As is typical this time of year, I get bitten by the show bug pretty hard. I start thinking about all the shows I want to go to, the clothes I need to buy, the PAC points we might get, the things we need to work on... All the different circuits start putting out their show dates and their class list and I go through each one, bolding the classes Lilly and I would do well in. It borders on obsession...
This year, one of my favorite show circuits has kicked off a new hunter circuit. There are only a couple shows but I noticed they have a few beginner classes with 18" cross rails. I've been looking for hunter hack classes with 18" cross rails and haven't been able to find them. All the hunter hack classes have jumps with a minimum of 2', and we don't do 2'. We don't do anything over 18", actually. I'm not big into jumping (never have been) and neither is Lilly. I've tried a bit of free jumping here and there with her and it's obvious she'd rather go around the jump.
In a traditional hunter hack class, there are only two jumps, and I assume an actual hunter class would be made up of multiple jumps, maybe five of them, and a specified order that we'd have to jump them. (See how little I know about hunters?) Not that three more jumps makes a huge difference, but I'm not sure how Lilly would feel about jumping that many jumps in three different classes...
It's been easy to ignore jumping because of Lilly's history of tendon issues. When her ICLs were cut back in the day the vet said she'd be perfectly sound and usable, but he didn't recommend a jumping career. As time went on, I spoke to numerous vets and many of them commented that she would be just fine for jumping as long as we stayed under 2'6"... After her most recent tendon injury, the vet asked if we did any jumping and I explained that we never had and the reasons why. She commented that small jumps might actually be beneficial for Lilly's tendons and that we should include them in our rehab. I chose not to because I didn't feel I was experienced enough to do that type of exercise with her and ensure she wasn't injured.
There's a whole other world of thinking regarding tendon injuries that seems to be making it's way into the mainstream. Studies have recommended not resting tendon injuries, but rather working the horse to keep the ligament and muscles in shape because it produces a better outcome. Small jumps and hills were mentioned because of the different ways they would stretch the tendons and keep them from getting tight... My vet seemed really excited about the research and I can see the benefit of both methods, but I don't know enough about the research to have formed an opinion. I do find it interesting, though.
With all the research I've been doing about back issues in horses, jumping, raised poles, and other ground pole exercises come up often as a way to strengthen and stretch the topline. I do want to include some poles into our workouts, and it doesn't seem like most hunter folks consider 18" a "real jump", but I worry about her tendons and ligaments.
Now that I've found a few classes we could try, I'm starting to consider going to one of the shows and taking Lilly in the classes. 18" is our absolute limit but it might be something else fun to do with her. My vet is completely okay with it (although a professional opinion doesn't mean what it used to in my eyes), Lilly's torn ligament is completely "healed", and assuming Lilly doesn't seem to hate the small cross rails, is there a reason to hold back and not trot over something 18" high? We've been doing a bit of cavaletti work already and she seems to enjoy trotting over those. Unfortunately I have no idea how high they are... maybe 12"?
She does way worse to herself in the pasture, but the difference is that she's doing it on her own terms. If we did some cross rails, I would be asking her to do it and wouldn't necessarily know if it was bothering her. She might tell me, but she might not.
Any thoughts on 18" cross rails and my very fragile little mare?