Brooding Dusk by Jess Purser
I joined an evening adult lesson on Thursday.  The horses had not gotten turnout in two weeks because of the constant rain.  There was also a piece of scrap metal in the middle of the busy street outside our barn that cars kept running over and rattling.  Plus our lesson was at dusk when the sun was setting in everyone’s eyes.  Sounds like a recipe for success right?

After warmups, everyone started the lesson by going over a tiny vertical.  My instructions were to trot up to it, give her a big release so she has her head, and ride the backside of the fence.  Our second time over the jump, Mae decided to turn into a bucking bronco.  She put her head down, hefted her backside up, and gave her best impression of what the Houston Rodeo is all about.  I stayed on (this new saddle guys) and turned her canter into a circle.  Seeing as how full of energy she was, I got off, tied up her reins, and let her full out gallop around the arena, sans rider.  The other riders have pretty steady mounts who are used to seeing everything, so they didn’t blink an eye at Mae’s baby racehorse antics.

After one riderless lap around, I climbed back on her and proceeded to go over the same fence again (in the same direction).  This time she didn’t try to buck but still felt like a launched rocket on the backside of the fence.  Instead of pulling her back from the canter into a trot, I collected it just a bit, found a deep seat in the saddle, and then rode her in a forward canter in a 20 meter circle after the jump.  When I felt the canter start to slow, I kept my leg on and we continued the canter.  The rationale behind this exercise is that it teaches her two things: 1) if she’s going to run, she will be asked to continue to run until I give her permission to stop and 2) it wears her out.

It was at this point that we had finally spent enough of her pent up energy and she was relaxed enough to even do a bending line without bolting on the backside.  We continued to follow each jump with a canter circle and downward transition to an active trot.  Mae still jumps in a gazelle-like fashion - all four feet in the air at once over the smallest jumps, which she jumps four feet over - but I hardly even notice.  The deep seat in the new saddle helps a lot.  My trainer also pulled my stirrups up two holes so that they feel like they’re underneath my armpits but it keeps my position consistent over jumps.  The big takeaway (and a lesson that I keep revisiting) is to focus on the ride before and after the fence - make sure she doesn’t have too much speed to the fence but also knows that we’re going to do the jump regardless of what her opinion is about it.

During the lesson, one of the other horses was full up on energy as well, dodging jumps and eventually dumping his rider.  More on this later and the different kinds of lessons that we have as adults.

This weekend, I took what we learned from the lesson on Thursday and put her over a succession of small jumps.  I also fitted her snaffle with a gag converter.  Mae did wonderfully, way less acting out on the back end of the fence.  The weather finally cleared up enough that the horses also got turnout this weekend, despite the mud, and some time outside to work out those wiggles.  I’m pleased as punch about our progress.  She’s fit, she’s listening, and we’re finally working together as a team.

Separately, I’ve also started Mae on flaxseed and taking her off corn oil, as I’ve finally done the research on why and what corn oil does for horses.  I’ve had her on Omega Horseshine for the past two weeks.  I don’t expect to see any results until a few weeks out but will be sure to let you guys know how she does with it.