Last March, when I entered the “Win A Day With Margie Engle” contest, my horse and I had only been jumping for a couple of months. I wanted to win as a gift to the girls at the barn who had welcomed this dressage rider into their hunter/jumper world. I really didn’t think about what it’d be like for me to actually lesson with Olympian, winner of more than 200 Grand Prix classes, and Hall of Fame show jumper, Margie Engle. I did win the contest (!) but because of the pandemic, the clinic was put off. More than a year later, the day finally came. In that year I’ve kept jumping. I’ve even entered 18-inch classes at local schooling shows (and won!) So, when I finally did get to ride with Margie, the jumping mattered to me. I wanted to have her take on what my pony could and should do. Tonka was bred to be a roping champion, which is the one thing he hasn’t done. I bought him as a trail horse, which we continue to do, but we have also competed successful through USDF first level dressage, tried versatility trail classes, done a hunter pace, and ridden in a couple of 12 mile organized trail rides. Now we do hunters. What would Margie say to us?
Margie believes that jumps are “speed bumps in dressage.” This past year I’ve let the discipline of dressage slide, but Margie reignited my love of getting those light big strides, which all comes from impulsion from the hind end. Tonka wasn’t so sure. It’s hard work, and he continues to have sacroiliac joint weakness. Margie and I discussed what to do about it. Because I already have excellent vet care and maintenance for this issue, she said that he needs to be pushed through the discomfort to strengthen that area, that he’s capable and it won’t hurt him. It’s easy to sum up what Margie thinks that Tonka needs: MORE LEG.
Margie said that Tonka is a cute jumper and “really capable.” That he’s good to the jumps, but moves shallow between. The solution? MORE LEG.
Tonka wasn’t as quick to move off of my leg as he usually is. I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks that he’s been a tad dull. It might be due to seasonal changes and allergies. It might simply be that I’ve got to sharpen him up to my aids a bit (that training never ends!) I was a bit disappointed that the horse that I had under me for the clinic wasn’t the best version of my horse. Still, we had our good moments. And, hey, I got to do a jump lesson with Margie Engle! Once we did get forward enough, doing the gymnastic jump exercises and then going around the course was a blast. I got that forward energy (to be maintained even when counting and adding strides in a line, or balancing on a turn) a few times in the lesson. I’m sure that I can replicate the feeling and develop it into our default. All I need is MORE LEG.
The following photos illustrate my take (and Tonka’s) on our lesson. For a more professional and complete journalistic report on the day, read Sandy Oliynyk’s article on the Practical Horseman website here.