Completely Within Our Reach

Vinnie in Southern Pines, 2015. Photo by Ashley Neuhof. Vinnie in Southern Pines, 2015. Photo by Ashley Neuhof.

I’ll never forgot my first trip to Europe. I was a sophomore in high school, and every year they offered a trip abroad, typically through the language department. Not everyone could participate in the overseas journey, though the option was there for any students who could afford it to attend.

My French and Spanish class put together a trip to France and Spain. My older sister had gone on a similar trip when she was my age, and all of my closest friends were going, therefore I made up my mind. I was going, and that was that. I attended all the pre-trip meetings, had excellent grades in my language class and felt fairly prepared, except one minor detail … I had NO money whatsoever.

After the first introductory classroom meetings to go over various details and information pertaining to our upcoming journey, our teachers began collecting weekly checks from all the participants. You could either pay for the entire trip in one fell swoop, or you could pay weekly installments. I had a job catering on weekends so I did actually have a little bit of money, at least to cover the first installment.

But then, all of a sudden, the money was running low and, unfortunately, I had no assistance whatsoever. Even though my family was incredible supportive, financial backing was not exactly an option. I wanted to go on this trip more than I wanted anything else. I was going, and that was final.

I sat down and began writing letters in hopes of sponsorship from my town, neighbors, friend, extended family members and online scholarships for this exact sort of situation. A few weeks went by and the money came in. The trip was amazing, and it was worth every difficult letter I sent out!

One moment I am sitting on a balcony looking over the vibrant city of Barcelona, and the next I am sitting on Vinnie in a jump lesson in Strafford, Vermont, in 2015. We had a very interesting lesson the other day. Of course, I have been riding at Tamarack Hill Farm for nine years, so most of the lectures, theories, strategies and demonstrations I have witnessed on more than one occasion, which I am grateful for. Though, Denny never ceases to amaze me with alternative perspectives or offering varying methods when solving the same equation.

This particular lesson was really geared towards TWO jobs that the rider has when jumping: 1. Getting your horse to (more or less) a good take off place, and 2. Getting to that jump from a good canter, i.e. a canter that combines both impulsion and balance. The five of us in that lesson nodded our heads, agreeing these are our primary jobs when jumping.

Obviously there are other contributing factors, like how broke your horse is, or your horse’s innate jumping ability, or your position over the fence, and several other factors that ought to be taken into consideration. But when you look at jumping at the most basic level and strip this concept to down to bare minimums, this is what you’re left with: Getting to a good take off place from a good canter.

But how do we get there? What do we need in order to achieve such immense goals in our riding? Even though conceptually this sounds simple, in practice or when push comes to shove, this job we have as serious competitors is not as easy as 1, 2, 3. Or is it? How many people consistently get their horses to the right take off point from a very good canter? Five hundred? Thirty-two professionals? Fourteen people every other year? Do you need expensive horses to practice on? Do you need to practice this over huge fences

I have REALLY good news. Actually, Denny offered some very exciting news. This ability to get our horses to more or less the right take off place, from more or less a good canter, is completely 100 percent within our grasp. If we are really assiduous and totally committed, we can achieve these goals.

We can practice on our horses over rails on the ground, or imagine a pole on the ground, or look at a hoof print in the sand and get your horse in right to that footprint. If you really want to become a better rider or even the best jump rider you can become, you have to put in the hours, not because someone is telling you that you have to, but because you want this more than anything else.

The mind is a very powerful tool and your will to succeed will take you places you never thought feasible. But you have to start with that fire and that drive!