Yesterday in my four o’clock lesson I decided to have a bit of fun. The four children are really progressing and are very confident now. A fortnight ago I risked taking them for a hack which they all thoroughly enjoyed.
So today two of them showed and interest in the beginners showjumping we’re running in the holidays so I thought I’d make it the theme of the lesson. We warmed up in trot, doing the dreaded diagonals, so they could familiarise themselves with their ponies, sitting trot with and without stirrups. Tod was riding a much bigger pony than he is used to and found her very bouncy, but he sat well and worked his stomach muscles hard. Carys eventually managed to relax her shoulders and arms, I always tell her she’s driving with the handbrake on. Sally was more confident than usual, and Lilly had managed not to wobble off in sitting trot, unlike last week.
So far, so good. I worked them as a ride over trotting poles testing their jumping position. Their lower legs are definitely getting stronger and there’s no superman impressions, so to push them they had to ride jumping position with one arm out to the side. This reduced their reliance on their hands on the pony’s neck to keep them folded. Once done I brought them back to walk and explained what happens in a showjumping competition.
One of the first questions was “how big are the jumps?” To which the answer was in this competition class 1 was just poles on the ground. They seemed confident about this so I laid out 4 poles to form a basic course. Tod, as the most confident and experienced, went first. The related distance (which we’d discussed) went smoothly but after the second one he swung right towards the white pole (on the KM line) coming in at a terrible angle so got a refusal. This initiated a discussion about penalties and faults. He rode past the ride and reluctantly over the last pole before trotting right back round to the others at C.
Next was Carys, who rode smoothly round and learnt from Tod’s mistake and toed into her corners. Then it was Sally’s turn. Her pony his renowned for returning post haste to the back of the ride, so it was no surprise to me that they came round past A and he put his head down and turbo trotted towards the ride. Somehow, and I was impressed given she isn’t the most confident, Sally corrected him and whilst she had to turn a circle for the jump, he did come back to her. As soon as he was over pole 4 he stopped and turned round to go back to the ride.
Finally, it was the turn of Lilly and her pony who was described recently by one of my helpers as “the worst case of riding school-itis” she had ever seen. This pony is a gem – smooth gaits, steady and willing, but he will NOT go at the front of the ride or work independently. Which isn’t a massive problem as he’s only used for the little children and beginners, so I get around this little issue. Off Lilly went, and immediately her pony drifted towards the centre. Over the centre of pole 1, to the right of pole 2, handbrake turn to sidle past pole 3 on the diagonal then over pole 4 backwards to get back behind the other ponies tails. We had a bit of a laugh and I sent them off again over a harder and longer course (they now had seven poles to remember!).
Tod and Carys rode it smoothly and well, remembering their jumping position each time so I was pleased. Sally took charge of her steed and navigated him without too much of an argument which was great, and Then I helped Lilly by keeping her pony away from the middle and giving a helping tug on the inside rein as he trotted back to the ride, ignoring the rest of the course. Once disciplined he was hoof perfect.
We finished off with some canter, which involves a few laps from me. Today found his pony hard to sit to as her stride was much bigger. Carys took the handbrake off so her pony could skip into canter. Both Lilly and Sally let go in the canter too which hopefully means I won’t have to run for too much longer! To provide a bit of light entertainment, whilst they were cantering Sally’s pony took it into his head that the grass on the other side of the fence was exceedingly tasty and proceeded to put his head through, leaving his poor rider holding onto her reins with her face against the wooden rail! Thankfully a parent rescued her and I’ll be getting it strimmed before next week.
I found the lesson very entertaining and you could really see how far the children have come; hopefully I’ve inspired a new generation of show jumpers.