Oxers have always made me nervous. I think it stems back to the first time I jumped an oxer, when I got left behind and Belle the Pony yanked me down her neck and over her head on landing.
On Saturday I was down at Aspen Farms taking photos at their eventing derby. I hung around until 5:30 to watch the Preliminary riders. During their course walk a group of them were talking about part of the course when one of them said, “It’s just an oxer, it’s not like it’s a rolltop or a table.” Talk about perspective! 😅
The next day we got out SellerH’s flower boxes and filled them with fake dollar store blossoms.
I lunged Rags over the flowers. He jumped the snot out of them at first! But the jumps were easy peasy and watching how effortlessly he hops over these little fences always gives me a confidence boost. By the time I was done lunging I knew the jumps would be a piece of cake.
We warmed up with the ungarnished cross rail, then started playing around over the decorated jumps. We hopped over the lines from the trot and from the canter without any problems, and it felt like we could have jumped the moon together—so I set up the oxer.
It was the first time I felt truly brave taking him over jumps! Even when I lost my reins and had to scramble to get them back while Raglan dive-bombed through a corner, I felt strong and capable. There’s a lot that needs work, but having a bit of that fearlessness back makes me feel good about our future.
It’s easy to underestimate 18″. For Raglan 18″ is nothing, but when you’re as short as I am 18″ comes up to right above your knee. It’s short enough to step over, but tall enough that it looks a little scary.
My lesson at THF came with the realization that Raglan jumps much differently than I’m used to. Back when we were playing around at KW I kept the jumps super low and he just cantered over them. Pump the jumps up a smidge higher and suddenly he’s actually using his back and my options are to find a two point or get knocked around out of my tack—I can’t just half seat over the jumps anymore.
I definitely used my two point over fences on Belle, but I didn’t put a lot of thinking into it. With Belle I knew she always needed to be going faster, so I gave her a couple of kicks, focused on pushing my heels down, and then closed my hip over the jump. She’s so point and shoot that if we flubbed a distance it was okay because she jumped anyways and I could sort things out after we had landed. It was easy, natural. I didn’t have to think a lot about how my body was positioned because it felt instinctual.
It doesn’t feel instinctual with Raglan. I overthink it and I get nervous, then I pick on his face and he cruises to a stop because I’m telegraphing that I don’t want him to jump the fence. It’s nice because it means my pony’s calling me out for being ridiculous. It sucks because it makes me feel incompetent.
Jumping the cross rail at THF wasn’t scary, though. It was sloppy and disorganized (and I was thankful my giant young horse didn’t decide to dump me on the ground because it wasn’t like I was helping him out very much), but I didn’t feel like I was going to fall off. I just felt like my timing was super screwed up and I wasn’t using my body the way that I was supposed to be using my body.
Last Sunday SellerH and I met up to do some jumping together. We started out with a really fun exercise made out of canter poles and a cross rail that was SO. MUCH. FUN.
The 18″, on the other hand, wasn’t. Looking back I definitely needed to build up momentum and then push him up to it, but I was too nervous to do it, especially when I knew there was the oxer looming at the end of the line (even if I wasn’t planning on jumping it). We figured it out, but it shook me.
In the end I had SellerH take Ragan over the oxer for me so that he’d have a really good experience to end on. The first time he totally did the vertical and then checked out, didn’t realize the oxer was there, and slammed the brakes at the last second. He did fine with it the next time, though!
Jumping Raglan sort of feels like starting over—like I’m learning how to jump for the first time! I knew we need to take a couple of steps back, so this Sunday I set up some easy cross rails and some canter poles to build my confidence back up again. It’s all about pushing my boundaries a little bit at the time.
The nice thing is that Raglan is such a good young horse! He never holds a grudge. Even when I completely mess him up and he stops at the jump because I chickened out, if I get myself together he forgets about my failures and jumps over it anyways. Not only that, but he’s only six years old, so even if it takes me a few years to get myself figured out he’s still going to be young and full of life.
This is going to be a short wrap up. I already talked about Monday (Day One of the clinic), then Tuesday I did a light walk/trot bareback pad ride with Ezhno in the morning and helped out with the beginner’s clinic in the afternoon, Wednesday was Day Two of the clinic, Thursday was Day Three, and I didn’t ride on Friday or Sunday… which means Saturday is the only day I haven’t covered already, and luckily I took video that day, so here’s that instead of the typical wall of text!
(Also, I started the video where we start jumping, but you’re free to go back and watch our warm up, too. 🙂 )