I asked him to trot for his warm up and he bounced along, working the bit and keeping one ear on Trainer A's progress. Sure, we're rusty and some of our take off points were a matter of debate (I think his eye is better than mine now), but he was straight as an arrow and needed very little encouragement. When the jumps started going up and the difficulty increased, I started having to use the soothing voice and purr on the approach. 'Easy, tiger, take it easy, you won't fit if you get big, easy big man'. He always manages to surprise me when he cracks his back to make the tight grid work. The teens in my lesson were rather flabbergasted, having not seen Theo jump in about a year. Our German exchange working student wants to take a jumping lesson on him after watching him go. He was up, on the contact, snorting, and lit up like the Fourth of July.
By the end, it was bounce to a one stride to a one stride, last fence was in the 2'9" - 3' range. Theo finally had to engage at that height and damn near jumped me out of the tack. I wish there was video, but with four students in the ring, Trainer A had her hands full.
I don't think I'll ever truly understand what makes some horses love to jump. I know we've selectively bred for the trait for centuries, the same way a lot of TBs get high off of galloping. It's clearly rewarding somehow. Maybe it gives them a rush. While Theo has found the pleasure in being powerful on the flat, jumping hits a button that he finds very rewarding. Is he a secret adrenaline junky? He lights up more as the jumps get bigger and courses more challenging. While Miss Thang sold out completely and the school ponies chipped in strides, he got bigger and bolder. Trainer A was laughing by the end, watching him arching his neck and bouncing in anticipation of his turn. Whatever the reason, jumping is Theo's jam. I know why I love it, it's the rush. And I guess it's the same for him.
It's good to be reminded sometimes how much we enjoy the jumping phase. It's a heck of a work out for his back end and doesn't require me to push or nag. I asked him to flex right and he just did it with minimal temper tantrum because he was in a different mind set. He was thinking forward and enthusiasm, not 'how do I get out of this exercise'. With jumps to distract him and keep his focus, flexing didn't seem that big of a deal.
And when he was done, he got ear rubs from Trainer A and completely fell asleep in the middle of the ring, utterly content.
This horse makes it way too easy to take goofy pictures of him
Maybe, one day, I'll be able to get him confident enough to enjoy jumping away from home the way he enjoys it at home.