- Keeping a steady, balanced rhythm up to the fence. Cash was naturally very balanced and up in front; neither Saga nor Red are so it's very important for me to help them.
- Jump with the horse instead of when I think the jump should happen. Cash used to bolt at fences and always took the long spot, so I need to stop trying to make that long spot, especially on Red.
- Keep my heels down and leg on during the landing and the first stride after. My heels tend to come up on the landing. Um, heels? Stay down please!
- Don't sit up on top of the fence. I need to stay in two-point for the first stride after the fence so I don't land on the back of the saddle.
- Keep my core engaged over the fence and after. I tend to lose it over the top of the fence (see previous bullet), and keeping my core engaged will help me stay where I'm supposed to be.
Saga has been equally challenging - not because he's being bad, but because I've got so many bad habits to fix! Last night as we were cantering to the fence for the first time (after having warmed up at the trot), about three strides out I found myself wanting to half-halt and just... DO something. FIX something. Of course there was nothing to fix - he was balanced, we made it to the fence in perfect stride. But boy, just sitting there and doing nothing was HARD! And then I completely forgot to ride over the fence, because I was concentrating so hard on not doing anything before the fence... argh! Did I mention that there was a second fence that I also forgot about? Like, forgot to keep going, didn't make the turn and... at least my instructor has a sense of humor!
So, we worked a lot on keeping Saga balanced by keeping my upper body tall, my core engaged, and having him in front of my leg. It's easy for him to get sprawled out and on his forehand, and I need to focus on a steady, balanced rhythm. I also noted that I can do this entirely with my body - I do not need to touch the reins at all. In fact, if I do touch the reins, I seem to be making things worse, because I'm trying to balance his head - but if I use my core and sit up, chest open, I am balancing his whole body.
I am also back to that classic move, grabbing mane over the fence, to help me keep my body with my horse. You know, this really helps with an awful lot of things - I jump with the horse regardless of where the spot is, I don't (can't) sit up on top of the fence, and therefore I am free focus on things like keeping my heels down and engaging my core. Well, ok, if I manage to remember to do anything while actually going over the fence, instead of throwing myself a little "Yay! I didn't move on the approach!" party.
There's a lot to keep track of up there, you know?