Rusty Stirrup

Mission Accomplished

This week, I accomplished one of my riding goals, and made huge p

By: Rusty Stirrup |

Luc and I work on finding a distance.

Luc and I work on finding a distance.

This week, I accomplished one of my riding goals, and made huge progress toward another. I finally found the courage to jump Luc over one of the logs in the field and it felt…awkward…but also amazing if that’s possible. The awkwardness might have something to do with the fact that I can’t seem to see a distance to save my life. Luckily for me, Luc’s a pretty forgiving sort and goes whether I see the distance or not. It did make for two very ugly chips (I only jumped it twice) and me getting a little left behind as we tried to work things out.

But let me back up a little, because the ride didn’t start with me jumping the log. It ended with it. It started as our rides normally do – with me getting on less than gracefully. I must say though, now that I’ve been using the picnic table as a mounting block, things have become a little easier. I’m just not sure what I’m going to do when winter rolls around and I have to try and get on inside again! This week Luc did not stand stock still for me. Instead, he decided to walk away just after I pushed off and before I swung my leg over the saddle. That made things a little more challenging as I had to try and get on quickly while we were already on the go. I did it! Barely, but still, I managed to scramble into the saddle and get control of Luc after only a few steps. I was so proud.

Since it was a nice day out, I decided to work Luc in the open grass field. Now that my fear of riding him in wide-open spaces has disappeared it’s my favourite ‘ring’ to work in. There’s also the added bonus that it has a number of regular and cross county-style jumps set up in it, you know in case I get the urge to pop Luc over any of them. Which obviously I did. After we warmed up on the flat I was feeling confident and decided today was the day I was going to canter into a jump – something else I haven’t done in over a decade. Now for those who aren’t exactly keeping track, since starting riding again in April, I have jumped exactly twice – both times popping over a tiny x-rail once.

Luc looks happy as ever despite the new grazing muzzle.

Luc looks happy as ever despite the new grazing muzzle.

That’s how I started my jumping this time. I trotted into a small x-rail, the last part of a three-stride line. Luc perked right up and I immediately found myself with a horse that was actually enthusiastic about what we were doing instead of just plodding around because I told him to. It was great – his enthusiasm, not the jump. The jump definitely could have been a little better, but I managed not to get left behind or catch him in the mouth so I’m calling it a win. Does it really matter that I released like it was four feet instead of one, or that I was more than a touch too far forward? Well yes, it does actually matter, and is something I will be working on in the future. But again, see my earlier comment about how many times I’ve jumped. I can’t expect to magically have textbook form without working on it. Sadly I am just not that blessed in my natural riding ability. Maybe if I had been riding a unicorn.

After popping over the x-rail in both directions from a trot, I decided to try it at a canter. I think it was the most forward canter I have ever had on Luc. He was eager and happy to jump (and he actually jumped, not stepped over it, yay!) and I was happy to let him pick his own distance, because well, my eye is not so great. After cantering it from each direction I was feeling a little high on the thrill of soaring over fences, so I decided to try the three-side line. Success! I was able to actually get three strides cantering it in each direction. I wasn’t so sure we would make it as Luc likes the long spot, and we had to move up to make the distance.

It was after jumping the line that I thought I could make it over the little log. To date I had only jumped x-rails, so I was a bit intimidated at first. Luc was also a little more hesitant coming down to it. Gone was his confident forward canter, replaced with what I have dubbed his pretty hunter canter. It was forward enough to get us down to the fence, but I didn’t see how we were coming in on an off stride until it was too late. I squeezed, held my breath and hoped for the best. And Luc totally saved my butt by jumping it from that horrible chippy place I got him to. I tried again and fell victim to exactly the same problem. Sigh, I guess it’s back to poles for me until I can start seeing distances again.

Luc’s pasture mate happily helps Luc remove his muzzle.

Luc’s pasture mate happily helps Luc remove his muzzle.

Now that I have cantered into fences, jumped a line, and jumped a solid log, I’m feeling confident that by the end of the summer I might be able to tackle a course of small x-rails. Hopefully by then I will have found the formula to finding distances. I’ll let you all know what it is once I figure it out!

One other important thing of note happened this week. After struggling to find one that would fit his dinosaur-sized head, we finally got Luc a grazing muzzle. He has become, ahem, a little on a pleasantly plump side and needs to lose a few pounds. I can totally relate. That means restricting his access to the sugary, sugary grass he currently enjoys for most of the day. I thought it would be hard at first, seeing him with it on, but honestly he didn’t care at all – especially since we’ve been putting treats in it when we put it on to make it more enjoyable. He quickly figured out how to graze in it, splashed around and had a drink with it, and even found a buddy who I think in the coming days will happily help him remove it.

It’s a good thing for him and will hopefully prevent any weight-related issues going forward. In a show of solidarity, I have cut sugar out of my diet too. I think it would be easier for me if I was wearing a muzzle instead of just relying on will power!