Thank You for Stopping

When you're a rider competing over jumps the number one priority is making it to the other side.

We spend countless hours working to make sure the horse goes no matter the distance, filler, or approach. Eventers go cross country schooling and jumpers build complicated courses at home so that nothing in the arena will surprise them. Hunters go so far as to school the actual course before they jump it in their official class.

So it might come as a surprise to say I'm really pleased Runkle is learning when to stop.

March is finally shaking off the last of winter. But a couple months ago, when we were still stuck in the indoor, we were coming to a line off a short approach that was an oxer to a vertical. I was worried more about the line than the jump we had to jump first to GET to the line. We got to an absolutely horrible spot and I felt Runkle's front feet come off the ground and I honestly didn't see a way we'd make it over the jump clean. I slipped my reins and grabbed his mane and prepared to take down the entire jump in a clatter of rails and jump cups.

Artist's rendering.
But then he decided no, better not, and put his legs back down without touching a single thing.

I'm not saying the goal shouldn't be to get across the jump 100% of the time. And I value a horse that has 'a fifth leg' as the saying goes. Runkle definitely has one. And maybe a sixth; he's gotten out of some hilarious situations. But sometimes the horse does need to stop. Sometimes I, as a rider, have done such a shitty job that I totally deserve the 20 penalties I have coming to me. Occasionally it's a team effort.

I've had a horse absolutely crash through a jump. He was taught to go no matter what, and it always ended okay for him because a pro was riding him and she rarely makes mistakes. Because she's a pro. But I'm not, and I felt the same sinking feeling as his front legs came off the ground and I knew we wouldn't make it to the other side safely. That second might be the worst on a horse.

9.5 for the stuck landing.
The last horse I rode was fantastic at self preservation. I'm convinced most mares are. They're not gonna hang their neck out for you and do something stupid because you told them to. Let's face it, they rarely do something because you told them to anyway. Lexy and I were cantering to a chevron when I rode past the distance and she decided it would be smarter to just... not.

So in my lesson this weekend when I got surprised by how fast a jump came up and did absolutely nothing to fix it (in fact, I took my leg off and leaned like an idiot) I wasn't annoyed when he stopped. Every once in awhile it's the smartest thing to do.


  1. lolz amazing landing in that gif! self preservation is a good instinct... so long as it's not taken too far lol (like my mare deciding she needs to learn to protect herself from a 21" trot jump... wtf mare, no. jump it.)

    1. hah thanks - and yeah thats the one thing i worried about with this post. if its some tiny little pisser just close your eyes and jump it. it's going to be okay!!

  2. I was probably most proud of the show season where my then-baby horse finally learned that NOT going over the jump might be the better option than taking a distance that might end up with death. Yay, self preservation!


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