I hacked Willard at home last night for the first time, and he was surprisingly good. I mean, take out the wild eyed looks every time we passed the corner closest to the barn and he was damn near perfect! One thing I know is going to be a challenge is working with him on an open gallop stride, as my ring is not quite wide or long enough to open his striding. I might have to move our hacks back to the grass pasture.
Tonight we trailered up to McMullans for a lesson, and Charlene and Mike had been scheming on how to fix our oxer/running out issue. They’re plan was dynamite. We started out the evening with Mike lunging Will over some jumps. Watching Mike work with horses is one of my favourite things to do. He always knows how to earn their respect, without over doing it or punishing them. The jump started out as a vertical, maybe about 2’9, with a brick box underneath on the short end of the arena. Then a back rail was added. Then the back rail was moved up to about 3ft. Then to 3’3″. Will started trying to run out a few times, but quickly realized that Mike was not to be toyed with and jumping over the jump from whatever distance he found was a MUCH better option. Next, the oxer was moved up to approx. 3’6 and Will was asked to jump it. The first few times he got himself into bad distances, but jumped out anyway. If we didn’t know he was scopey already, this was a good sign. After a few ugly, awkward jumps, he finally figured out that he wasn’t going to get a break until he did it right and didn’t mess around. The last jump was gorgeous. Nice and round, with his feet kicking up far over the back rail. At this point Mike stopped him immediately, said “good boy” and handed him over to the mercy of my hands.
After getting on and letting him chill for a bit, we promptly started up the work again. Mike told me to pick up a canter and go to another oxer built along the long wall. This oxer was maybe a bit bigger then 3ft, and decently wide with all white rails. We got into a tight distance, but Will jumped out no problem. Next, we were told to gallop down to the 3’6″ oxer on the short side. This was definitely the biggest jump I’d seen in a while, so I was a tiny bit nervous, but I didn’t hesitate. You don’t say no to Mike, and he generally knows how far to push. So off we went, and we got a tight distance, but Will jumped over the thing like it was hardly there. I actually hardly felt him jump it was so smooth. This gave me confidence for the next 6 times we hopped over it. We only had one stop over that jump, and it was because of a super deep distance. Will actually started to jump it, but decided that it was probably best to just put is front feet back on the ground. Forgivable!
Charlene then took over the lesson, and we did a course of oxers, all around the 3ft range. He carried me to each one with ease and jumped BEAUTIFULLY. I couldn’t help but smile every time he went over a jump. I wish I had video to show, but nothing can replace the feeling of a horse jumping so cleanly and round with seemingly no effort. Hopefully tonight gave Will the same amount of confidence it gave me in his ability.
To say the least, I am very impressed. And very grateful to have coaches who are as talented and insightful as Mike and Charlene.