30 Days to Poplar Place: last minute preparations

Yesterday was supposed to be a gallop day, but I changed the plan for two reasons: 1) it’s supposed to rain today and late this week, so I wanted to take full advantage of the arena while the footing was good, and 2) something told me we should get one more jumping session in before it was too late. I guess the premonition was spot on, because yesterday was NOT a pretty ride.
I set up 7 jumps all jumpable both directions. There were two combinations: a one stride vertical to vertical and a double combination a skinny crossrail two strides to vertical three strides to a square oxer. Johnny warmed up nicely–I took Lesley Stevenson’s advice and did several halt-reinback-canter transitions with beautiful results. Earlier this year, there’s no way we could have accomplished that, but now he can pick up a beautiful uphill canter from the halt. In fact, often his canter transition is better when he does it from the halt, as opposed to the trot-canter transition, where he has a tendency to get strung out or scramble. We’ll do more of those tomorrow and Wednesday, then I’ll give him Thursday and Friday to recuperate. Anyway, he jumped the individual elements and combinations fairly well, but then his old habits resurfaced. Occasionally, out of nowhere, he will grab the bit 1 stride out and gun it. I have no choice but to just hang on and go for it–not only does he not listen to me, but even if I could pull him up, we would crash into the jump. At the lower heights, he can clear the 2-3′ fences jumping flat because he’s got enough power, but as we move up, the results would be disastrous. I’m working on trying to figure out why he does this–so far I can’t find a specific pattern that leads up to it, and we’ll return to the same combination/fence with no issues. I’m sure it has something to do with me over jumping; I analyzed a few videos Ryan shot for me yesterday. This bad habit is proving terribly difficult to break. I’m doing great on the approach, then throwing myself up his neck right as his front end leaves the ground. It’s going to require some professional assistance, as I know what I’m doing wrong but unable to fix it. We finally ended on a good note, with Johnny jumping the one stride combination quietly, and he got a much-needed bath. (Seriously, in January, I gave my horse a bath in an unheated barn.)
Our plan this week involves some additional jumping on Wednesday (though it will be a short ride) with dressage tomorrow. Thursday will be a light session, and Friday will either be a short hack out or off completely. My week-of show prep is slightly less intense early in the week, tapering off with a recovery period to ensure he has plenty of energy without being wired for the day of the show.

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