Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scarlet Hill Cross Country Derby / Schooling Show Report

The farm I ride at, Scarlet Hill, puts on cross country schooling shows a few times a year. Yesterday was the last one they offered for this season, and I was really hoping to go. At the last minute I found out that I did not have a babysitter, so I was bummed.....

Regardless, I went to check out the course and see friend Shannon ride around the beginner novice course with Kisses. Well while I was there, I was told by 3 people to GO HOME and GET YOUR PONY and when I returned they would watch Cadence for me.....So I did just that.

After looking at both the elementary and beginner novice courses I decided that I would do the beginner novice course. The BN course has more fences, it was longer and had more technical questions on it. Most of the fences on the BN course were smaller in size, which made me happy. Shannon pointed out that because it's a smaller BN course, it was a perfect "beefy" elementary! I have been complaining the last two events that there wasn't really any good places that offer a good BIG elementary or a SMALL beginner novice. This was the perfect chance to ride a small beginner novice.

So I warmed up fine. I jumped the x-rail once and headed out. I think a lot of people would scoff at the lack of jumping I do in warm-up. I kinda figure that the horse knows how to jump, it's more for ME to get comfortable in my saddle and warm-up.

I went out and got the countdown in the box and then we were off. Fence 1 was a max-ish log and it actually rode kind of wonky. Fence 2 was a red house, that also rode wonky. I think they rode funny because Buck wasn't TRULY in front of my leg. Both of these fences are going away from the home field and he just got a little sticky. He wasn't BAD, he just wasn't forward. The stretch from 2 to 3 offered me the opportunity to get in front of my leg - and that happened beautifully. Fence 3 was a small upbank and it rode beautifully. Fence 4 was whiskey barrel planters flipped upside down. Then we were in to a field with a steepish hill so we REALLY opened up here and cantered very quickly. Then we had to make a hairpin turn out of the field and down hill to fence 5 - a stone wall with telephone pole over it. And then another 90 degree turn left over a cordwoodish pile back in to the field. We then crossed the field (still downhill here) to a log rolltop/table fence. At this point we are back in the start field and cantered off to the NEW water jump!!!! Buck went right in, but once he was in he didn't want to get out, hehehehehehe. I had to swat him a number of times to get him out. I think it was because the water was deeper than he was used to and he couldn't figure out how to move ;)

Then we were off to fence #9....THIS was the fence that I was worried about. It was a max bench set on the upslope of a hill, so it looked even bigger than it was. Because this was a schooling show, I had told Meredith that I will be going around this jump....She aptly told me that if I forego any of the jumps then I would not be able to collect a ribbon....I thought no big deal, I could careless about the ribbon.....

But when it came down to it, I didn't WANT to forgo my chance at the ribbon. So when I was cantering down to the fence, and everything lined up perfectly, I just DID IT! AND EVERYTHING was beautiful with this jump. Perfect distance, perfect feeling in the air and perfect landing. I think at this point I let out a big "WOOOOO HOOOOO, WE DID IT!" hehe.

Anyways, then we went down a steeeeeep hill at the trot, and near the bottom picked the canter back up. We cantered down to fence 11, a log roll top and it rode beautifully too. At this point we had hit our stride, and galloped up the steep hill to find Fence 12, a green and beige house. Then fence 13 was the ditch (I opted for the 1/2 ditch because I was tired at this point AND I haven't schooled a ditch since the early Spring). Finally fence 14 was a grey narrow table.

The course rode beautifully for the most part. The down hill fences felt a tad strange. I think it was because my stirrups were a tad too long. The bigger parts of the course rode the best! I am THOROUGHLY surprised by this, but it's motivation to get up to the BN level and just go with it!

I don't know how we placed - they haven't posted results yet. But we were back in 4 minutes 15 seconds. Optimum speed was 350mpm and I think we probably were just under that in most spots, plus we had a few slower spots (like the water!).....but I do believe that we have a chance at a ribbon, so we'll see :)

I was just so pleased with Buck. Once we got through fence 1 & 2 he was awesome. He doesn't bat any eyelashes at the jumps, which is such a refreshing relief :) I love having a ballsy arrogant Pony Man!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hilltop Equestrian Center Schooling Event

So a week ago I decided that I would enter the Hilltop Equestrian Center 3-phase in Somersworth, NH. It is one of the only events in the area that I have not been to....and I am feeling comfortable at elementary level so I thought I'd give it a go.

Well then of COURSE Buck decides to hurt himself! haha. I went to a cross country schooling lesson with Shannon on Thursday (after my breakthrough lesson) and he stepped on a really sharp rock. And then went badly 3-legged lame :( I opted to give him a few days off, soak it with epsom salts and then pack it and wrap it in a poultice. Well I lucked out because on Sunday, he was sound and ready to rock.

So it's like 85 degrees on Sunday with a humidity of about 80%. haha Of course it is, it's AUGUST and we *should* have this heat, but does it have to be THAT humid?!?! I opt to wear no jacket for dressage, as per the 2009 USEF rule EV 113.8 - which states,

At Eventing Tests or when all three phases of a Horse Trials are contested over one day - Protective headgear and protective vests as above. Clothing as appropriate for the test in progress (see below), or at the competitor’s option - boots, britches, spurs and gloves - as applicable for the test being performed. Long or short sleeved shirt with collar and without neckwear, of a conservative color, neatly tucked into riding breeches.

I figure, heck, I haven't ridden since Wednesday and haven't jumped since July 28th....why bother with getting overheated so much so I can't compete for the rest of the day? Well apparently NO ONE at this event had heard of such a thing, nor had the dressage judge. I started trotting around the outside of the arena and she stops me, asks me if I am looking for cross country (as I had my pinny on - didn't realize there was a bridle number in my packet)...I tell her no, that I am opting to wear a shirt with collar, no neck wear, so that I can compete the rest of the day and not get heat stroke! She asks me if I have a rulebook that states this is correct, I tell her I don't have one on my person but I was certain the organizer of the event would have one available....She lets me ride and doesn't put up a fuss about it.

The test itself was blah. I am not sure WHAT is going on but I feel that he was wiggly and a wee bit behind my leg. Must discuss with Denise at my next lesson. We scored a 40.0 and that put us 2nd out of 3, with the first place test being a 35.

I walk the cross country course and was not impressed. The jumps were on the smaller side, the whole course a bit cramped (except for the fences in the woods which were well spread out). And everything was just a bit "ghetto". I LIKE ghetto typically, but this was very ghetto. I questioned about 4 of the fences in terms of safety (the tire jumps just shouldn't be like that because a horse can get their hooves in to them, and the green wall at fence 3 was almost falling over!). Anyways, you can see the complete course on my facebook album.

I was THOROUGHLY expecting Buck to be a bit looky and squirrely to these jumps, especially the first few since they were not inviting at all. We went in to the box after jumping the x-rail in warm-up 3 times....the starter "counted us down" and when he hit one, Buck launched out of the box like he had rocket boosters under his butt!!!! We cantered down the path to the first fence (aka trip obstacle!) and then around the bend to fence two, and I instantly knew that a. he UNDERSTOOD HIS JOB and b. we would make it home clean! AND we did. I was SOOOOOO thrilled at how well it all went. He was just "on" and looking for the next fence the entire time. What a GOOD boy!

I can't believe how good he was on cross country given the fact that the last time he even jumped was at Apple Knoll. He was very responsive but was not looky at all really. I was soooooo happy with him!

Anyways, 2 of the 3 horses in my division had stops on cross country, which meant I moved in to first.

Stadium was a terrible course. The arena was tiny - maybe 75 feet wide by 100 feet long (or a bit longer, but not by much). That's not necessarily an issue, but the course they had set was SOOOOOO technical for the level that it was difficult. They had used just about every useable space in width in the arena such that you couldn't canter to the sides of fences to pick up our canter. The approach to fence #1 was tight and yucky. Then fence #2 was set right on the center line, and on both sides of the arena at that point there were "looky" things - a white coop/wall thingie and then on the opposite side we had panels leaning up against the fence.

I didn't feel like I got the chance to get a good rhythm started in stadium, and it just did not flow for me at all. It was "eeeeky" but we went clean.

So Buck and I got to do our first victory canter ;)

I'm really looking forward to redemption at Groton House...which opens TOMORROW!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another really good breakthrough lesson

Sometimes I think when you start with a new instructor you have a series of breakthrough lessons. This theory of mine is still intact after today's private lesson with Denise. It's ungodly hot and has been the last few days. It's also very humid. I opt to stay indoors and do a flat lesson. I really wanted to jump today but after tacking up and warming up (or rather, getting even hotter!) I rethought that and decided a flat lesson would be good enough.

So today I am riding in the new "wonder bit". It's a french link snaffle mouthpiece with a gag type ring. I rode in it lastnight and didn't consider it a wonder, but today after my ride I am singing it's praises. It allows me to ride a little less hard and get the same reaction. And Buck just understands it better - yay for the Wonder Bit!

We start the lesson by running through the exercises from the last lesson. He is MUCH better today than he was over the last few days. We move through these exercises pretty quickly and move on. Another big thing Buck does besides plowing is throwing his shoulders around A LOT. He uses it as an evasion. I ask him to sit down and collect a little more, but not to hang on the bit, and his reaction is to pop his shoulder left or right, lock his jaw and "tune" me out. These are MEAN evasions, just things he does to keep from doing things that are hard!

One of the exercises we did today was trot -> halt -> rein back -> trot transitions. These transitions help him sit more on his hind end, and it also identifies a hole. The naughty little guy isn't allowing me to half halt on his left side....he's raising his naughty little hoof and flipping me the bird. haha.

So we move on to another exercise that not only gets his hind legs moving but also gets him to accept the half halt. This is an exercise I've used before when first teaching him to leg yield.....and now it's back with a vengence. It's basically a leg yield down the long side, but face the horse towards the wall and and go sideways down the wall (if that makes sense). This is an IMMENSELY difficult exercise for a horse that won't accept a half halt on one side because it basically won't work unless you can use ALL the aids effectively. I *LOVED* this exercise! Well, it sucked to do, but the result? Wait for it....wait for it.......

Wait a little longer because this is AWESOME!!!!!

SELF CARRIAGE!!!!!!!!! HOLY MACKERAL. I could not BELIEVE that Buck could EVER be this round, straight and supple all at once. The huge difference was seen in the right canter where he was straight, and light. Light enough that I felt I had NO CONTACT, but he was still cantering in an excellent cadence.

I was pleased as punch with this lesson. It was an utter breakthrough - probably the biggest breakthrough I have ever had with Buck. I am looking forward to working on these exercises on my own. And maybe some private lessons with Denise will be in order!

Friday, August 14, 2009

First Lesson with Denise

I had decided a few weeks ago that if Denise were going to ride Buck again at an event then I should learn WHAT she is doing with him so that she can be more effective when she shows him. Woah. That was a really long sentence. Sorry about that.

Yesterday I finally got around to making that lesson happen :) Denise's schedule is jam packed with training rides and lessons and it takes two weeks out to get on that schedule. I opted to do a semi-private lesson with Loraine and Ainsley. So we decided that we would do a flat lesson, specifically for ME I needed to understand the program that she wants to use and learn the techniques.

We have both agreed that Buck is not a "normal" horse. He thinks he knows exactly what must be done and can't possibly fathom WHY he should do it another way. We're not talking about taking directions and jumping - we're talking about the shifting of weight from the forehand to the hindquarters. I found this when I first started riding him a year ago. He was perfectly happy to move forward, turn, go wherever I told him....but once I wanted him to yield his jaw to the bit it took me FOREVER to get him to just SOFTEN the jaw....And I STILL struggle with that at times. He also would continually lock his neck and not yield it. This horse was stiff as a board and didn't see anything wrong with it! haha

So the first exercise we did was at the halt. "Carrot stretches" which encourage lateral flexion, but then we also asked him to go lower with the stretch and get a little bit of longitudinal flexion. This wasn't an incredibly hard exercise to the left, but turning to the right he definitely was stuck. Anyways, we continued the exercise at the walk. This was an exercise that was frustrating to me but very necessary to get him to lengthen his sides and relax his jaw.

The second exercise was to get him RESPONSIVE to the "forward" button. Not a terribly hard exercise either - just needed a bit of a tune up. Basically I'd ask him to trot but with a big WALLOP in to it so he was more responsive to just a simple lift of my leg. I have worked this one immensely from the day I got him the first time! His natural tendency is to be lazy....and that is fine as long as he has this button installed!

Our final exercise we worked on was the one where I gained the MOST insight. Going back to the beginning, Buck has ALWAYS used his neck and front end to move forward. What I mean by this is that he can NOT stay soft in his neck and jaw in transitions because he thinks he needs to USE them to move forward. This is probably the MOST frustrating thing about this pony. It came to a huge head the other day when he wanted to GOOOOOO home while we were out on a hack. I'd ask him to stop and stay soft, and walk off softly, and he'd pitch a fit and toss his head, half rear, etc. It was pretty nasty. So we NEED to fix this problem, and Denise has a solution.

So we would start from a halt. Ask him to stay soft in the jaw, and relaxed in his neck. And THEN we take that softness to walk. His first inclination is to bring his head DOWN and plow. My job was to keep him from doing that by insisting he NOT drop his head, and to try to keep him soft in the jaw. Well, easier said than done, haha....After many tantrums, we finally got it. After getting THAT, we finally had softness.

We pretty much ended on that note. Loraine (my lesson buddy this time) and I went out for a hack around the cross country field. Fun!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Apple Knoll Schooling Trials with Denise Goyea!

So after the Groton House debacle I decided that I wanted to have a professional take Buck around a few beginner novice events this year. I felt that it would make me more confident that he'll jump stuff that is new to his eyes and that he can jump that big ;)

I employed Denise Goyea to do the task. Denise is the "other" trainer at Scarlet Hill and she has more experience taking green horses around, plus she's "pony size". Meredith looked a tad big on Buck when she rode him (she is tall and long legged!), so we all thought Denise would be a better fit overall.

Denise had ridden Buck about 7 times. She did take him out on Friday prior to the even to school cross country, but Mother Nature had other the form of a torrential downpour.

So I had entered him in Apple Knoll Schooling trials on August 2nd. I had done the schooling trials here back in April, plus I had done the one jumper show here, and TWO hunter paces last year. So it's kinda like our "home grounds", haha. I also felt that the course *should* be on the easier side, given the pre-elementary and elementary courses I had seen in April. AND the coursewalk on the Area 1 website looked simple, too.

Buck and Denise's times were respectable. 9:30am dressage time, 11:30am stadium and 12:38 cross country time. Not too bad, except we had to detour to get Meghan and Luna in Amherst. We ended up leaving the house at 6:15am. Eeek, early! We end up getting there early - Mapquest was wrong on the time! Oh well.

Denise and Buck put in a respectable dressage test. They earned 8s on both centerlines and one or two other movements. The rest of the test was 7s and 6s. They ended up scoring a 35.8 with a pretty strict judge. This put them in 4th place after dressage. Not too bad!

Stadium was a typical Apple Knoll course. Twisty, turny and a tad looky. I didn't think Buck would have an issue with anything in there....but I was wrong!!!! He actually needed to peek at the 4A fence....and whereas it was coming in to a combination, Denise opted to represent him to it, which added 4 penalty points. It was very funny because the only "looky" part to the fence was they had placed "Bloks" under the jump, which ironically enough, Buck had been jumping in schooling just on Friday! Eeeek. So anyways, 4 points added. Other than that bobble they both looked fantastic!

Cross country was a LOT more difficult that I expected it to be. It was also longer than I expected. I was really worried going in to cross country for both factors. Fences 1 & 2 are the exact same fences as shown on the virtual coursewalk. Fence 3 was the same, too, but they had painted it bright red - and it was a down hill approach coming in to the field from the woods. That was the first difficult question I thought they'd have. Fence 4 was a hanging log that was put in between two apple trees (ie: decapitation threat). Fence 5 was the 2nd scary fence on course - a big bright green rampy/table thing. It actually looked smaller from a distance but once you got up to it, it measured a SOLID 2'6" and it was wide! Fence 6 was another big fence - the Apple Knoll farmstand fence. On the virtual coursewalk it is fence #14 but they had painted it white with green backers on the steps....AND tilted it up to make it bigger. Eeek. Fence 7 was a hanging log with some brush sticking up. Then they went back in to the woods and looped to another field. Fence 8 was a natural colored rolltop. Fence 9 was a natural colored house set in the shadows of a treeline. Fence 10 was another hanging log. Then they went back in to the woods. Fence 11 was a TINY coop with an odd approach but I didn't think it would cause any problems. Fence 12 was a new colored table-ish fence with orange flowers underneath it. Fence 13 was a zigzag fence (fence 12 on the virtual coursewalk). Then they had to cross the dirt road through the woods again and back in to the starting field. The last fence was the Apple Knoll hanging log.

So, longer course. With some of the trickier fences up front. And guess what? THEY WENT CLEAN!!!!!! We watched fences 3, 4, 5, and 6....and then the last fence. It felt like they were out there FOREVER....and I was concerned that there were issues. When Denise came in she said he was pretty good. A little looky to the jump judges and spectators, and he gave the orange flowers a good look at fence #12....but other than that, he was good. Out of shape, but good!

Here is video of fences 4, 5 and 6. And here's the last fence.

The 3rd place horse had a stop at the looky orange flowers, which moved Buck up to 3rd place. Needless to say I was very proud :) It's funny because I never thought I'd have Buck to the point where he could do a beginner novice course within a year. When we picked him up on July 28, 2008, he had been ridden about 10 times. I didn't actually get him CANTERING until October 2008....and in April we were just jumping 18 inches. So it was a big FAST jump for him, and he picked it up pretty quickly. He's a smart pony, that's for darned sure :)

This Apple Knoll course was more like a USEA sanctioned event. And NOT a move up course, so I am told. The fact that they finished it, without faults, makes me very very happy. And more confident that Buck CAN and WILL jump things he's pointed at as long as he has enough engine! YAY BUCK! I'm not downplaying Denise's strength in riding at all. I am SURE that part of his confidence to jump strange things came from her. And I think I can do a pretty good job at faking confidence if needed :)

So what's next? I made the decision to have Denise ride him at King Oak in September - Buck's first USEA sanctioned event. And then I'll ride him at elementary again at Groton House Fall Classic. And then I'm going to enter him in the UNH horse trials for October. Just don't know if Denise or if I will ride him. I think I'll be okay to do beginner novice at that point, especially if Denise continues riding him....but we'll see :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

WOOOHOOOO!!!!!! Green Acres Report!

WOW. I never thought I'd "get the mojo back" so easily. And so RIGHT!!!!!

So I took Buck, Meghan and Luna to the Green Acres Stables Event yesterday. I was entered at elementary. I had toiled all week beforehand because I was worried about his breathing. I decided to keep him in the 3-phase (instead of dropping to the 2-phase), and planned that if I felt that he needed it, I would retire on cross country and ask (beg) to ride stadium.

I warmed up for dressage in the tiny arena (complete with "water jumps"). It wasn't the best warm-up but I really concentrated on getting him forward off my leg. I rode the test and felt that it was pretty good. He's still learning to come off my leg, and he's so anticipating that sometimes his legs seem to go every which way. It was an accurate test though, and his transitions were pretty good. I expected to score around a 35.....So you can imagine my surprise when we earned a 41.6!!!!! EEEEK. Overall though this judge had very high marks. This score put me in 2nd place after dressage, with the 1st place rider having something like a 38....So really, I guess it wasn't *that* bad. She did comment on the right canter that he looked "off". It's weird because sometimes at the canter he doesn't seem to want to "follow through" on the right THAT is the foot that he gives the farrier trouble with. So I'm definitely going to do some more exploring. (Going to call the chiro on Monday.)

So then I walked cross country and ofcourse I feel like I'm going to die. In the past we have had first fence-itis....and today's first fence? A BIG ASS LOG.....Now, I'm happy it was a log, but seriously, it is flagged for Novice, Beginner Novice AND Elementary???? My "thigh" test puts this fence at 2'6"....and when I had it on the course last time long time buddy Shannon told me NOT to walk too close because it'll only look bigger close up. Ugh!!!!!! The rest of the fences were all ones I had jumped before with the exception of switching out a few logs for different ones, AND THE BIG SMILIE SURPRISE. haha. The "SMILIE SUPRISE" fence is fence #9 on my course....Basically it is a bunch of stumps sticking out of the ground and then cut to look like a smilie mouth :) The middle of the jump is probably about 2'3", but if you don't hit the middle you may jump as big as 3'. In addition, this fence is about 4 strides out of the woods, and angled funny so at the exit you have to turn left hard but NOT in to the Novice/Training "house" jump....The smilie fence also had a rather large puddle on the landing, and I was worried about that.....So I obsessed about fence #1 - BIG ASS LOG and fence #9 - big ass stumps.

I get back on and begin to warm-up. I want to conserve the pony, the warm-up area is little and they only have 2 jumps - a x-rail and a vertical (with an 8' rail)....I opt to canter a bit, and then I pop the x-rail twice. That was my warm-up.

I get in to the box and tap him a few times....and then we leave the box and I tap him a few more times and turn towards the log....and he LOCKS on it. It was SUCH a cool feeling. His head came up, he sat down, lengthened his stride and we flew over it!!!!! YAY FOR BUCK!!!!! We have no issues at all for the rest of the course. He was AWESOME over the stumps. I was so exhilarated coming off of cross country. Not because of getting over the 2 scary fences, but because he was LOOKING for jumps, positive to EVERY fence and just so much fun to ride! I don't think there was a single "ugly" fence that we jumped - as in they all rode beautifully.

So what changed? I pushed him to canter/hand gallop EVERY single fence. I stayed back, I kicked in places. I TOLD him to jump every fence. Instead of praying that he did. I also remembered Denise's ride when she told me that he was almost "thinking of walking before he even jumped the fence". Obviously that's not a good thing, so I RODE hard to make sure he knew that we were going to continue cantering afterwards.

I think I *finally* got it. I trust him that he's not going to stop if I ride him positively towards every fence. I rode agressively but not defensively, if you catch my drift.

Stadium was up next. The course was held in the sand ring, and since we had a ton of rain the night before, it was SWAMPY in spots....I remembered then the lesson where there were puddles right in front of my jumps and how if I didn't ride agressively he'd stop. So I knew what I had to do - ride like I rode xc!

The course was pretty twisty. Fence 1 & 2 were coming towards home, Fence 3 was an oxer (where I asked for a long spot but he chipped in and was right!), Fence 4 was a vertical to a bending line with a red fence with "panels" underneath it. Fence 6 was a rollback from fence 5. Fence 7 was a scary "rock wall" fence. And finally fence 8 was another oxer.

I rode the course exactly how I had planned. I kicked and whipped a little coming to fence 7 - didn't want him looking at the rock wall. He jumped everything well - though he was tired, bless his heart. We were clean.

AND WE WON!!!!! The 1st place rider had a rail (or stop?) in stadium, and we slid in to take the blue ribbon ;)

I was so VERY proud of him. It wasn't all about the ribbon. It was about the FEELING I had after both jumping rounds. It felt like we were a team, it felt like he "got it"...and he liked it!!!

So we got a really purdy ribbon for the collection, and an AMAZING package of horse cookies. Of course they were gone by this AM....Razzy's Oat Swirls or something like that. They smelled delicious!!!! Buck shared a little bit, but for the most part he got the whole bag to himself. And he totally deserved it!!!!

Meghan and Luna also brought home a ribbon! They got 8th in their first ever 3-phase :) YAY Meghan and Luna!!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Riding with Denise

I don't know if I mentioned this in one of my previous blogs, but after the disaster that was Groton House, I decided that I wanted someone to event Buck for me at the BN level. Something about my psyche that had me convinced that it would be BETTER for him AND me if someone more experienced took him there first. At the cross country schooling day on July 1st I cornered Meredith and Denise and we all agreed that Denise Goyea would be the one to christen Buck ;) haha

The plan then was to have Denise ride him a couple times a week and then work towards a few USEA events at the end of the season.

Today was Denise's first ride on Buck. HEHEHEHEHE. Let's just say that it was interesting. Buck has been allowed to "plow" along on his forehand for far too long. Partly because I've been trying to work on me and the jumping and partly because I am still way out of shape and didn't realize that I SHOULD be expecting more out of him. So the first 20 minutes or so were a lot of kick and pull. He would get all sorts of nasty with his head, hop a bit, there were a few crow hops and one leap then buck, hehe. But he *did* get it eventually and by golly, there were some FANCY steps there!!!!! He is INDEED a very fancy little pony :)

At some point she began jumping him. She only jumped a bit because it was hot, humid and his breathing still isn't there. She deliberately made him take a few long spots. When I explained to her at the end that I felt he was hanging his shoulder and getting REALLY close the jump, she told me it was because he was using his FRONT end to get his power off the ground. So he gets closer to the base because he's using his front end to determine where to take off from. I don't know much about jumping, but THIS explanation sounds pretty darned good to me. It makes sense.

She was concerned about his fitness. I can DEFINITELY see why she would be. But I also know that he would've been MUCH better about 2 weeks ago and that the breathing issue that is very recent is causing him to seem a lot less fit than he is. I know I'm no expert, but I have been through this "exercise intolerance" issue before and once he's through the inflammatory process he'll bounce back fine. She was also concerned that he jumps and then just wants to stop at the end of the jump. Part of this I think is from the breathing because just a few weeks ago I was not having that problem. But it is true. He's a lazy horse and we're definitely going to have to work on that!

Other than that, she felt like he was a good jumper. That he is going to be a lot of fun! And he's comfortable to ride (which I already knew!). The current plan is for her to take him BN at Apple Knoll Schooling Trials on August 2nd, and then his first USEA event will be King Oak in September! FUN :)