Anne-Marie Esslinger Lesson

Arwen and I recently had the chance to train with one of the highest-ranking showjumpers in South Africa. Naturally, we jumped (ha, ha, ha… yeah) at the opportunity. Never mind that Arwen was fresh as a squirrel on a sugar high, having had only one week of work after her six weeks off, or that the last time I jumped a course was in November, or that she is so fat she wobbles… Nooities are tough, we’re partners, and it’s not every day that top jumpers pop up offering free clinics.
She loaded like a dream and was sweaty but not scared when we arrived, whereupon, with some trepidation, I left my notoriously separation-anxious horse with my longsuffering parents and attended the two-hour lecture first. This proved to be well worth it. The trainer touched on the history of showjumping first and then explained all the bewildering types of competition (I still have trouble with the whole accumulator thing), which was very helpful, and then took us all on a course walk. Now that was informative. Next time I walk a course I’ll be much better able to pick a good line and work out strides, hopefully leading to fewer run-outs.
Both parents and pony were still alive when I returned; in fact, Arwen was mostly asleep when I started strapping tack onto her, scrambled into the saddle and stormed off, terrified I would be late. She was fresh and snorted like a dragon; I rode her up to a random empty dressage arena and warmed her up a bit in there to get the worst of the bucks out. She was silly, skittish and bucked with enthusiasm, but was never dirty and I got what I wanted in the end. We popped over a little cross a few times and then headed for the main arena.
Our lesson consisted of three thoroughbreds and one fat little pony (mine); she gave them an evil sneer and I worried about having forgotten my red ribbon (which proved not to be a problem as she didn’t offer to kick anyone). Our trainer checked our tack and sent us off in a big circle to warm up. She was impressed with Arwen’s walk because the thoroughbreds all dawdled while Arwen marched on. In fact Arwen’s flatwork stood out amongst the other horses’; she was the only one in a plain snaffle and also the only one who kept her head down and could halt from a trot. This seemed to earn our trainer’s respect.
We practiced a new exercise in which we cantered calmly around in a circle, then lengthened the stride on the same circle to see how few we could make it in. Arwen made 27 at a normal canter and 25 extended – definitely something we need to fix. Although I didn’t dare let her gallop because I didn’t want to be bucked off in front of a hundred people.
Next was the jumping. We warmed up over a simple single fence with a placing pole at a trot; we fumbled it the first time mostly because the pole was set for big horses, but the second time we put in a canter stride over the pole and jumped well.
Our next exercise was a related distance, a vertical to a rather scary, bigger oxer. Arwen was over-cautious and chipped in ten strides, but gained confidence and eventually made it in a nice steady eight. She was scared of it, but I also didn’t have to kick her over it; she never really felt like stopping, just looky.
Lastly, we jumped a little course; a vertical, a left turn to the related distance, right turn to another related distance, left turn to a two-stride double that Arwen made in three strides. She was forward and steady and didn’t stop even once. I leaned forward and picked bad lines the first time, but I felt super confident and in tune with the little grey mare, and all in all I couldn’t really be happier. She was a superstar. Glory to the King!






8 thoughts on “Anne-Marie Esslinger Lesson

  1. heidibillmayer

    this looks like it was so much fun and really informative! Something I would love to try someday! I love how Arwen travels! and dapple grey is one of my very favorites!

    1. Definitely! I adapted the circling exercise on my last ride. Counting on the circle and keeping it the same size was hard, so I use the long sides of the arena – try to see how many strides I can fit between F and M, then use the short side to extend and then see how few strides I can fit between H and K. Lots and lots of fun! And it should be pretty precise.

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