Having Fun Over Jumps

By Terry Golson

After an almost 2 month break, Tonka and I have resumed our jumping lessons. Tonka says that it’s about time.

We eased into it. I brought him back to work with walking and gymnastics and trail riding. We had a lesson over poles to get his hocks and stifles loosened up and to remind both of us about rhythm and patterns. Then last week, my trainer Steph, set up a zigzag line exercise.

I was supposed to ride it like big figure 8, doing successive loops. I’m not good at these spatial things and sort of invented my own lines. No matter, Tonka went where pointed and showed off exactly the sort of trot that this sort of exercise develops.


I then cantered Tonka over the poles. Once again, my geometry was off, but once again Tonka’s performance made me look good.


Then we were ready for the cross-rails!

Tonka did an okay job over the first one.


We came into it without quite enough commitment and he hung his front hooves a bit. This was totally acceptable to me and Steph, but Tonka decided to pick his feet up on the next jump. There was more lift, but he’s still taking it easy.


Coming into the third jump, I could feel Tonka move more eagerly.


By the fourth jump, Tonka was thinking more about form.


By the fifth jump I was finally starting to ride and not just let Tonka do as he thought best – although that was going pretty well! I synced up with my horse, shortened the reins and a few strides out asked for a more bounding canter into the cross-rail. Steph saw the gleam in Tonka’s eye and said hang on!

Here’s the takeoff:


And there’s the trajectory:


Tonka had been waiting for permission to have fun over the jumps! It makes me think about how often we hold our horses back with our own trepidation, or desire for control, or simply by being lackadaisical. What’s so cool is that when Tonka is told to go for it, his form improves. Look at those knees snap and his hind hooves moving in perfect symmetry.

Here’s a video of that jump. The best part is how much the trainers, Steph and Kate, are laughing about it. When Tonka has fun, everyone does.

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