Chapter Twenty-One – Ground level

With the call of the summer shows over, I wanted to start varying our training regime to include more jumping. I have often heard fellow equestrians saying how they don’t like the idea of ‘leaving the ground’, and I find it a bit ironic. To me, if you are willing to sit on a 17hh racehorse, being off the ground should really be the least of your worries! On a personal level, I am embarrassingly bad with heights – cue the story of me climbing the Wallace monument; I think William himself was nearly raised from the dead by my scream as I reached the top – but I have never equated sitting in a saddle as being up high. So, when it comes to jumping I’m all for leaving the ground and love the buzz of it.  Although we had made a tentative start at coloured poles, we were in no way confidently jumping a course of fences, and my main objective was to approach jumping in a low-key way to stop Tag from getting too ‘hot’ about it. Obviously I knew he could jump, he had won two hurdle races and was destined for great things on the track, but I didn’t want him to go at 100mph, and I certainly didn’t want his hard earned body condition sliding off him in sweat. So slowly, slowly we went, crawling our way over courses from 50’s upwards. Height was not an issue for Tag but his mind set was, and I was in it for the long haul, so he was treated like a baby until he found his feet.

me and tag

Repetition is key with a young horse and it is no different with a racehorse. It is difficult to make two outings the same, the warm up can be busier, the weather can be worse, or you might just be having a bad day, but either way the aim should always be to err on the side of caution and go for a positive finish rather than a pushed finish that leaves you feeling a bit uneasy. I know many people believe the only way to prove that both you and your horse can jump is by using a metre stick. I am definitely no Beezie Madden, but skipping the basics just so you can say your horse jumps round 1m10 tracks can be a dangerous tactic, and one I find usually results in someone coming unstuck further down the line. Sticky is usually how I describe Tag’s jumping round coloured poles, but on our last venture out he confidently took me into fences, which is what I had been waiting on, being carried to the fence. What a great feeling, and yes it was only 70’s, and yes it was far from perfect, but at a couple of fences I knew that even if the fence had been much higher I had the canter there for it. For Tag and me that was a big achievement.

As I’ve said my side kick is my daughter and now at 10 years old she is a tall girl that is like me ‘built to last’. So the time had come when Doodles was actually looking a bit small for her and I knew I would have to start looking for a replacement as these things can take so long. Two ponies were in my sights, but I had to sell Doodles first. Fast forward four weeks and there is a new pony standing in our yard called ‘Spartacus’, and the new love of my daughter’s life – seems she wasn’t as attached to Doodles as I thought! So not only were we starting onto bigger and better things with a very straightforward, learned, experienced and very very cute new pony, at 14hh and capable of trotting round 50’s, it meant that we could go jumping together.

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