As usual after an event I come home with a few key areas that I want to focus on for each horse. After Pine Top my major take away for Quincy was that I needed to jump into water to be sure he wasn't put off after our dunking. So I'll have to wait until the ground has dried out enough from our most recent snowfall to do that... For Delta the focus is going to be on narrowing her focus. She is very genuine to the jumps but doesn't really focus on "looking for" what is next on cross-country...particularly the narrow jumps. And when she does jump the narrow fences she doesn't hold herself completely straight and square which I know could end up leading to a silly glance off when she's tired at the end of a long, demanding course. I'm going to start working now to try and prevent such future mishaps and to prepare her for her move up to the 3* level later in the year when she will have less time to assess the technical questions. Here is one of my new favorite exercises...
The photo shown here is from my "extreme cavaletti" collection that I use as a good way to educate both horse and rider about the importance of maintaining straightness. It's one thing to stay between the flags at one skinny on course but being able to maintain absolute straightness through a series of boxes set 21' apart let's you really feel how quickly things can slip away. One tool that I use regularly to help to channel the horses' focus are the thin pvc pipes seen here. Unlike using regular poles you don;t have to worry about placing these too close to the landing. If a horse were to drift and land on a regular pole they could easily sustain an injury but these thin pvc pipes will simply crush under their feet. By creating a lane with the pvc pipes the horses learn to focus on their path so that you can ride forward to maintain the line rather than trying to hold them on it. And I can guarantee it will give riders a clear feel of whether or not they stay in the middle of the horse. Teaching this habit is not only essential to jumping the technical skills of the upper levels but it also teaches horses to jump straight and correct over all jumps. Building strength and correct technique is great no matter what level you aspire to achieve. Don't worry...I wouldn't expect my young horses to master this instantly...there are many ways to simplify this but still to retain the same theme and gradually build up to it. Delta's jumping exercises will build on this work so look for more ways to narrow your focus coming soon.