Out of these two things, it is quite clear which is better! Yesterday I hacked Echo out with a friend of mine and her horse, who is very laid-back and quiet. He is a relatively young horse, but has an amazing temperament. My friend fully understood that we had to go steady, and that I only wanted to walk and trot mainly, with a couple of slow canters. It was all going very well. Her horse is lovely to hack out with, although she did warn me not to get too close to the back of him, as he has been known to kick out. The two of them seemed to get on very well, and even when we got a little close at times, Jimmy didn't seem to mind.
It was freezing yesterday morning and so we did plenty of trot to warm up, before having a short canter up a hill. Echo was OK in this canter, but she did pull quite a bit, and didn't seem to be enjoying it. My friend was a little concerned about getting lost as she hasn't really hacked out with someone like me, who doesn't know the area (thousands of acres of heathland - all looks the same!). As a result, she was keen to just do a couple of loops of the same area. We then decided to canter up the same stretch again. As with the previous time, she went in front, with Echo and myself closely following. However, after about three strides, Echo put her head down between her front feet and started jumping on the spot. It was very odd. I tried to get her head up and kick her on, but she just bucked higher. I found this quite worrying, as although I didn't feel as though I was going to fall off, I was worried that she was in pain of some sort. She hadn't been at all fresh that morning and I would have thought that, had it just been exuberance, she would have taken off rather than stand on the spot to buck. I made her walk up the hill to where Jimmy and my friend were waiting, and she walked calmly up.
When we got back to the yard, I lunged her for a few minutes in canter on both reins and she seemed fine. I then got on and cantered her round the indoor school on each rein and she also seemed fine. This has really foxed me. All I can think is that perhaps she doesn't enjoy cantering on hacks now because she feels she can't keep up with the horse in front, or she finds it stressful after our rather bad experience last week. I think I will try again next weekend and see if she is better in front, or perhaps take her round the cross country course and have a canter on our own. It is rather worrying me though, as I didn't know how to solve the situation at all. It is really hard to know when to push and when to back off. I am also going to make sure I canter during every schooling session now. I suppose it might be that cantering has just become too exciting, as we only ever do it when we are hacking. I will try to take the novelty of it away, and perhaps as her balance improves in the school, it will help with her canter on hacks too. It's all very difficult to judge.
On a happier note, I loose jumped her today. It was really nice to see her work from the ground and for her to be doing something different. She behaved very well - there were a few occasions where she tried to squeeze through the outside of the jump, between the wing and the wall and she took the whole jump down with her! We solved this by wedging the pole against the wall so that there was no wing there. She really surprised me with her jumping. I know that her mother is a good jumper, but Echo has never shown any natural inclination to jump. In fact, she is always much more likely to climb things rather than jump them!
We took her over a pole first, then raised it to a little cross pole, then put it up to a straight bar at about 2ft high. She is not the most coordinated horse in the world, and got quite tangled up with her feet. She was much happier to come in trot than in canter, and she was finding it rather difficult when the jump was made bigger. The yard manager put the jump up to about 2ft6 (might not have been - I'm terrible at judging heights!) but because she kept approaching in trot, she was having to really launch herself over it. I didn't want it to be a negative experience that she found difficult, so (much to his disapproval) I insisted we put it back down. I didn't see the point in her crashing through it every time - that would do nothing for her confidence. She jumped this smaller height beautifully on both reins, then we called it a day.
She was very sweaty when she finished- more than anything, I think, because it was something new and quite stressful for her. However, I was so proud of her - she looked great when she jumped well. I think we need to do a couple more sessions like that before I attempt to pop over anything with me on her - she was struggling to find her balance even on her own, so I will let her get herself sorted before making her carry me over them! I have no desire for her to be a show jumper - just an all rounder who can do a bit of everything and perhaps a little bit more dressage! Hopefully, if she enjoys jumping, that can be our little release, along with hacking - where she doesn't have lots of pressure on - just a chance to have fun.
I had good intentions of videoing the session and posting it on here - but my designated cameraman was needed to wave a whip! Next time...