We had a really good hunt season. Freedom’s ability to jump in the field really grew as he gained confidence and learned to settle better on the approaches to each fence. So I was a bit surprised when I had my first post-season jumping lesson and learned just how crooked he was! Sure, we can jump a single fence just fine but jumping a course? Well, that proved to be more difficult.
Freedom was consistently landing with his haunches falling to the right. The extent of this crookedness really came to light after we landed over the first fence in a four stride line. I just could not get the striding to the fence – mostly because we were coming at it at an angle!
While hunting is good for creating a bold, enthusiastic jumper, it’s also easy for horses to get “one sided.” As I wrote in my post, “Don’t Forget about Dressage“, even during hunt season it’s important to keep your horse supple and balanced. Out in the hunt field it’s hard to keep track of which lead your horse takes or which diagonal you’re on. So it’s easy for your horse to always to favor his stronger side.
With Freedom, I’m sure that part of the reason he became so crooked is due to the muscle he pulled over the winter which affected his left hind. He got progressively better (more about the acupuncture treatment later) but I bet that because of this weakness he started to move a bit crookedly and it became habitual.
Getting him straight wasn’t easy. He didn’t want to stay straight and he threw a right old temper tantrum to see if I was really serious.
In the end, though, patience won out. We made some real progress in the lesson and by the end he was jumping the line and staying straight all the way through.
Now I just have to work on strengthening Freedom in the right ways to correct his imbalance. We’ll be doing a lot more bending exercises, keeping his body in alignment on circles and serpentines while I try to supple him in both directions. I’ve been consciously keeping his haunches from falling out by moving my right leg farther back and reinforcing my message with a tap from a dressage whip as needed. I’ve also started to add some haunches in (travers) to strengthen him equally on both sides. And, of course, I am working hard on keeping myself straight.
I can’t wait for our next lesson to see how we’re doing.