Jumping lesson with Holly Hayman: Hold mane! (Really!)

Tonight I had my first jumping lesson in a long while. Seems like roughly 5 months! And while the jumping at last week’s event at Woodwind went okay, I know that we could be doing better. The 1.2 metre fences don’t look big, which is a huge help from a confidence perspective, but we’re getting over them due to my lack of fear and Gamble’s athleticism.

When I got to the arena, Holly had a surprise for me: She was warming up Loyal, a Grand Prix level jumper. Apparently his personal best was a 2.2 metre puissance wall in Austria. So this boy could jump! And she wanted me to ride him so that I could feel what it was like to have the energy of a real jumper underneath me.

It was an eye opener. While I’m continually giving Gamble “encouragement” with my legs, spurs and occasionally crop, with Loyal it was all about harnessing and managing the energy. He had energy to burn and you especially had to watch it as you pointed him to a fence!

Holly had me going as slowly around at a canter to approach the fences and then no later than 9 feet away from the fence, let him pick the distance and get over the fence. And once over the fences, collect him back again. It took me a while to get used to the fact that I didn’t have to give extra encouragement with my legs which would cause him to rush the fence.

Then it was Gamble’s turn. My challenge with Gamble was that I needed to keep the energy up, and then I needed to get out of his way while he did the fence. He jumped much better when I would close my eyes and when I would hold his mane, rather than balance with contact in his mouth. Now, obviously I can’t be closing my eyes when I go into each fence in competition, but I can work during practice at ensuring that I’m not holding him back in any way by holding onto his mane rather than keeping any contact on the bit.

This is going to take a bit of getting used to. But by the end of our training, we were doing a small course of 1.2 metre fences with no striding issues at all. So I at least have a tool on which I can fall back if I find things going awry on me in the future!

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