While Noble is a great horse to work with -- he's young, intelligent and willing -- his jump training was stalling. Literally. Think of travelling as a passenger in a car, you come to some train tracks and the driver hits the brakes. He doesnt' come to a complete stop but just before the stop, guns the engine. Yeah, it was kind of like that. Noble would approach a small fence (they're ALL small at his level), drop behind my leg losing any impulsion we had, then "bunny hop" the fence. EXTREMELY hard to ride and NOT end up punishing him in his back or in his mouth... which of course would make him MORE apprehensive, which would make the jump MORE hoppy... wash, rinse, repeat.
After talking to a few people whose opinions I value and getting their input on some exercises to try, Anita and I have definitely made some progress in the last 2 rides! Last night he was calm and almost ho-hum about the whole thing... ground poles, tiny (12") verticals or crossrails! Plenty of transitions, including trot/halt (which often translates as trot/attempt to halt/ halt/backup/pat and proceed forward). Then calmly trotting over ground poles. It was like I was on a different horse! Once or twice he stutter-stepped his way over a pole but it was more to get the correct spacing (good) than an attitude of "OMG I HAVE to look at this then throw myself over it!" Finally trotted him over the vertical and crossrail and it was confirmed... we're making fantastic progress! What a good boy. Anita said she thought we made more progress than she did the previous day when she started with the poles.
We also detected a problem with MY canter that was, in all possibility, affecting his. He doesn't quite have the "go" button that so many of my previous rides had. As a result I was keeping my leg on ALL THE TIME when cantering. Anita suggested getting the canter, then removing my leg. If he dropped, he dropped. Just ask again. It was amazingly frustrating to me as a rider. Logically I knew it would help, just like letting go of a horse that wants to rush a fence will help. But emotionally I was having to concentrate as much on staying loose and calm as I was in asking repeatedly for the canter. After a few minutes of this, we tried asking for the canter, pulling my leg off, then putting it back on before he broke. WOW! I'm sure we'll have to repeat the exercise again, but what a difference! Not only did he hold the canter together all by himself, but when I did put my leg on, it made such an improvement. I didn't have to use as much leg either. I definitely think the improvement on OUR canter will make a huge difference in our jumping.
Forward first.... got it!
Now he gets a couple days off as Isaac come through and I take Raz to the DLSC hunter show tomorrow.