Re: Don't forget Carol's on tomorrow night at 8PM!
Sorry about last night, but I'm sure this will get to you courtesy of Julie. And I hope there won't be so many spelling mistakes, I'm not very clever at typing quickly!
I think you've become a bit sensitive about the word 'stretch' and are trying to exaggerate giving your reins away to allow him more freedom in the air. So you give too much, then you have to take it back, and that's where you're upsetting things. A change of contact at the crucial point in time is bad news. That's why when you steady him after NO contact, the feel is obviously erratic and he won't like it so he scoots away from you.
Consistency should be your mantra.
If you are riding him from your leg into a nice consistent contact, you must try and maintain that same contact as you jump. The folding of your body as you take off should allow your shoulders, arms and hands to NATURALLY give enough freedom for your horse to stretch as much as he needs to. This will have the added bonus of you not being catapulted forward as you try too hard.
I think you should try to keep your leg on more consistently and push him up into a supporting and reliable hand, not one that is trying to give too much, then retaking the contact because your rein has then gone in a loop.
The leg is vital to push him along and keep his engine running so that he is picking up your contact and giving you more confidence to support him and keep hold.
As you are about to take off, try to think about dropping your weight down well into the stirrups and let his head and neck come up to your chest, rather than you bobbing forward prematurely over his shoulder. It's all about improving your timing.
Try some grid work. You'll know from Your Horse magazine that I'm fanatical about grid work, and we have done several articles on the use of grids over the last few of years. These will help you get in balance and recognise how little you need to change the feel of your contact over the fence.
Do bounces and build up to combinations so you can practise the jumps coming thick and fast.The more jumps you can do in an exercise, the quicker you will learn to get the correct feel and recognise how little you need to push your hands too forward.
Try to come out of as long a grid as you can manage with the contact the same at the end as you have at the beginning. Check out my Bridging Rein website www.mailerbridgingrein.co.uk The reins will be absolutely perfect to help you with the contact and it will be one less thing to worry about when you go to shows, especially as they are BSJA legal.
It will take a while to get used to establishing a slightly different mode of jumping, but your horse will appreciate your consistency and you will have much more fun as he goes more happily