Brace yourself for a long post today, Dear Reader, because I had two lessons this week! Twice the sweat, twice the fun, twice the muscle aches, twice the word count!
Let’s start off with Tuesday’s lesson: pretty standard up until the very last minute. Addy was feeling extremely peppy on the flat because (a) I was pretty tired and gross on Monday so she didn’t get much exercise and (b) turnout has been sporadic due to the crappy weather. Lots of circles to get her listening and stop her careening around like a freight train. Once we were thoroughly warmed up on the flat and cantering in place (she was very happy to woah, just didn’t want to stop cantering. She was doing a three beat walk, it was as ridiculous as it sounds) we started going over some ground poles. She jumped them like they were 2’6″ a couple times, then realized that trotting over them like a normal pony would be fine. This was close enough to jumping that it settled her down- like I mentioned last week, she always quiets down to do her job when we start jumping even if she’s a snorty beast on the flat. We slowly built up the course and ended up with this:
Trot in an extended two-stride then collected two-stride, change direction over the green, same trot-in double two-stride on the other side, then another change of direction over the other middle jump. We kept the jumps quite low since we were focused on adjustability more than anything else.
This all went as expected- Addy wasn’t thrilled about the collected parts, but sat back and listened well. She liked the turns over the middle and we measured our striding correctly around the whole course. She was responsive and balanced and lovely. Hooray! At the very end of the lesson, things were going so well that I asked Trainer if I could give the 2-stride exercise a try with the jumps up.
Let this be a lesson to myself: if everything is going well, CALL IT A DAY.
Trainer did in fact put the jumps up REAL big (I swear it looked 3’6″ but I’ve been informed it was just barely 3′) and said to go for it! I trotted in quite happily, got the nice two stride to the second jump, desperately half-halted to get the collected two to the monster jump at the end, prepared for take-off, aaaaaand she ducked off to the left. We tried again, with my left leg pushing hard and all my body language saying “don’t go left!” She went left. And then did it again.
Wait, what?! My angel pony, ducking out of a jump and being lazy because she doesn’t like to collect? Doing something wrong?! Say it isn’t so!
At this point it was clear that I was just reinforcing bad habits, but I reverted to my weeny-mode and was scared to use my crop too much. In fact, this was the first time I’ve ever carried a crop with her and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Trainer lowered the last jump for us to drill through a few times, and then put it back up while we had the momentum. She had a rail on the left to funnel us in and was standing over there to encourage Addy to just jump the darn thing.
We jumped that thing so far over to the right I think we cleared the standard.
But we made it! It wasn’t pretty, but we made it over the jump! She got lots of pats and we celebrated that she jumped it even though she clearly didn’t want to.
It was not one of our finer moments. In fact, this was the most trouble I’ve ever had on her- the only times she’s ducked out in the past have been because I getting in her way or miscommunicating. This time she was ducking out simply because it was a little out of her comfort zone. Because of that this ended up being an extremely valuable lesson: she learned that she has to trust me to get her to the jump and then she has to follow through, and I learned that my seat is far more developed than I thought it was. I could’ve easily tumbled off the side at any of those duck-outs, but I was able to stay solidly in the tack and handle her shenanigans. I didn’t particularly want to handle those shenanigans, but I have the muscle tone to go with the muscle memory to do what I need to do now.
Moving on to Wednesday:
Manfriend came! He dutifully fulfilled his role as photographer/videographer extraordinaire, so definitely check out my Instagram (@hellomylivia) ’cause I’m gonna be posting some highlights.
We warmed up with a decent amount of no-stirrup work (hence the soreness) and Addy was marginally less peppy. Still not thrilled about downwards transitions, but she had fewer ants in her pants than Tuesday so it was more civilized. The jumps were set up in the same configuration as Wednesday, so after warming up over some ground poles we got to it.
Trainer put the back jump up again and no duck-outs this time! It wasn’t quite as high as Tuesday so it was a little less intimidating for both of us, and she was more familiar with the combination this time around. All in all, she was a rockstar!
As we were wrapping up the lesson, we did try a slightly different course: jumps 5-6-7, serpentine over 4 to 8, then hairpin off the rail back over 1-2-3. I’ll wait here while you check out the diagram again. This one went so well! We had gotten the hang of the awkward striding in the combinations, and she’ll turn on a dime so all of those went well. I’m finally learning to sit nice and deep in the tack around those turns so I can help her balance, and she’s responding by pushing off more with her hind end. Better riding leads to better effort from the horse, who knew?!
Sadly manfriend had stepped out of the ring for a moment so he didn’t catch that last course on video. I though briefly about trying it again for the camera, but I learned my lesson on Tuesday: when there’s nothing to fix, don’t try to fix it. She was such a good girl for the entire lesson- even if she did still do that weird canter-walk hybrid from time to time- so she got to be done and get her carrots.
My angel pony came back to me. Confidence is back up and I can’t wait to get back on ASAP! For now though, I’m going to take some Advil and try to figure out how on earth I got so sore.
PS- Here’s a little highlights clip I put together! The jumps were nice and low so we could focus on other things, but look at how big she jumps them! I’ll be posting some stills on my Instagram so you can see how she tucks up and jumps so cute even over the little crossrails. I would love to get constructive criticism, so fire away!
(Apologies for the vertical filming, I know that makes for an awkward YouTube video. I swear it looks really cool on my phone)
How do you correct your horse when they duck out like that? What exercises do you use on the flat to work on your canter adjustability?