Lesson Report 8/7 – Fancy horse really DOES make fancy rider!

So I know I just introduced y’all to F… but today I’m going to introduce you to another horse I’ve been riding. G is a 9-year-old black gelding who has been there, done that. I rode him for the first time last week and one of the first things I said after I’d gone around a few times was “This horse is an amateur horse.” And he is! Riding G makes me feel like I could go and ride a grand prix tomorrow. It’s an incredible feeling.

Anyway, on Friday it was a balmy 74 degrees due to the storm we’d had the previous night. I took advantage and slept in. Even at 10:00 or so there were still clouds hanging in the air! Luckily new barn has wonderful footing and E is great about dragging it if we know it’s going to rain, so the storm barely made a difference. I rode with an adorable little up-down pony rider. I really love lessoning with teeny children – they’re so adorable! And I kind of enjoy being the “demonstration rider” for those kinds of lessons. Whenever I have a new or young rider I like to have someone else in the ring just because it’s easier to see certain concepts mounted than from the ground.

As per usual E had me warm up on the flat with lots of trotting and cantering with a focus on position. One of the big things she has me doing is un-glueing my arms from my sides. Keeping my arms out (a little bit; we’re not talking chicken wings here) helps me keep my elbows bent and my hands on the bit line. This is especially important for G, because he likes to stick is head up in the air. Even in just the few weeks I’ve been riding with E I’ve already noticed that my riding is becoming more effective. She also has me work on my shoulders. I have minor scoliosis and it makes me ride very crooked to the right. She’s always making sure I remember that just because I feel straight doesn’t actually mean I am straight!

We also work on striding. E has a line of poles set down the centerline and she has me both trot and canter over them in either direction. It’s a great exercise for straightness as well as my eternal enemy – collection! We always have to do the poles in sevens before we do them in sixes and while I do get better at it, my idea of what a good stride is and what an actual good stride is will never be the same thing.

Then it was on to jumping! And, y’all, the jumping was amazing.

This, more or less. I’m so bad at jump diagrams. There were more fences in the ring but I couldn’t even begin to tell you how they all fit together!

We always warm up trotting back-and-forth over the pink vertical. Trotting fences has been SO useful to me; it’s really helping me learn how not to anticipate the jump and ride all the way to the base. E says I try to “help” the horses jump with my upper body when really all I need to be doing is waiting, and trotting fences has been so good at teaching me to hold to the fence because it’s so much more obvious when you’re out of sync with the horse. Then we made it a line by adding the blue – trotting in, it’s six strides, but as we all know it’s hard for me to go shorter! Luckily G knows his job and E’s flat exercises have been making a huge difference in how I use my upper body and these kinds of adjustments are actually possible now. Go me! We did that once and then went to the white brush box on the quarter line.

Then it was time for the jumps to go up and for me to ride an actual course! Most of the fences were about 2’9″-ish, but I am notoriously bad at estimating fence heights. I am a fancy adult rider who jumps big jumps, I said to myself. (This is a lie. What I actually said to myself was, These fences look a little imposing. That one is bigger than the brush box. Shit, I know for a fact that that brush box is 2’9″. If it’s bigger then it’s gotta be at least 3′. Can I jump three feet? I don’t know this horse that well. Shit. Wow, that is a wide oxer. Um.) But I did it anyway, because I am still in denial about that whole thing where I have actual fears now. But I didn’t, and boy am I glad I did!

The course went like this: Outside oxer towards the barn (the right side of the diagram), outside line in five, white brush box, around the pink jump to the vertical-oxer inside line in three, ending on the brush box-vertical inside line in six. Phew! That’s a lot of jumps to remember. But I did it!

I’m not going to say the course was perfect the first time, because it wasn’t. We had a lead swap in front of the pink fence because I wasn’t supporting with my outside leg (turning on my outside aids is still a bit of a tricky thing for me, although it’s been getting a little clearer), the turn from inside line to inside line was, er, Not Super Great (again, I have problems turning off outside aids), making the final inside line crooked, and I didn’t get 100% perfect distances the whole time, but all in all I was really happy! I landed the final jump smiling and said to E, “I love this horse; he makes me feel like I can do anything!” And he does.

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THANK YOU G FOR MAKING ME LOOK LIKE A SUPERSTAR

Of course, just because I feel like I can do anything doesn’t mean I can actually do anything, but hey! It still feels really great. E and I talked about what went wrong – again, supporting with outside aids and as per always regulating my pace – then we went back and fixed the tricky parts and quit on that.

One thing I really like about E is that she and I have a very similar lessoning philosophy – “One more time is the kiss of death,” as she put it to me. I don’t like endless drilling. If I’ve accomplished what I came out to accomplish, and fixed what’s needed to be fixed, I let myself be done. I don’t feel the need to do things over and over. I like ending on a good note and I don’t feel the need to push things once I’ve gotten there.

G got a walk out, a bath, and treats, and then, taking advantage of the nice weather, I got to hack another horse! D is the fattest horse I have ever seen – I’m serious; there’s hunter fat and then there’s “this gelding must be pregnant” fat, and D is the latter. He’s not terribly in shape so we just did a simple walk/trot/canter hack. I really like getting to hack after lessons because it lets me work on the things I’ve worked on in the lesson without have my trainer constantly remind me to put my left shoulder back and bend my elbows and so on and so forth. It was fun, too, because I got to watch E school a jumper and another little pony kid hack around, and when we were all done we went on a little mini-trail ride up the road. (Thank you, barn on a quiet back road!). All in all it was a very relaxing end to my day.

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