|What are you doing down there? Let's go jump!|
I knew when I got him Calabar liked to jump. He once cleared his pipe panel corral to go see what the neighbors were doing--bowed tendon, shmowed tendon, he says. Once, very early on, he dumped Steve in the outdoor arena--when we had several 3-or-so foot jumps set up--and Calabar proceeded to go over every single one with ease before coming back to Steve. His solution when we came to a creek crossing up at Slide that was a little steep for him? Jump it.
So for quite awhile I've had vague plans of starting to do some low jumps with him, both for entertainment and because Karen suggested it would help him with his self-carriage. We've been discouraged a little by people who worry about his tendon, but my answer is to see how the tendon does and make a decision based on that. He will let me know if things hurt and he knows I will listen. We also aren't planning on anything too high or too strenuous, just something to add to the arena routine to make it, well, less routine.
There were a few things we had to conquer first--teaching him to turn and use his hind end and my own fears about riding him.
The funny thing is having specifics to work on seems to have helped with both. I'm thinking about how he feels, where his feet are, where my balance is and does it feel right, rather than "OHMYGODIMIGHTFALLOFF!" The more I ride, the more he and I both progress, the less I'm thinking about the fear and the more we can actually do. It's like this awesome upward spiral I forgot existed.
So a few nights ago, we began trotting over one of the trail obstacles (poles on the ground in a pattern) and walking over the tiny jump. Then we trotted up to and over the tiny jump. I was trying to imitate the positions my friends who jump post on Facebook as examples the "right" position, but apparently I was not getting it quite right, not at first. Then we trotted up to it and I stuck my legs down and did something with my rear end and hands that felt balanced--still not sure what--and Calabar apparently agreed because he rocked back and cleared the tiny jump with plenty of air and big happy ears. So we did it again.
He apparently won't jump unless I'm in the right place. I'm not sure which one of us he is taking care of, but he is very clear on where I need to be for us to do the fun thing, not the just-get-over-the-jump thing.
I admit that I still get a little nervous when he breaks into a canter out of the jump, but I am working through it a little more every time. It helps a lot that he listens when I ask him to slow down, of course, and that he is so very excited to move forward as long as it's towards the jump. Motivational tools for the lazy horse are good to have.
Really, though, having journeyed this far with him--through heartache and frustration and sometimes crushing fear--it is incredible and somewhat humbling to find ourselves in this space, working together and finding new ways to enjoy what we're doing. Jumping may be Calabar's new favorite thing, but he is still (always) my favorite big, brown ex-racehorse and I am grateful for all the things we've taught each other.