Two years ago, western rider Maegan Gossett bought herself a jumping horse, and she’s been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since. Recently, she discovered a new source of inspiration: Boyd Martin. (Not the real Boyd Martin—the one on YouTube.)
Let me preface this article by saying that I have shown western on the American Quarter Horse Association’s circuit all my life. I know Swarovski crystals, hat shapes, too tight chaps, “extended” jogs, showmanship patterns, shining silver, and banded manes. Two years ago I bought a three-year old, 17-hand Appendix mare, because “she looked awesome jumping.” Now that I’m knee deep in her training, I still find myself thinking, “Too fast! Too fast!” when I transition into a canter or responding “But I am?” when my instructor tells me to please go ahead and gallop. I still feel a cold clamp in my gut when I turn the corner and look down the line at a “big” vertical. All I’m saying is that two years ago, buying a jumping horse seemed like a good idea. So I’ll get on with it.
Confession: I watch YouTube videos. For hours. Mainly, I watch people jumping, people schooling jumps, people setting up jumps, people jumping gymnastics, people who win and jump, people who fall of while jumping, and so on. I assume that by watching all these videos, I will absorb proper positioning, timing, and general staying on prowess through visual osmosis. I never really thought this would work… until today.
Today was a miracle, and my riding instructor will attest to that. The stars aligned and the sun shone its brilliance on me for an hour and a half today during my riding lesson. It started off with my heels suddenly getting “down” enough. Then my mare figured out how to shorten her monstrous stride. OK, fine. I figured out how to slow her monstrous stride with my seat and some blister-making half halts. She was tracking up so much at the trot that I could see her front legs, and we actually stopped once to check and make sure she still had all four shoes. Her ears were forward and she used her entire body for her upward transitions.
All of that was mind-blowing enough until we started jumping. And then BAM! I jumped with my heels down. I didn’t feel like I was going to fall off. My mare waited on me instead of rocket launching over the moon. I… could… count… strides. I almost started to see my distances. I recognized when we were coming in long and tried to find an adjustment instead of just saying, “Oh, #$@* we’re long” followed by a lot of clinging for dear life and more swear words.
So what made the difference, you ask? Well, I’ll let you in on the secret, dear Horse Nation friends.
I’m not even kidding. For those of you who don’t know, this Aussie turned American turned my latest video obsession is a makes-it-look-almost-safe eventer. That’s my code for, “dear God, you’re really good.” So, I skipped all my classes today (I will NOT be sending this article to my parents to read for that reason) and watched hours of video of Boyd jumping, Boyd riding Dressage, Boyd practicing, Boyd standing there talking (yes, these videos wouldn’t help my riding, but he is extremely good looking so cut me some slack), and Boyd jumping freakish cross country jumps. That last one doesn’t help my riding either, but sometimes I enjoy a good scarin’ for the same reason I watched exactly one fourth of all the “Paranormal Activity” movies through a crack in my fingers.
I think that basically everyone needs to finish my article and then click on over to YouTube. I hope you have a couple hours free. Your next ride is guaranteed to be Boyd-inspired, I promise.
Note: As I type this, I am stretched out on my couch with my cat and a HUGE ice pack sitting on my back. Yes, I pulled a muscle during my overzealous, Boyd-dazed ride. But then again, I bet Boyd ices his muscles all the time. Now, I think I have a few more videos to watch before I pass out on muscle-relaxers.
Photo: Samantha Clark/EN
Boyd & Neville Bardos at Burghley in 2011: