I have been wanting to get up to Janice Dugan for a lesson for a while but my schedule had gotten a bit crazy. I love my lessons with Janice and it seems like I have been riding with her for the last 10yrs or so. I lesson with various people in all disciplines but Janice is a master at giving you great exercises for young horses over fences.
Dixie handled the indoor like a pro. He was looking around at all the very scary jumps but very relaxed overall. Not jumpy or silly and very good about going to work. I had a nice walk and trot to get warmed up and he was bending around my legs and willing to soften into the bridle. His trot work has gotten much stronger.
She asked a bit about him and I told her he is lovely, quiet and coming along nicely but struggling with the canter which of course ties in with the jumping. She watched us canter and immediately broke out some exercises for me to do with him. Basically she saw a good quality canter overall but he is strung out all over. He either pulled me out of the tack in the canter or brought his head up and braced against me.
First exercise was to canter around a jump twice on the right lead. Come across the middle and take a trot step and canter twice around the jump on the left lead. She likes the term “fluffy canter” basically meaning the horse needs to canter themselves based on the hind end. Lift and let go and use your leg to lift their spine. He was all strung out today partially because he is nervous so when he is looking around everywhere he can’t concentrate on the canter. She had me halting in the middle of the figure eight sharply really using my core to get the transiton down to make him listen and compact his body. Halt and take a step and then canter. He thought this was way hard Suprisingly, as we went along his right lead canter was amazing. What in the heck???? That is horses for you and I find that this happens.
The next exercise she had me do was pick up the left lead and canter down the long side. At the jump halt. Turn right into the fence (clockwise) so when you end up facing the other way they push off with that outside hind and you canter back down now on the right lead and again halt and then turn left into the fence and repeat. This exercise basically sets you up for the transition. He started to get the hang of it all!
Onto jumping. I know Janice so well by now I can tell you the exercises but I always seem to forget them at home. Start out 9ft pole to x-rail. Dixie did his traditional one stop and I got yelled out. Don’t let it happen stick your stomach out feet in front of you and push him over it. He still didn’t go but I got the message and came back and gave him a stronger ride. Some people might say he is not brave but I would disagree. I think he is careful and young and at times he just needs to process what is going on. Once he jumped it all was good.
You can see how hard he is studying it all. My job is to create a fluffy uphill trot coming to the jump and ride him right to the pole and then soften. Don’t help him out at all but just stay still and add leg across the jump and as he lands. Eyes up, heels down and following hand. Support him to the base and don’t lean in before he leaves the ground. She calls this being brave because it is darn hard to trot right down to the base of the verticals we ended up doing and just do nothing.
She slowly raised it up and he was really jumping roundly with his knees up and lots of scope. It felt amazing!!!! Go Dixie Go! This is my favorite part of training greenies because I know it is all coming together for him in this past month and he has developed scope and form over his fences where he had none before.
I also got told to start raising the height of the fences because he is ready and needs the bigger fences to make him pay attention to his form. Start working that height into the grids and slowly add it with the rest of the fences on course.
The next exercise is one of her favorites for helping a horse develop a canter to a jump. She has a single jump set up on the bottom of her ring which you have to jump off a turn. She wants you to turn to it early out of the turn using your outside leg to push the outside hind around the turn. Keep making the canter “fluffy” by leg to hand. Lift and let go keeping the balance uphill. Simple exercise but oh so hard to canter around a big circle and find the distance. We first trotted the jump and then cantered away.
This is him going what?? But I kicked him over check out my flying left elbow. Green horses sure do make you ride pretty
Keeping him cantering is still a struggle right now because he is not packaged up enough but we are getting there. I was able to get a few jumps off the right and a few off the left from the canter. It does really help to keep pushing around the turn with that outside leg so you are riding the hind end of the horse.
The final exercises were doing some of her brick boxes. I first jumped the grey and then turned right and came across the brick box. He was super about the solid boxes..I really think it is all the poles that make him stop and stare. We then jumped down the outside line and turned right and went across the diagonal of boxes. He is jumping nicely but still struggling with the canter.
All of these things just take time but he shows me all the time that he has the athletic ability and brain to do anything you could ever want. Her indoor is open on the sides with fields of horses around it. There were horses that came in and out of the indoor with us and he kept his focus the whole time. He tried so hard to do anything I asked of him. Everytime I ride him he jumps better and has a better canter.
I have some video so I will post some later. I have lots of homework to do with him.