Tiny Details

To fill the other day of our unexpectedly-empty-thanks-to-show-cancellation weekend, we had a jump lesson! Trainer is coming more regularly to a farm about an hour from us, which is logistically a lot easier than our normal 2 hours each way drive to get to her place. Anytime she comes that close, I will definitely make sure that I’m there. Jump lessons haven’t been a thing that happens very regularly for us in the past several years, but they really need to. Because, uh… Exhibit A:

We R so Gud at Dis

Boy did Henry have a bit of a wild hair up his butt on Sunday. To be fair, he hadn’t jumped since our XC school a week and a half before, so he was still kind of in his ballsy swagger XC mode. Which, as evidenced above, does not work well when I ask him to get quietly to the base. It was also really cold, and he had a very easy day the day before. He was quite rude for his first few jumps, for Henry anyway. I tried last time to put my curb chain on the hackamore to give me a little more brakes than the plain leather strap I currently have, but the PS of Sweden hackamore shanks are so wide that I couldn’t find a chain that adjusted small enough to come anywhere near being workable. I ended up ordering a miniature horse size curb chain, which should be here this week. I think that one will fit. Hopefully.

Anyway, after annihilating a couple fences, one his fault, one very much my fault (heeeeey, pro tip, do not change your mind about the distance 45 times in the last 3 strides before a swedish oxer), we started to get our shit together a bit.

That’s better

At this height, Henry has a bit of a hard time jumping clear. He doesn’t really give a shit if he hits a rail, and we’re nearing the top of his scope. Any little thing I do with my seat, hands, or especially my body has a big impact on whether or not he jumps cleanly. Seriously, even if I just soften my shoulders an INCH at the takeoff, it can mean a rail. On one hand, this is great. I rarely get away with mistakes, so I’m really accountable for them, and that’s how we learn. If you want to be a student of the horse, he’s a great teacher. On the other hand, do you have any idea how hard it is to try to be THAT GOOD all the time? It’s literally impossible. At least for this very amateur rider. And sometimes that’s frustrating.

When I start feeling like that, I try to remember that in a couple years I’ll be sitting a horse where just getting from one side of the fence to the other in a semi-straight line will be the banner accomplishment for the day. Henry is giving me a great gift right now by teaching me the importance of detail and finesse, and I have to appreciate it for what it is. I know without a doubt that’s he’s making me better. I’m accountable for everything I do, every little move I make, and I’m instantly aware when I make a mistake. Some days that just kind of ends up feeling like I make a hell of a lot of mistakes and I’m a walking disaster. Other days it feels like I can actually use those mistakes to make improvements and move forward.

I always struggle a bit with keeping my upper body back enough at the base to help Henry come off the ground, especially when we get a close distance. He’s a downhill horse, not particularly powerful, and he really does need me to do everything right in order for him to jump well out of a deep distance. That little teeny minuscule softening of the shoulder, dropping them just a hair, makes a big impact on his balance as he leaves the ground. Trainer made a new suggestion – instead of thinking “shoulders back” to the base, instead think of keeping my chin up all the way to and over and jump. Just that little movement raises my shoulders the 1″ that Henry needed in order to be able to get his front end out of the way, without changing what I’m doing with my seat.

It’s such a miniscule thing, such a teeny tiny ridiculous detail. Chin up at the base? Really? Yet it worked. When I actively thought about raising my chin, he was able to get his front end out of the way a lot more quickly and efficiently. Add that to the list of 1000 other things I’m trying to remember on course.


Riding is hard y’all, and it just keeps getting harder. I kinda live in a world where “the more you know, the more you don’t know” is my constant reality. It’s funny, because it’s so easy to look at riders showing at levels higher than you and think that they must have it all figured out. I remember when I was running BN and thinking those Training riders sure must be a hell of a lot better at all this than I was. And when I was running Training I was thinking that those Prelim riders for sure were several steps ahead of me, they must not make very many mistakes, right? Truth is, we’re all making mistakes constantly. Things get better with work and time, as they do of course, but at the end of the day we’re all in the same boat, just trying to learn and do the best we can.

Gosh the process is fun, though. Humbling, and frustrating sometimes, but fun none-the-less.



13 thoughts on “Tiny Details

  1. “The more you know, the more you don’t know” is the actual story of my life too. I often have to remind myself that I’m not actually a worse rider than I used to be (in fact I’ve made solid progress), I’m just challenging myself more and am more aware of what’s still missing. Humbling and fun for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah isn’t it weird that the better you get, the more acutely aware you are of how much there still is to improve? But awareness is step 1 for everything. I know I’m riding better now than I ever have, but I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “the more you know, the more you don’t know” isn’t that the truth!
    I totally thought those upper level riders has it all figured out. But turns they don’t. However they do have more tools in their toolbox that helps them fix said mistakes faster and efficiently. So I keep on trying figure out this riding thing and hope that I am adding the right tools so that I can fix my mistakes when I they happen!


  3. Denny Emerson just had the chin up thing to help sit up on his FB page. I’ve been using it for dressage and have been astounded by how much it changes my and my pony’s balance. Such a small change for a big difference! Another layer of the onion!


  4. So true. The higher you go, the more the supposedly teeny things matter. What doesn’t matter over a BN fence has huge implications over a Prelim fence. Sure does keep it interesting, even if it can also be hella frustrating!


  5. My chin likes to stay tucked to my collarbone, so that’s something I struggle with greatly also. Maybe because I have a melon head, who knows. But look at you guys go!


  6. I love that Henry is so sensitive to how you ride him (mostly, when he doesn´t have XC swagger in a hackamore) that keeping your chin up makes him jump so differently. I see the downsides but still.


  7. Ahhh so fun for me to read this! You’ve basically described Georgie and I. And then, when you say that soon you’ll have to work on getting your horse from one side of the jump to the other in a straight(ish) line? YUP!
    I do miss all Georgie taught me about how to be a more effective rider, but at the same time, she makes Henry look CAREFUL. Mare happily dropped rails if I didn’t ride every stride. And that definitely got frustrating. Especially when we started jumping Prelim and there were tighter corners and more questions. So much to think about!!
    But now I’ve got so may other things to work on with June, and I sometimes miss working on tiny details. Sometimes. Other times I just love feeling her spring over jumps and congratulating both of us for getting to the other side!


  8. First note. Henry’s enthusiasm for applying XC jumping to SJ lol … I used to work with a trainer who would carry on about the transition from XC jumping to SJ, when the event order is XC then SJ. He said that at a straight-up 3-day, you had to have a SJ school, a small short one, on the late afternoon of XC day, to re-adjust the horse’s brain from whoopee galloping and bold jumping arcs. Otherwise on SJ morning, the rider would be having panic-inducing adventures in warm-up with a horse doing cowabunga’s over the painted poles. LOL Well anyway I can’t say that ever came up at BN & N.

    Second note – I’ve seen you and Henry show jump, and to me I can see that he’s a bit downhill and heavy in his powerful shoulders. He needs a lot of ab strength to lift his front end up in time to get his front feet out of the way, in the arena with a shorter take-off distance. Maybe low grids to develop more lift-off strength, and quicker lift-off’s? He’s a trier, though, and y’all are such a great pair!

    So many horses clearly love being able to stand back on XC and fly them! So beautiful to watch horses just floating across on XC, using both strength and momentum from a long spot, wherever they can.

    Henry is such an inspiring story. Where would he be now had you not spotted his for-sale ad?

    Y’all got this! 🙂


  9. There’s always details. It’s funny, I’ve always felt more comfortable with the details and crushing imposter syndrome of showing at higher levels than I am with the gaping “omg will we ever get there” chasms of lower levels. It’s all really the same work, but that little minutiae separating perfect from barely there is much easier for me personally to comprehend. Is that weird?


  10. I really struggle with leaning and jumping ahead, and have ALWAYS admired your eq. Any tips and tricks you have to share with us are going to be cataloged in my brain, and I’ll take anything I can get!


    1. Honestly I don’t focus on it. I feel like when you think too much about your position you end up stiff and slow to react. I just focus on riding the jump well – straight, with power, balanced, my shoulders back and weight in my heel – and then try to let him come up to me off the ground. If I can do that, the position ends up where it’s supposed to be. But more importantly, the jump is good!


  11. My horse Cosmo was a little like Henry in that he didn’t take issue with having a rail either. I had to pretty much place all four feet up and over the jumps for him. It could be very frustrating to have rails so easily, but the other side of it was that he would always get from side A to side B. He was honest as the day is long, and if that meant we might have 4 (or 16) faults, so be it for learning to jump the big sticks. And in the end, it made me a much better rider at the base of the jump, that’s for sure!
    Riding seems to get harder the more you learn. I hope some day to get back to jumping real jumps and having to remember all of these things too. (And probably re-learn them…)

    Liked by 1 person

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