were new to this jumping thing. I had done a few small jumps out in the big ring and was so happy to have conquered the wishing well on our own. With Dom back in September, we worked on refining the crossrail with steering and moved up to verticals. Whenever she comes down to the farm, she always has a goal or idea in mind of how we will be put to the test. Here are some pictures of our victory.

Ok, I can do this! I look just as determined as he does.
His first take off - oh wow, what is this?

A little higher, and better form. He's getting the hang of it.
What comes with jumping is the canter. It is natural to my horse, and he tends to pick the gait coming out of jumps. I knew that we would soon be working on refining it as well as asking for it on the flat which made me excited, but got me down since winter was approaching quickly. The end of autumn was exciting and a let down, but the mild months have been wonderful!

Since the dark was getting to me, I decided I would attempt a ride over to the indoor which is just two doors down, but I knew I needed assistance. I am a timid rider when I am nervous, and being in the dark does not help! Dom let me know that I didn't have to worry, and that a horse could see better than a human at night. Was that good or bad? The prior winter was cold, and we were spoiled with our trailered lessons to the indoor next door. I would tack up before getting Spyder on the trailer so we unloaded from our two minute trip and get right to work. I wanted to try to get there without a trailer since that is not always an option which is why Dom came to help.

Dom got on Spyder in the dark to show me how she would tackle a nervous horse. Turns out, he wasn't nervous, and I am the problem here. Once, we attempted to get over to the other farm, and it didn't go too well so I assumed I would have the same issue. The funny part was me whipping out a flashlight. Dom was like,  "Umm, what's that for?"  Little did I know, horses can see just fine at night, and the light would only make reflections and shadows of things around the farm more scary. You learn something new every day, and I can say I learned something new about night rides. He was so good for her since she is firm rider and a great leader which is what I lack at times. There is no way I could have done that in the dark, but I wondered if he would act differently if I had just ridden him over alone vs having someone on the ground. He rode quietly over to the indoor where I hopped on to ride around for a bit. He hadn't been over there in a while, and he was quiet in the indoor. What a great horse!

I worked on pushing him into corners and going round at the same time. What I didn't know is that my spurs were making him a cranky horse. I got so used to riding in them and pointing my toes out, that I was riding funny. Dom let me know that when I used them, Spyder's reaction was not pleasant. He was and is such a creature of habit, and where I asked him to move forward, he expected my spur to poke him in the side. Every time we would get to the place I used my spur, he would look and anticipate a poke in the side. No wonder why he gives me fits every now and then. I would if I was getting spurred in the side! The canter still gets me the attitude issue because I do wear spurs, but I am learning how to better utilize my leg, the angle of my foot in the stirrup, and voice commands since he responds to those in a quiet manner. Well, maybe not completely quiet, but better.

I remember this experience well because it was so great to know I had a trusting horse that would try something new in the event he had a confident rider. It was time to suck it up! On the way back from working on bending and pushing into corners in the indoor, I rode my horse back. Visibly nervous, Dom assured me that nothing was going to happen. I had to tell him to go, let him look if he wanted to, wait for him to relax, and then decide to walk forward on his own. This had to be his idea,  and I had to reinforce it. This is when i realized that I was now jumping, starting to canter more often, and pushing through fear. What a wonderful night to reflect back on our accomplishments and encouragement from others...

...and then a new fear came. Not a fear from myself or Spyder, but a noise. A crazy, scary, screeching bark type of noise that didn't scare the horse a bit. Dom and I on the other hand, we looked at each other and said, "Oh my God, what was that?" THAT was not a sound I had ever heard growing up in the woods or on a farm... or on a farm in the woods... EVER! The moon was illuminating the path coming up the driveway where the noise was not far, but we didn't see anything. We heard it again, and then a cat came running out of the woods in front of us. We both jumped, gasped, and Spyder just kept walking like nothing even occurred to him. We both swear we heard the Jersey Devil that night. I guess my horse isn't afraid of that myth.

The few times that Dom's come out, I've realized that I hold our progress back. I'm nervous at times, and I don't try new things if I failed at the first attempt. I know now that I need to become a better leader, and understand what my horse is telling me. After we get past the barriers that I put up, we'll get much further.