I have never done a jumper show before, and I think I understand now why people love jumpers so much. It’s a lot of fun to test your skills zipping around a course as fast and clean as you can. Or, I imagine it would be. Our goal was to not zip, just to go around the course quiet and relaxed.
And you know what: We went off farm, I got on, and Midas listened in the warm up ring. He was good, we trotted both ways, then we went and got in line for the x rails course. Just to introduce him to the course. He was excited, but he listened well and went around pretty relaxed. We got a clean round and a good time (without trying for time). I was very pleased with him.
Then we loitered around for an hour while the x rails course finished up and the 18″ verticals class went.
As the hour passed between our classes, Midas knew he’d done a good job–stellar, even, especially considering his track record–he thought he was done, and he also knew it was dinnertime. So, when I woke him up to warm him up I could sense that he was offended about working more. I hoped we could just do our class and be done. Also, we hadn’t jumped warm up jumps before the x rails, and that had gone great, so I thought perhaps it would be the same with the 2′ fences. In hindsight, I should have stayed in the warm up ring until he got over being offended. I should have taken the x rail and vertical in the warm up ring to discover his mood.
I was trying to help him get over being in work by not dwelling too long. It didn’t work. Our second class went horribly. Though, watching it later it doesn’t look that horrible up until the point I fell off. He was a handful, but mostly we were managing with extra circles to recover.
He was wound up, and shocked and offended, and I could feel him utterly coiled beneath me. He tried several times to get out of line while we were waiting, and when it was our turn to enter he tried to leave. He bucked and bolted after the first fence but I got him back and circled. I kept him from the second fence because I strongly suspected we’d have a buck and bolt on the other side of that one too. After a couple circles I felt his energy had shifted forward rather than up, and got him over with a reasonable recovery. The third fence got a teeny buck and dart, which I recovered, circled and got him to fence four. I was approaching each fence like it was the only one. He took four without darting out of it, so I started to think we might be OK–not great, but maybe OK. But five and six were a line and I wondered if I should quit, knowing a line would give him the jump on me–literally.
Perhaps I should have quit.
Perhaps I should have pretended six wasn’t after five and sat up with the world’s biggest half halt in our two strides between fences.
Perhaps I should have sat up and ridden the fences like they were flat.
Any of those actions might have changed the fact that he jumped big on six and dislodged me, then I could’ve sworn he bucked–but in the video it wasn’t nearly the motion I felt, but just like that I was in the dust. I wasn’t embarrassed at the time, but watching the video I definitely am now!
So I left the ring and took him back to the warm up ring, got on, and spent the next half hour or so trotting the x rail and vertical in there. It only took a few times over the x rail (and one or two one rein stops before then) to get him listening again, and then I just did the vertical over and over waiting for him to take revenge. But he didn’t.
So we went back into the show ring–not to do the course, but to recover from it. We walked and trotted around–he was immediately worked up, and I just needed him to relax. So we trotted around–ooogled at the photographers laying in the grass outside the ring every single pass. After a little while I asked him to walk, did some half halts to focus on my release, focused on relaxing my legs, and then asked for trot and we did much better at achieving a relaxed trot. So it was time to try a fence.
On the recommendation of one of the show staff, we chose the straight approach to the four fence (since the other inviting fence was on the side with the scary photographers) and he trotted in and out like a good boy. No rushing. No bucking. Just a nice trot.
That’s a win. I let him walk and showered him with pats.
I was reflecting on the event and realizing that it did actually go much better than the dressage show. He came out and his first reaction was to be quite good. He knew he had been good, and he thought he was done–when he found out he wasn’t done, and the next thing was even harder, he just got more shocked and offended and worked up and then lost three years of training.
I think that if I had jumped him in warm up I would have been able to head off our disaster. I don’t think it would have been a great round, but I think I could have stayed on. So, lesson learned. After a long break, make sure to work him hard before asking for anything really hard.