I’ve been knocked flat on my back by a killer sinus infection all week (seriously I have never experienced such excruciating sinus pressure before), so I was absolutely ITCHING to get back on my horse.
I managed to join one of the lesson groups on Thursday, and we learned a lot!
This lesson focused a lot on polishing up the basics. In the words of my trainer: “This is easy stuff, so do it perfectly.” No pressure or anything.
But in all seriousness, this was a fantastic lesson. I’m not going to outline every stride of it (spoiler alert: we walked, trotted, cantered, and popped over some little jumps), so here were my big takeaways:
- My stupid toes point straight out. If you’ve ever seen a picture of me jumping, you already know that this is my bad habit. I have no idea where this habit came from because it never was a problem as a junior, but unless I’m being very conscious of it, my toes point straight out and I jab my horse in the ribs with my spurs. Frankie is extremely tolerant of this, but I’d rather not test that tolerance and poke the poor guy unnecessarily. TOES MUST POINT FORWARD.
- Frankie loves to round over his back into the bridle at the canter. This is a new feeling for me, and it’s a good one! The only problem here is that sometimes he’ll stretch and drop his head so much that he drops right onto my hand and hangs there. This is where I need to refine my half-halt to maintain the stride while re-balancing him up off my hand. I’ve had a couple successes here so now I’m trying to internalize that feeling so we can get it every time. My instinct is to pull up with my hands and that doesn’t do anyone any good- when I half-halt from my seat and just use my hands to balance and contain the energy, we get some GORGEOUS movement.
- I need to use more outside aids around the corners. He’s such a big guy that he needs a little extra support keeping his body together, so I need to let my hands be softer and use my legs to keep that energy flowing. I got some great homework for this: ride about 5ft in off the track so we’re not just tempted to fall out to the wall. I LOVE getting homework!
- Don’t drop him when we walk. After cantering, I like to give him a walk break on a loose rein so he has a chance to catch his breath before we proceed. BUT. When I ask for that downwards transition, I shouldn’t just let my reins get longer and fall down into the walk. If he gets used to that, he could start rooting if I DON’T immediately give him a loose rein when we walk, and that would be killer in an eq class. My goal is to get clean downwards transitions, continue walking on the contact for a bit so that he knows we’re still working, and only THEN loosen the reins to let him stretch.
- Auto-release is the name of the game. Frankie will jump the jump. And I can set him up for the next jump. But wouldn’t it be great if I could land ALREADY setting him up for the next one?? I’m generally pretty strong in my jumping position and Frankie is nicely adjustable, so nailing that auto-release is going to be what puts us into the next level of continuity and smoothness through our courses. My trainer has promised to call me out on this and remind me to work on this in every lesson.
We learn something new with every ride! This weekend we’re planning on doing a little trail ride and I’m SO excited to get my seasoned foxhunter outside to play around. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m in awe that I get to call this horse mine. I’m learning so much from him and above all, we’re having fun together.
Show update: our first show will likely be the Loudoun Benefit show at the Upperville showgrounds mid-June. The plan right now is to do a 0.90m class to see how we’re feeling, and then give the 1m a try. I reserve the right to change this plan at any time, but I’m feeling very determined to give the 1m a go!!
Also: one of my trainers has assigned us a challenge. You know those 30-day challenges that you see on Pinterest where you do more squats every day or something like that? It’s like that. You can pick any 30-day plank challenge or sit up challenge, and if you don’t notice a difference in your riding at the end of 30 days, you don’t have to keep going. I will be doing a plank challenge, and would love your help in keeping me accountable!