Uh. Wow. Thank you guys! I honestly did not expect the outpouring of awesome support you guys have chimed in with and it’s totally baller. It seems that this topic really resonates with a lot of you, and for that I’m glad!
One thing I do want to ask for your help with though: let’s do our part to not make talking about mental health a “brave” action. I appreciate it so much and don’t want to sound ungrateful- but this is just opening up a conversation.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away, it’s this: mental health struggles don’t have to be some secret, terrible thing. It can just be a thing. Obviously not a fun thing, but plenty of stuff isn’t fun and we still talk about it. Like taxes or baby vomit or that weird shade your teeth turn after a glass of red wine and you don’t notice it until you see the pictures the next day.
So yeah. Y’all are awesome wonderful human beings and I wish balanced brain chemistry for all of you! There may be only so much that a corner of the blogosphere can do to de-stigmatize conversations about mental health, but I’m hoping you’ll join me in keeping that conversation open and candid.
Now let’s talk about ponies because we had an awesome lesson!
We’re continuing our mega-hard work and this was the first lesson where I really felt it starting to pay off in a big way.
The new fun
torture training method the dungeon masters trainers have come up with is two-pointing without stirrups. And their form of encouragement is to gleefully yell “THE SADDLE IS LAVA YOU CAN’T SIT.” Luckily Francis is a remarkably tolerant horse who will bop around no matter how much I slide around up top. Thanks bud, you da man.
Our quality of canter is also developing nicely. I still have to kinda get in his way and pick his front end up, but he’s starting to realize that rocking back and balancing around the turns is not some form of devil worship.
Also very pleased with our walk- I mentioned that Frankie shortens up considerably and loses steam when I pick up the reins. With some practice and reinforcement, he’s very quickly learned that contact still means forward! I’ve been also doing lots of lateral work at the walk and this seems to loosen him up over his back at all gaits.
But let’s talk about the jumps because even if the flatwork is interesting, going zoomies over wooden sticks is actually the fun part.
We warmed up over a broken x-rail to vertical in 6 or 7 strides- my goal was to get plenty of energy up to the trot jump, and then channel that energy out in 6. Overall very pleased with this- trot jumps have always been my archenemy, but adding a little leg into my hand has made them much less lurchy!
And then here is the super fun course:
Woof. We were given the opportunity to pick one “piece” of the course to school first- I chose the bending 9 to 10. The reason 10 looks so skinny here is because it is the skinniest skinny ever. Off a 90 degree bending turn? I wanted to give that a go before stringing it all together.
Francis is a jump-happy fiend though, so I basically opened my right rein off the vertical and he was like YES WHICH ONE OK THE SKINNY SOUNDS GOOD. And I tucked my knees in real tight ’cause I was 80% sure they were gonna bash through the standards. And all was well.
So the whole course: came through the middle to a short approach down the gray oxer, around to the bending line in a forward flowing five strides, then down the diagonal line in a flowing six strides, up the s-turn (skinny green vertical, bending four strides over the box, bending three teeny strides over the skinny rolltop), bending vertical to skinny, then coming around to the box, bending four strides to the one stride combo.
Goshdarnit guys I REALLY wish I had gotten video of this. Frankie was just a pro at this whole thing. Bobbles we ran into during the first go-around: I needed to stay straighter into the corner after jump 3 to set us up for a clean change if needed. The bending 3 from 7 to 8 was tiny, so I needed to set that up and balance better to fit it in. Then I needed to support more with my leg through the one-stride at the end.
So the jumps went up in height a little and we went back and it felt SO GOOD. That better quality canter really became apparent here- I still had to sit up and help Frankie balance through the turns, but neither of us is having to work as hard at that since the balance is already there. And when I’m present with my leg and keep him straight, we get nice clean changes. And with his better balance and power from behind, combined with waiting with my shoulders to the base, we were able to make even the tighter distances powerful.
I think most telling was the one-stride: these have always been lurchy for him and I’ve had to pressssssss him through to help him out. I was certainly still there with my leg, but this had a different feel to it- he was powering through instead of heaving himself out of there. He was able to land and immediately balance himself instead of landing on his forehand and lumping through the rest.
The pieces are definitely coming together. Better fitness and better knowledge are opening up a lot more choices on course rather than accepting whatever track and distance comes up. Bootcamp is awesome!
What do you think of the course? Which piece would you have chosen to practice first?