Francis and I had our last class on Sunday morning before he headed home, and due to weather and an unexpected move for me* he got Monday and Tuesday off. I ain’t mad, homeboy earned a break!
*my apartment flooded two weeks ago and it turns out the repairs will be extensive enough that my roommate and I are headed to a new apartment. Everything is working out and she and I and the dog are moving this weekend! It’s just been a whirlwind getting it all set up in a matter of days.
But we did get to have a lesson on Wednesday and I was reeeeeally eager to ride. Loudoun was such a boot-camp and I want to make sure we capture those lessons and internalize them!
He was a little heavy during our warmup and wanted to lean on my hand- nothing new there. While he’s very happy to follow instructions, he’s not a sensitive horse. Leaning on the bit doesn’t bother him. I’m learning to use my outside aids to steady and balance him around the corners so doesn’t have to lean on me as much.
My crookedness is also getting better! My trainer has reminded me often that when I ask for the canter I need to ask the hind end first- if I don’t think that way, I start getting handsy and grabby. Asking for a bit of haunches in and true bend into the canter has made our departs much more consistent.
We also discussed canter-walk transitions. Namely, that we need to sharpen ours up. Trainer made an excellent point that once we have sharp transitions, we can use this as a litmus test for his hocks- if he starts getting unwilling or unable to step under into that downwards, we want to see if his hocks need maintenance. So not only is this a useful thing to work on in terms of precision and obedience, but it’ll be a great “marker” for us in years to come. We know he has a mildly boggy hock and the vet said it shouldn’t need maintenance for quite some time- I’d like to keep it healthy and happy and do whatever we need to do to keep Francis sound and enjoying his job.
Then jumping time! We warmed up over a crossrail blah blah blah. These trot jumps are getting better as I’m pressing him across them- less lurchy than before. Then we started playing around with courses:
First course: A-B-C-D-E-F. Go figure. Twist: after landing off of the oxer (B), we had to break to trot for the crossrail (C) and bending out over D. This went wonderfully! I was able to get the energy up and have a useful canter around the course. Some of the distances were gappier than others, but none of them felt lurchy or too chippy- we had a nice powerful stride to work from. Coming back to a trot from that oxer was tough and we may have had to use the wall to help us brake. But Frankie loves taking breaks on course and thought that was fine. Our first time through the bending E-F I put four strides and wasn’t thrilled with it. The four could’ve worked if we rode more direct and galloped out a bit more, but it wasn’t quite there the way I rode it.
Next!: E-F-C-D-B- circle around to roll back over F- immediate left turn to A. E to F rode will in a more shaped, balancing 5 strides, which made getting our trot back much more smooth. Everything else flowed up nicely out of stride, and the last turn was SO cool. With my equitation background I have a deeply ingrained love of my crest release. Guess what you can’t do with a crest release? Steer in the air. Guess what NEEDED to happen so we could change direction over F and make it to A? Steering in the air.
AND WE TOTALLY DID IT!!!! Outside leg made that right turn to the brick (F) come up well, and an opening left rein meant we landed already heading in that direction. I was able to sit back and let A come up in a balancing four strides. I definitely need to be more still with my shoulders and let him jump up to me more, and remember to have a present inside leg to bend around.
My big VW bus of a foxhunter is transforming into a zippy jumper! I’ve always been a little nervous to go balls-to-the-wall with the jumper turns, but this was a great confidence booster that I CAN ask him to do it and he WILL deliver if I set him up properly.
The plan is to maybe hit a local show in July depending on timing, and then either Lexington or HITS Culpeper in August. Maybe dabble in some adult medals? Who knows!
Any tips for sharpening our canter-walk transitions?