We finally had our lesson! And while the jumps were itty-bitty-mayyyybe-2′-if-they-stood-up-really-straight-basically-cavalettis, we got some great work in.
I was actually trying out a new saddle- Courtney from Vintage Virginia is letting me try one of hers (we hung out this weekend and it was AMAZEBALLS SO MUCH FUN but that will get its own post in the next few days). It’s a Duett and built for chunky ponies so we thought it might be a good fit for Addy. I’ve ridden in it twice now and the verdict from myself and my trainer- Addy seems to like the extra room with the wide tree, it fits her fairly well, and she’s been giving some good softness and bend in it. It doesn’t fit me perfectly, but nothing too terrible. We’ll probs hang on to it for a while until I hunt down something else this fall/winter. So a big thank you to Courtney for making my pony very happy 🙂
Our flat work was fairly simple and Addy was definitely softer than usual. I usually have to finagle her around to ease some of the tension and get her to stop bracing on my hand around corners, but she offered up a nice bend and sought out the contact right off the bat. I don’t know if it’s the saddle, the beautiful weather, the fact that she’s been worked super consistently lately, or the fact that I’m learning how to not make my horse tense (fun fact, tense rider = tense horse. Outlandish, I know), but she was truly a pleasure to ride. Still an absolute Unicorn Beast with lots of energy, but very responsive to my seat. I’m finally learning to rely on my reins less! I was so worried that I was turning into a “handsy” rider but all shall be well.
After popping over a tiny vertical a couple times to warm up we got down to some courses. Like I said before, they were all teeny tiny jumps- so of course my trainer had to add difficulty in other ways.
1-2 was a quiet 4 strides. For whatever reason, my trainer always looks at me very pointedly when she tells us the striding. I have no idea why she thought I would put in 3. That’s just silliness. Anywho. After going through that a couple times (and holding for the 4 every single time, might I add) we built our first course. Come off the left and trot up 1-2, land right lead and circle around to do the bounce 3a-3b, immediately turn hard right to get a simple change across the diagonal and come up pink 4 on the quarter line.
I was very happy with this! We held for the 4, got a nice civilized circle around to the bounce, a somewhat crooked line across the diagonal, and a nice neat turn that got us right to the base of 4.
We then reversed this and added on a little extra: come off the right, up 1-2 in 4, turn left and circle to do the bounce the other way (3b-3a), simple change across the diagonal, up the green 4 on the quarter line, and THEN slice pink 4-1 in two strides (our resident jumper horse then added the slice 1-green 4, but I wanted to take it one step at a time with my big white barge). Trainer was extremely emphatic that the slice was in 2 strides. Deep eye contact, used my full name, the works. Fair enough, I suppose I deserve that.
And you know what? We fit in two strides. It wasn’t a nice soft even pretty two strides, but it was two full strides. And I’m damn proud of my pony for doing that for me!
We finished up with this course: slice pink 4-1, come around the end of the ring and slice 1-green 4, go around the end and slice 2-4, and then finish up on jump 5. Trainer said she didn’t care what direction or what approach we used to get over 5, she just wanted us to come back to a trot and make it over that jump.
The first slice went well again, but I goofed a little heading to the second one- took my leg off, steered with my hands, and steered right past the jump. Classic. Circled around and made it on the second try though! DragonMare made her appearance around this time and we put one stride in the slice from 2-4, but I sat deep and got her to sit on her ass before trotting around the end of the ring and slicing 5 towards pink 4. We then cantered for a couple minutes so she could stretch out (also my attempts to stop were met with contempt on her end, so I just rolled with it).
Not much of it was pretty, but it was effective. The one thing my trainer said that really stuck with me has to do with mindset: I need to stop thinking “It’ll be hard to get that striding, but we can do it,” and start thinking “We will get that striding, end of story.” When I rode in with a plan and KNEW that I was getting the two strides, we put in two strides. When I relaxed and wasn’t sure, we left it out and put in one. Basically I need to ride every single stride with conviction.
So add this to my list of skills I’ve been working on lately: it’s ok to soften and relax when things are going well, but I still have to keep the focus and ride the plan.
Anyone else had to shift their thinking lately? How’d it work out?