Riding the Choo-Choo Train to Awesometown


Hey, Guys.

I am on cloud nine. Everything is so awesome. We had seriously SUCH an amazing lesson!!

Let’s get started: I hopped on as the lesson before me was wrapping up so we could walk around and stretch out our muscles. Once our lesson kicked off, we did lots and lots of trot work- two point, no stirrups, sitting trot, extended trot, all of that. My legs were burning but in a totally satisfying kind of way. I’ve been wearing my tall boots for lessons lately, and I have to say that they actually give me more support and help me hold my leg more than my half chaps. Weird.

We moved up into canter, and it was absolutely civilized! I suspect that has something to do with my half-halts getting more sophisticated, so it’s easier for her to listen. But then we started doing canter-trot transitions. Whoo boy. Those are top of the homework list right there. Addy gets so riled up because she wants to move back up into her canter, and we turn into a lovely giraffe stampeding around the ring. Wish I had a picture to show you, because she seriously turns into a parade pony.

But we worked past that and went through some ground poles (she only jumped them the first two times through, she’s learning!!) and then started warming up over a crossrail. Crossrail turned into a mini grid- just ground poles to a crossrail to a vertical/oxer- which she went through in her sleep, and then we were ready for our course! Behold:

Never fear, mon amie, we will review this together. You can see part of this course in my latest Instagram post over in the sidebar!

Check this out! Super cool course, right?? We started out by just doing 1-6, and then separately doing 7-12; they’re simply mirror images of each other. But then to bump up the difficulty, we glued the two together for the monstrosity you see before you.

Here’s how it went: trot poles into the crossrail/oxer grid, turn right at the end and come back to trot to the bending green crossrail to red in three strides, up the pink to white in three, come back to trot to loop around over the bounce. Repeat in the mirror image (grid, left to do the white crossrail to pink in three, up the red to yellow in three, loop around over the bounce).

I think the diagram makes this look more complicated than it was, but the symmetry made it really easy to remember.

Remember our chat about deliberate riding last week?? Yesterday, my friends, was true deliberate riding. Let’s go through it step by step.

The grid was off a tight balancing turn but was set up for a big stride, so the timing there was tricky; we wanted to be nice and packaged through the turn up the centerline, but as soon as we hit the trot poles we needed to open up. Once that oxer in the back went up, it became even more important to be carrying a pace. The horses built up down the centerline, so I added in a halt at the end so Addy wouldn’t anticipate the turn. If you notice just how close to the rail the green crossrail is, you’ll realize that there is absolutely no time for a square turn there, so we sliced it going towards our next jump. This made the conservative three strides in there a VERY tight three strides, so we had to sit back and make it work. Then we had to package back up into a bouncy canter for the conservative three strides up the diagonal line, after which I added another halt since Addy turned into an excited snowplow. Then a sitting trot to loop around and get nice and straight to our bounce. Then do it all the other way!

Ermegerd this course was so much fun. Here’s what I mean by deliberate riding- Little Miss Go-Button over here wanted to charge all over the course and call the shots, which simply would not work with such tight turns and small striding. Baby Girl needed to listen to me and I needed to communicate very clearly exactly what I expected. And I’m squealing now because I actually managed to do that!

The grid was very easy; we had a nice balanced approach and you know by now that Addy has zero problem opening up her stride when asked. She wasn’t thrilled about the halt at the end, but she obliged. We trotted into the crossrail off the rail, then went to our pink AND PRETTY PONY DUCKED OUT. But instead of losing my nerve and letting her get away with it, she did not get to go past the jump (our trainer says that if the horse gets past the jump without going over it, they win. We both need to be winners, not just her) and I booted her over it from a walk. Before I get cries of “abuse!” you should know that it was a baby crossrail, she could absolutely jump it from a walk, and I gave her plenty of release. So there.

Anyways, we went back and tried that bending line again, and this time she didn’t even hesitate. She did land in a bit of a heap towards home, so I packaged her up around the short end for the diagonal line. For the first time, packaging her up actually worked to get this amazing bouncy canter, and you know what was different? I added leg. I added SO much leg. My legs are still shaky. But that’s what she needed! By wrapping my leg around her and giving her that support, she was able to balance herself much more easily and collect. It clicked! The diagonal line was very simple, but I asked for a halt in that corner to keep Addy from anticipating. Then it was a little baby trot, adding leg to keep her straight through the loop, and bounce on out. After which we did a big victory gallop because Pretty Girl reeeeally wanted to run around.

On every stride of this course, I felt like I was calling the shots. I started to feel that way last week, but this was a whole new level. I wasn’t perched on top hoping that Addy would take care of me (which she always has and I know she would)- I was the leader and an active partner in our work. Addy, of course, was thrilled that I had pulled my head out of my butt and actually contributed something.

Even better, I got such positive feedback from my trainer. She said that I should be really proud of the ride I put in, and that this is the strongest she’s seen me ride yet. Aahhhhh! I almost started tearing up when she said that. We’ve been working so hard together and feeling so good, and hearing that someone else can see us clicking was incredible. Hence the cloud nine.

I can’t wait to get back on and keep movin’ and improvin’.

Any tips for staying balanced and calm in canter-trot transitions? What do you do if your horse is building too much in the middle of a course?