Huzzah! An actual lesson review!
I saw the course setup earlier in the week and was totally drooling over it- it’s a slightly simplified version of one of the Maclay regional courses (I think from Florida, but I could be wrong). Trainer tends to get medal-happy this time of year and loves to replicate the fun courses and we LOVE it. So of course I was super pumped to play around this week.
Our warmup was pretty standard- we did lots of extending-collecting trot transitions to try and create that adjustability, and did the same thing in the canter. This all went very smoothly to the left (Addy’s better direction) and Addy was balanced and relaxed. The right was a little bit stickier at the canter- this is traditionally Addy’s less balanced lead and it showed a lot last night. There was a lot of tension, bracing, and heaviness going on as we careened around. Trainer reminded me that on a short-necked horse like Beastly, I’m going to have to ask harder for something to break up the tension; over bend and release, squeeze up into the bridle and release, change the bend and release, anything to get her focusing on me and increasing that suppleness.
Then on to jumping! We warmed up over a crossrail a couple times and TrainWreck McJohnson jumped it like it was 3 feet tall. Weeee! I don’t mind that kind of enthusiasm at all, I’d rather her get excited about her job and carry me over.
Then we started practicing pieces of our overall course before piecing it together. First was the crossrail bending to the stonewall in 6 (1 to 2). Not 5. Six. So naturally the first time it was a god-awful five. But then we swung our track a little wider and Human McPassengerPants actually took the wheel and asked properly for the step for the six. Success!
One thing my trainer had me work on here was trotting in quietly. Key word: quietly. Addy loves her job so much that she really just wants to gallop at every jump in the ring once she gets going, and when she laser locks on a jump it can be tough to keep her at a trot. (I honestly don’t know what I would do with a horse that needs a boot off the ground, btw). I don’t want to be hanging on her face to slow her down since she’ll just lean on my hand- homegirl does not have a sensitive mouth and is happy to lean all day long- so we practiced asking for the half-halt and releasing back. We want to have the give and take, but I had to take enough so that I could ease up and give back to her. This would be a very different process on a more sensitive horse, but Addy needs a bigger reminder to come back so then I can allow her forward to the jump.
We then added the rollback to the other stone wall in the corner (1 to 2 to 3). This was a really tricky turn- the trick that helped a lot was holding my right rein over the bending out, so that she didn’t fall in and we could use our space to make the turn a bit wider. When I remembered to do that: fantastic. When I didn’t remember: technically we did make it over the jump but it ain’t pretty.
Next we tried the corner, bending to the hay-bale line (3 to 4 to 5). Trainer insisted that the stone to the first hay was at least a four, never a three, so I bargained my way into trotting in. That set us up for a very nice balanced bending 4, then a lovely two stride hay bale line. I absolutely loved this line- it was set for a flowing stride so it fit Addy perfectly! There was no wrestling to shorter her step at all!
After that we trotted into the end jump, then rolled back to the other end jump (6 to 7). This went surprisingly well, believe it or not. We had to remember to use our space to create a wide enough turn for ourselves. We then added a bending to the skinny rolltop out (6 to 7 to 8). The trick to that was (again) holding my right rein so that we could move our track out and approach the rolltop in a straighter line.
Then it was time for our full course! Which went: canter in outside vertical (1) bending out over the stone wall (2) in five; roll back to the corner stone wall (3), bending in four to the hay bale line (4 to 5) in 2; skip the end jump and just come around to the pink flowers (7); bending left out over the skinny rolltop (8) in 6; ending with a rollback right over the white gate (9).
So maybe we did the bending stonewall-hay in three…and maybe Addy tripped and almost fell on her face around the first rollback…but we totally went back and fixed those things! A couple parts that went really well:
- The rollback at the end of the ring to the pink flowers. Even though she came out of the haybale line rolling like a semi down a iced-over steep hill, she listened beautifully to my half-halt and balanced around to a nice comfortable distance.
- The bending out over the skinny rolltop. The conservative flower jump set us up for a quiet bending line with a straight approach.
We kept the jumps pretty teeny tiny since we were working more on adjustability and staying balanced through turns, but this definitely wasn’t an easy lesson! The course and Addy and my trainer all made me think about every single stride. And of course I ended with the same thing I say to my trainer at the end of every lesson.
“Hey can I tell you something? I love this horse so much.”
Do you like to “copycat” fun courses? When you design your own, what are your favorite elements to include?