Daybreak Exercises

As part of ramping up to finals, I’m trying to hop in a few extra lessons. The more time I can get my trainer’s eyes on me, the better!

So last week Trainer asked if I wanted to sneak in a weekend lesson. I naturally said, “Of course! As long as it isn’t at 7am or anything crazy like that ha ha ha” you can see where this is going.

Yep. The only time we could fit in was 7am on Sunday.

Like a dutiful idiot, I set my alarm for 5:45am and was bringing Francis in from the field by 6:30 (he’s currently on overnight turnout). He seemed a little confused that he wasn’t immediately getting his breakfast, but was surprisingly snuggly as I was tacking up. Apparently Morning Francis is extra happy.

7am barn
I gotta say, the barn is stunning at the crack of dawn.

Despite the early hour, this ended up being a fantastic lesson! It was a private lesson because I was the only one dumb enough to go along with Trainer’s demonic schemes great ideas so we got to focus in on some specific exercises for Frankie.

One of these is bending/counter-bending along with haunches-in/out on a smallish circle. Moving his bum and asking him to bend through his  body gets him connecting so much more solidly to that outside rein. I think part of that connection comes from physically asking his body to step under and respond to the aids, but part of it is mental- it tells him that he is not a trail pony today and he needs to engage. Once we get that connection and engagement in our trot work, the impulsion and pace throughout our canter and coursework improves noticeably.

We also had a great canter pole exercise set up: simply three poles on the ground. They were walked at about 3 strides apart, but slightly different distances. We worked on adjusting our stride in there: 3 strides to 3 strides, 3 strides to 4 strides, 4 strides to 4 strides, 4 strides to 3 strides. So hard, especially with the different distances between them!

The 3-3 was decent- we had to stay balanced to shorten/lengthen a little based on where we were, but nothing crazy. And the 4-4 was ok too- we just came in a little bouncier and held that shorter stride. The 3-4 was definitely hard- we had to really open up for the 3, but immediately ask to shorten in the second half which meant he had to be super tuned into my aids. And the 4-3 was tough too- we wanted to super-collect in strides 1-2 so stride 4 could be powerful enough to set us up for the 3 strides out.

All of these variations tied in so well with what we’ve been working on lately. The biggest thing is that when we collect and bounce through a turn, it allows me to push to the base instead of pulling to the base. And then suddenly the skies open up and the angels sing and Frankie jumps out of his skin and we land balanced and the world is a better place. So I was glad we got to work on an exercise to a) improve my ability to ask for different stride lengths and b) improve Frankie’s sensitivity to those cues so that I get a reaction more quickly.

On to the jumping! Man, I hate trot jumps. I’m not very good at them. I trotted a few x-rails without stirrups last week and Trainer mentioned that I wasn’t very good at it (she said it with love), and I reminded her that I’m not very good at them with stirrups either. Womp womp. Once we managed to fling ourselves over a crossrail with moderate success we moved on to build up the exercise.

And I LOVED this exercise.

7am lesson

 

So a rollback left turn to the end jump, right turn long approach down to the ivy barrels, left up the corner tree jump, bend left up the brick wall, and right turn across the same end jump, turning left to finish. Jumps were big enough to force an effort from Francis without being intimidating.

The first time was….ok. We ended up getting a little chippy to the ivy barrels since I didn’t keep us straight and packaged, which meant that we got a late change through the turn and the tree jump was a bit unorganized. Brick wall was fine, but I overshot my turn to the end jump and Frankie (god bless him) had to scramble a bit to get to the jump.

I made a really nice mixture of mistakes here- sometimes I held too much to the base, sometimes I kicked too much to the long spot, sometimes I faded left, sometimes I drifted right. I’m non-discriminatory in my bad riding.

So we talked about how to fix it. The main image to keep in my head was keeping Frankie on the tracks- straight laterally and connected between my leg and hand. Keeping that image definitely helped me smooth out our track and get more straightness.

The end jump to ivy worked out great- I picked him up and got him off my left leg through the turn, which let me send him up to the base. Because we were straighter and more balanced, we got an early change and a nicer turn to the tree. Brick wall was good, then I sliced the end jump a little right to left instead of trying to line it up straight. That meant our track from brick to end was smoother, and it meant that Frankie knew he was turning left afterwards. It still wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than before!

While it was only 5 jumps and seems like a fairly simple exercise, this was a great test for us. We had to be able to manage tight turns and long approaches, upright verticals and wide fill, and pay attention to our basics- pace, straightness, and connection. Everything came up correctly when we had our basics covered. Funny how that works.

I would lesson again at 7am in a heartbeat! I didn’t realize how much I missed my private lessons.

I loved being doing by 8am too. I took my time cleaning my tack, went to Dunkin and grabbed coffee and doughnuts for the early bird crew, gave Frankie a super intense bath, and just had some bonding time with my horse. He so clearly thrives on that sort of attention and so do I.

Only two weeks until we’re on site for finals! Getting so excited.

Do you like to ride/lesson early in the mornings?

Fancy Flatwork and Curvy Courses

 

How many of you guys watched Harrisburg this past weekend? Man, the course diagram looked fairly simple but it did NOT ride simply.

pessoa_medal_course

Not a ton of jumps, but those end oxers were TOUGH, and the bending combo too. Plus getting the same strides from 5/8 to the combo in both directions. This course seriously asked some hard questions and the kids who ended up on top had to work their butts off to get there.

Naturally, my trainer returned from Harrisburg inspired to inflict this same course on her students. Which brings me to our lesson this week. Which I am still sore from.

For a change, I’m actually going to talk about our flatwork for more than 10 seconds, since we worked on it a LOT this week. I mean, we always do, but this was some next level stuff.

Trot work: I have gotten better about offering a consistent, steady contact to Frankie, and now it’s his job to take that contact and meet me halfway. It was interesting- he’s always been stronger at connecting to the outside rein going to the left, but I felt more connected going to the right this week. My suspicion is that my monster right leg is the culprit here- it’s so much stronger than my left leg, it isn’t even funny.

Trainer had me drop my stirrups and work at the sitting trot for a GOOD long time to help me sit deeper and develop a better feel for Frankie’s movement. Lots of big circles, small circles, counter-bending to the correct bend, shoulder-in down the long side. I’m still working on keeping more still and connected when asking for that shoulder-in, but Frankie was very obliging about giving it to me when I asked properly. Now I just have to ask properly more! We focused a lot on straightness, power from behind up into the bridle, and getting him moving off my leg.

Canter work: homeboy doesn’t get to take a couple flail-y steps to move from the walk to the canter. After a couple sloppy departs, we were able to sharpen these up. We also worked heavily on our canter-walk transitions, with the intent of stepping under and moving into a nice flowing forward walk.

We still have a ways to go to get these truly sharp, but there’s definite progress there. We used to coast down half the long side and ooze into a shuffling walk and we’ve definitely cut down the time it takes. I need to remember to sit tall and engage my core when asking for the downwards so Frankie can’t lean on my hand and dive down.

Here’s a clip of some of our flatwork:

Some things I need to work on position-wise that will help Frankie out, but super proud of my boy for putting his thinking cap on and working so hard!

On to the jumping. And guys. It was a doozie. Here’s the diagram:

oct_medal_course

First course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3. Overshooting the turn to 2 and slicing that left to right gave a little more room to the turn to 3. Barely. Woof.

Second course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3, bending 4a to 4b in one stride, out over 5 in two strides.

This added a challenge over 3- I had to stay very straight so that there was room to turn to 4. Then it was a big one-stride, so we had to cowboy out of that turn to gallop out the 1 to the 2. Still woof.

Full course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3, bending 4a to 4b in one, bending out over 5 in two, immediate right turn over 6, hairpin left over 7, up 5 the other way, bending in two to 4a, then two strides to 4b, turn right over 3 the other way, then loop back over 2 the other way.

HOLY BAJEESUS. The first part rode the same, then 6 and 7 came up decently. It was a bit gallopy from 7 back to 5, then had to really shape and press for the 2 strides to the combo. Then fitting two strides in there was HARD. We really had to shape that combo.

The first time through I accidentally put 3 strides between 5 and the combo, which made the two-stride much easier to fit in. Apparently that counts as cheating though, so we had to go back and make it a two to a two.

So yeah. A very challenging course modeled after the questions asked in the Harrisburg course.

Thoughts on the jumping: my auto release is getting there. It still isn’t muscle memory, but it felt like an improvement from last time. I also felt stronger in my leg- again, not completely where it needs to be yet, but progress. Frankie is jumping more cleanly when I support him better and get him to that tighter spot. Overall: we’re making steady progress together.

What needs work now is my mindset. If the distance isn’t coming up easily, I have a tendency to kinda give up and say “Frankie take the wheel.” I need to trust myself more and MAKE the striding happen. Frankie isn’t always right. He might not be thrilled about the tighter spot, but that’s what we need to jump powerfully and cleanly. He’s not going to get offended or fussy if I ride more actively, so I need to be a nosy pepper. Imma get jalapeno business.

And then best boy got a bath because apparently 82 degrees in October is a thing this year.

october_bath
He might actually be a moose instead of a horse, need to get the DNA test done.

A few side notes as we wrap up here:

Send manfriend your questions! He’s really excited to share with all y’all. You can also feel free to send questions to me directly, on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Which brings me to some fun news:

We now have a Facebook page! That was pretty much the last thing on the social media to-do list for the blog, so go check it out and follow along for yet ANOTHER way to get your daily dose of Francis. Also please tell me what you usually share on Facebook and how you manage all your social media accounts and general tips on time-management and how to be an adult OK thanks.

What kind of lateral work do you like to incorporate to get your horse moving off your leg?