Leaving the rails up

The show season is wrapping up — Cairo and I are finishing with a combined test at Cle Elum at the end of the season — that’s where we started off in May. We started at Starter (2’3″) and we are finishing contemplating trying some fences at Training (3’3″). Wow.

Cairo overjumps things by a mile, but she also takes rails because either she just doesn’t care or she overshoots her arc so much she tips the rail with a hind foot. Winter goals include working on our dressage and working on our jump (teeth and bodywork scheduled for October).

I hauled her over to Karianne’s today for a jump lesson and the goal of the day was getting Cairo to use her back and rock back to her fences. After warming up and using transitions to get my little I’m-still-in-raging-heat mare to pay attention we worked on a four-strided pole line — getting Cairo to do it in five by first collecting, then letting her flow the last stride. Then the same thing both directions through a three-stride.

The fun started when Kari decided to set an in-and-out with placing poles about 10.5 feet out for the landing. Vertical, pole, vertical, pole. The first time through I was a little backed off — Cairo and I have mainly galloped and jumped this summer, not had to collect to fences. We sort of floundered through it, and Cairo showed yet again her willingness to jump anything from anywhere. “Put a little leg on and support her,” Kari said. (That’s in addition to using my outside hand to straighten her off the turn and keeping weight on my inside heel with gentle pressure from my calf, of course).

I came at it again, with leg. And Cairo was like “Great, I LOVE a little support!” She then proceeded to jump the vertical AND the placing pole and the next vertical and its landing pole — let me remind you, the poles were over 10 feet from the fences. Yup, my little 15’1″ hand mare bounced a one stride, no problem.

“Oh no you didn’t,” I head Kari mutter.

“Umm, that didn’t feel like we did it right,” I said to Kari.

“No,” she said, “Your mare doesn’t seem to respect placing poles,” but she added, “at least you know she can jump a liverpool.”

I immediately began to picture Cairo jumping OVER entire water obstacles cross-country instead of splashing through them.

Kari decided to set short bounces instead (I mean, hey, as long as we were bouncing things …) The first time through I felt Cairo go “Holy crap, it’s hard when I have to use myself!” Considering I was mentally prepared for her to try to launch all three bounces in one bound, I simply appreciated that she recognized them as individual fences.

With her typical enthusiasm, she immediately decided the bounces were fun and was soon merrily jackrabbiting through all three of them. But the best part was she was backing herself off and not rushing in. Kari’s goal is for Cairo to get through eight in a row without tiring.

After the bounces Kari switched it to an oxer to an oxer and it felt great. I’m feeling like Cairo’s going to get the whole using her rump thing pretty fast. Another lesson scheduled for Tuesday before Kari leaves town for a show in Los Angeles, and I’m left feeling torn between delight and horror at just what goes through Cairo’s clever, cocky little mind when she sees a jump.

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