Huzzah for quick farrier visits! Wednesday morning saw me grinning at my phone as I read the text from our assistant trainer: “farrier is coming out this morning, you’ll be good for your lesson tonight :)” Smiley face indeed. I was ecstatic!
And then I realized something: Addy had not been ridden since Saturday. Not even a little. Thankfully she had been going outside to play pretty much every day, but no work under saddle in three whole days.
That probably doesn’t sound like a huge deal to you- if three days was our regular gap it would still average out to riding more than once a week. But Addy has plenty of energy even when she’s worked every day, and I can always tell when she’s had a single day off. Three whole days of sitting on her butt and collecting her energy? I was prepared for a rodeo.
So I got to the barn a little early and set her up on the lunge line in the outdoor (with lots of assistance from our awesome assistant trainer). I wanted this pony nice and tired before my butt hit the saddle. She happily trotted and cantered around in circles, pausing every so often to look in at me as if to say, “I mean, I’ll do it, but why aren’t you on my back yet?” So I hopped on about 20 minutes before my lesson to give us plenty of time to warm up together.
I’m a worry-wart for nothing. If anything, she was lazier than usual! Thank goodness for ponies that surprise you with their good brains, and thank goodness turnout seems to be more of a factor than under saddle work for her (we know how much she loves her outside time). We were able to stay nice and balanced while we were warming up, and our canter-trot transitions were much smoother than usual. She framed up into a gorgeous collected trot when I asked, and kept that impulsion and balance going. Have I mentioned that I love this horse?
Sadly I will not be including a professional diagram today; I don’t think the course warrants it. There was a nice easy bending line, an outside line of skinnies, and then
47 4 diagonal jumps with long approaches. Those darn long approaches.
This all went really well- I even managed to stay on over a crossrail with no stirrups! It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but it’s progress! She listened extremely well when I asked her to move up or collect a little, and even when the jumps went up a bit higher she listened like a champ.
One sticky spot: the skinny line on the outside came up out of that corner REAL fast, and Addy pulled her whole “eh this is mildly uncomfortable, I’ll pass” duck-out shenanigan. This is why I need to actually start carrying a crop. She wasn’t being nasty or scared or dirty, it was just a little bit out of her comfort zone and she needed some extra encouragement to put in the effort. We did eventually get over it a couple times. Not pretty, but effective.
Getting over it was fine for me to end on a good note; my self-esteem can take a bit of a hit and I’ll be fine. I proved to both of us that I can get her to a good spot and MAKE her go over that fence, and that’s all I really wanted. But I wanted Addy to end on a really positive confident note, so I asked the assistant trainer to hop on and school her through the line once or twice.
A little description: our assistant trainer is this tiny little woman with legs of steel. Seeing her on this large draft cross was so crazy- I’ve only ever seen one rider (myself) on Addy, and that’s always in videos! She was able to strongly support Addy to the base and get her over that jump beautifully, and did it a couple more times to get her feeling really good about it. By the end she was doing with much less support and carrying herself to the base. We both got to end on a good note!
I know some people are reluctant to have others hop on their horse, but I’ve never hesitated when the rider is clearly better than me. Riding is a constant conversation between the horse and rider- if I know someone speaks the language better than I do, it makes sense to me to have them hop on and clarify what I’m trying to say. I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend time around so many skilled riders who are willing to help out!
Take-away lesson: just because I get Addy to the sweet spot does not mean I can take my leg off and throw my reins at her. She needs and deserves strong support from me to help her up and over, especially when it’s something out of her comfort zone. One more reason to boost my no-stirrup work!
What do you do when your “conversation” gets confusing? Do you prefer to work through sticky spots yourself, or do you like to have a trainer hop on to help?