I’ve had really bad luck with lessons lately, it seems. Last week I was stuck in bed with a horribly severe headache for days, then this past Monday – as you may know if you follow our Twitter – we had a freak hailstorm/tornado. As I was driving to my lesson. (Needless to say, there was not a lesson after that.)
But today, finally, I was able to both a) schedule a lesson, and b) ACTUALLY RIDE AS SCHEDULED. And I guess sometimes being patient pays off, because I had a great one! What made it so great, you ask? Well… I got to do the big kid jumps!
The horse I rode today is named Ben, and Trainer told me that I would really like him. I’ve never really met Ben before, since he’s a pretty new horse, but she was absolutely right. He’s so much fun and he’s interesting without being complicated. Also, rare is the horse on whom I must carry a crop – and I do need some practice holding multiple reins AND a crop, hah! He’s got… a lot of gear. Lots of stuff for me to hold in my teeny tiny hands. But we made it work!
While we flatted we talked a lot about refining the basics: proper inside leg to outside hand, wrapping my legs around the horse instead of balancing on my toes, and so on. Ben is a little bit pokey on the flat so I got a great workout, too, plus two circuits of two point (which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is for my two-weeks-off self!).
We kept the jumping simple today, but it was wonderful. Three fences total: an outside bending line to a single across the diagonal. Like I said, this was a new horse to me, but he’s so beautifully uncomplicated – very point-and-shoot. My job was pretty much to keep him where I wanted him. That said, he is wiggly, a bit like Scooby, so straightness was another important thing. He also has a very ‘arch-y’ jump, and it’s easy to get left behind on him because he jumps up so much. I had to work a lot on sitting up towards the jump and not leaning forward and anticipating the approach (what can I say… I was brought up a hunter). There was a lot of “just grab mane!” today. But most importantly…
This was my first time jumping three feet in years, probably since college (and even then, it wasn’t terribly often.) This wasn’t really even in the plan, so much; we started it at about 2’6”-2’9”, and then Megan just kept putting the jump up… and up… and up… hey, I’m not complaining. I was a little nervous because it’s been so long, but I felt really good on Ben and I am of the “try everything once” persuasion. I’m so glad I did!
The first time going over the big jump I sat down way too early in the air. I’m not used to that much hang time! My muscle memory is saying “it’s time to land now!” when we’re only at the apex of the jump. Luckily that’s an easy fix, with just a little more “grab mane!” and the knowledge of knowing that I have to stay up a bit longer.
I did struggle a bit getting the lead around the turn to the single, leading to a couple deep spots which meant I got a tad bit left behind. Megan told me to just go for the simple change if we didn’t land it, which helped me keep balanced and also meant I didn’t have quite as much time to mess with Ben too much on the approach.
But once we got it, we really got it! I was very, very happy with what I’d done. There is still much to be desired as far as equitation goes. I’m bracing against my heel and gripping with my knee, instead of using my lower leg. (I’m not worried about the toes turning out – that’s part of my conformation, exacerbated by my grippy knees.) I think some of this can be accomplished simply by shortening my stirrups a hole or two – I’ve been lazy about putting them up after I flat because the jumps are so small, but if heights more like this become the norm then I’m going to need to get back in the habit! I also need to put my shoulders back just a tad and keep from hunching over the jumps. There are still some good things – like the fact that I am actually releasing! But for my first time on this horse, jumping significantly larger fences than I have been, and after a week and a half off, I’m definitely very pleased with what happened – and I’m super excited for what’s to come!
For your viewing pleasure, some video – mistakes and all! 😉