Fall Weather and Flying Pony

I guess this is the week when I suddenly want to blog everyday. Go figure.

Yesterday, I posted the video from our lesson. It was every course we did after a short warm up over a vertical a few times. The pattern of the lesson was super simple. Mandy gave me a course. I did the course. We talked about it. I did the course again. However, I just couldn’t quite find the right balance last night between forward and running. It bit me in the behind a few times.

For some reason, I think due to taking in too much caffeine in the afternoon, I was feeling INCREDIBLY anxious and jumpy. I’m not quite sure how other people experience anxiety in the saddle, but for me, it literally feels like my whole lower body goes numb. Looking back, I wish I had just counted out loud the entire course, every course. Or sung to myself. Or something.

First course?

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Right turn to the oxer, left turn to the diagonal line coming home. Now, this line was SPECIFICALLY set at 5.5 strides. The first time in, I was CONVINCED we needed to do 6 and that the 5 would just run her off her feet. It was the wrong move. I got it done, but you can see how unhappy May was with my decision.

THEN since that first line rode so funky, I just kind of maintained coming to the other diagonal, which guess what, was set to a SHORT 5 strides. HHAHAHHA. May is cleaver, so it was fine. Then, I was so determined to keep her wide coming to the green panel jump at the end that I actually pulled her front end off the lead, and we almost turned right. Opps. Fixed it… and of course missed the distance. MMMMM K. Honestly, the first and last jumps were my favorite of the whole course. At least I seem to be over my first-jump-itis?

May was feeling VERY forward. I think the softer ground after the rain made her a bit more game than I have given her credit for recently.

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So we did it again. Advice? Stop being so harsh with all your aids. Just ASK for things instead of being like OMG DO THE THING I AM ASKING YOU TO DO RIGHT NOW. Oh… and stop trying to jam six strides into that diagonal line. I think a lot of this over riding was my anxiety kicking up, but again, I should’ve just started singing to myself.

Sooo same course again. The video missed the first oxer, but it rode just as well this time as the last time. If not a bit better.

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I could not find a good distance to the vertical purple and blue jump and my stupid fight with May caused me to really boogey down that line to get the five.  It ended up fine. I have a good little mare. Then… the super helpful barn dog decided to try and get underfoot. You can see May’s swishy tail feelings in the video… but here was my view.

Ahahahaha. Mostly though, May didn’t care. I really need to take this one fox hunting.

ANYWAY, we continued to the other diagonal, where… I didn’t make the best decision. After the dog incident, I pushed her forward to make sure she was in front of my leg, but then I picked a fight a bit too late to the first fence. I should’ve just realized that she was so game that night that I could’ve just left her alone.

Oh well, it rode fine on the out. Not surprisingly, I got a better (but not great) jump over the green panel. And then… right at the end, I got the MOST PERFECT CANTER to jump over the solid, skinny box jump…. Oh well, love us some solid fences.

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Overall, it was pretty good. I made the improvements we discussed previously, even with a little help from the peanut gallery. So we got a new course!

We started with the green panel, which I just COULDN’T FIND A DISTANCE TOO. (Note to self, stop looking for distances just fix your straightness and balance.)

finally changed my line to the in of the purple and blue line, so I got a better jump there. That allowed me to land, pick her up, and send her forward. I WAS SO EXCITED for how that line rode… that I completely forgot I had to make the sharp right turn to the pink and gray. AHAHAHAH. Oh well, I looked up, found a line, and rode it. Was it square? Nope. Was my horse straight? Yup! In case anyone wonders, May is really good at jumping fences at an angle only because I do this by accident A LOT.

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The bending to the five was fine, even though I made it extra bendy with my line to the pink. Right leg and all that jazz. I think when I did this one last time, we got 6 consistently so… go figure. (Just looked back, and yes, we got the six last time… I guess the hard ground and hotter weather really was making an impact.)

Anyway, we landed on our left lead, but then I did a magically thing that I didn’t even know I did until I re-watched the video (for the 10th time). I got a flying lead change. Out of May. On course. Oh and then epic-ally missed my distance, so no worries there. I still am who I am.

Then because I DEFINITELY am still who I am, I CHASED May down to the two strides because #Flashbacks. So it ended up being a bit short for her. Oops. The last five stride line was fine.

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So now we were supposed to do the second course again and finish on that. Hah. Advice this round? Just smooth it out. Make the turn to the pink better. Find the distances to the green panel better, and don’t chase her down the two stride. Cool.

Hah. Still missed to the green. Drifted HARD to the right on the blue and purple vertical. Fixed the turn to the pink tho! BUT SOMEHOW the five strides felt long now? I have no idea. This time I just pulled her off the lead up front and didn’t support with my leg. Fun fact, when you do that, your distances get crappy. Then, remember the whole don’t GALLOP down to the combination? I took that as “DEFINITELY PULL TO THE BASE.”

That… did not work. Luckily, my mare is clever and bailed me out. I pulled up at that point. Cantering on to the short five wasn’t going to prove anything other than the fact that I can continue to ride backwards.

So… no need to talk about that. Riding backwards is not the solution for chasing my horse. I got a reminder not to pull her off her leads, and I was sent back out to do it again.

And I FINALLY nailed the distance to that green panel. HAHA TAKE THAT! She took the rail to the blue and purple vertical. No real reason for it, but we did a lot of jumping. I think she was just getting a bit tired and flat on me. But… the five almost got SHORT here, so she jumped the blazes off of the oxer on the out. Oh which also magically got bigger. Funny how that happens 😉

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We got the best turn to the pink there. Balanced without a lot of fighting. Uh… and no I didn’t hear Mandy telling me I could go back to the purple and blue vertical. I had just COMPLETELY blanked on the fact that I had taken that rail down. Luckily, the rail had fallen into basically a ground line, so it rode fine.

But because I was really riding that right shoulder, we landed on our right lead. So we got the distance to the green panel AGAIN. WHOOT! This time, I just allowed her to move down to the combination and supported with my leg. (Shocker). I should’ve brought her back a TOUCH earlier for the red, white and blue, but she did come back. As a result, the five there finally rode fine. (Even if we were counter cantering and I was being bounced all over the place.)

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Did you all make it to the end? Cool. I guess I don’t usually go THIS IN DEPTH in my lessons, but I thought this was a good one to do it for. It all goes back to developing the canter I want early and maintaining it the whole course. May has gotten so adjustable now, that I sometimes get in trouble because I am trying to do too much. It’s looking like this will be our last SJ lesson before our show, and I am super happy with it.

It forced me to make a plan but also be flexible within that plan, and it reminded me to ride and trust that good canter and to STOP messing with it so much. Riding through anxiety is a special kind of skill, but I am pretty proud of my ability to do just that.

In case you missed the video from yesterday, I am plunking it down here for you all:

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Sometimes – We Spicy

May was FEELING her oats at our lesson this week. She’s been in pretty solid work lately, so I wonder if the other saddle really was causing her to suck back a bit. Either way, it made for an interesting jump lesson.

We started with a baby gymnastic. Short turn, three poles, vertical. Now if you all remember, this short turn is basically my nemesis. May is…. not a sports car and keeping impulsion, balance, and power steering is a forever kind of struggle. However, we got it going pretty well, and it really got her tuned into my outside aids. (you know… almost like it was built to do exactly that….)

It started low but eventually built up to the above. You can see May being a bit more resistant to my right hand, which really just felt like a symptom of her being super forward.

Look at those locked in ears!

Once we nailed that exercise, we moved onto a short course. Through the gymastic, up the pink, bending 6 strides to the liverpool, then down the diagonal in 5.

How’d it go? Fine… except that she just kind of ran past the distance to the yellow jump in the first part of the diagonal. Ooooook. Thanks mare. Mandy reminded me to, you know, maintain rhythm, and we moved onto a more complicated course.

Through the gymnastic, bending 4 to the red, white and blue vertical. (Yeah, that got a hairy eyeball from me, but rode great). Then, left turn to the pink, bending to the liverpool again. Then the yellow and around to the skinny blue “block”.

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Aiming for the base with these skinny/solid questions

Whew! Lots of related distances, turns, and different questions in a rather short course. The first time through, the first line rode GREAT. Then… we got in a bit of a disagreement TURNING to the pink. But I got her straight and she jumped the SNOT out of it from a longish distance.

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However, I made ZERO corrections going to the liverpool, and it rode in 5.25 strides. Cool. I made a BIG correction to the yellow, which felt ugly, but she jumped it ok.  Finally over the blue box, which rode easy peasy.

All the jumps stayed up (yay), but there was definitely room for improvement. As the saying goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I suddenly had a horse that was really thinking forward, and I had to be a bit faster and more decisive with my corrections to smooth things out. We did the same course again, and I am REALLY happy with it.

To my, the big difference between the video from yesterday and the video from March is how forward thinking May is and how decisive I am in my decisions. Is it perfect? Nah. I could nitpick every. single. fence. However, I had a plan, and I went out and executed that plan.

I am also SUPER happy with how confident May feels. Even just a few months ago, the higher height of the red white and blue and yellow jumps would have backed her off. Now, she is hunting down those fences without blowing past my half halt. (When used correctly and decisively).

Both videos are below, but let’s just say, I am super excited to get out in less than a month!

A Forward and Open Jumping Lesson

I should probably start this recap with full disclosure that Kentucky surprised us with second summer that day, AND I was riding in a new-to-me saddle. To break that down, KY went from 80 degree, beautiful fall-like days to a 99 degree day with 60% humidity… just in time for my lesson. Fun time.

As for the saddle, a friend of a friend is trying to sell her Barnsby Diablo saddle. When she mentioned it was an 18″ seat and a generous MW tree (that needs the flocking adjusted), I was semi curious. Then, I found out that it was already on the property that my trainer was at and… I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a try.

 

Awkward angle, but you get the idea. Much deeper seat with much larger blocks.

Again, the flocking needs to be changed to fit May, but I was fairly happy with the shape on her. Honestly, getting in a saddle like this was such a weird feeling. It is CUSHY and COMFORTABLE and has big blocks in it. So different from my fairly minimal Stubben. I warmed up quickly on the flat, just getting a feel for getting into and out of the new saddle. May seemed comfortable in it with no sucking back or crow hopping.

We warmed up over a very small vertical, just looping back and forth over it. Then we made it a big bigger and all seemed to be going well. The first exercise was the first jump of both my courses. It was an oxer set kind of awkwardly off the rail with a placement pole three strides out and then another on stride out.

At first, I was a bit like… ummm what? with this exercise. It just seemed really random. Then I rode it and oh hahaha ok. So the point of it was that  you really had to come FORWARD through the corner and maintain your own straightness to get the distance/line/jump. You couldn’t turn and then get straight because then you would miss to the first pole. You also couldn’t suck back and then go forward because of that pole. Man, this one really instilled the whole lesson in one little exercise. You have to love that.

Once we nailed that, it got put up a bit, and we went and did our first course. Again, we started with that oxer exercise then moved into a straight line then a bending line. Fairly standard stuff.

Things I did well… we are working on moving May more forward and open between jumps and then just regulating the balance and straightness too the jumps versus still trying to create energy as I jump into lines. Overall, I felt like this honestly gave me much better distances (except to the last fence, which I conveniently cut out from the insta video… gif just for you).

Things I could have done better… I struggle with not just getting out

of the saddle and cruising. Is this a weird thing? Like I get up… and then don’t know how to use my leg lol. I am not sure if this feeling is partially the saddle being so much more than what I am used to or if this is an ingrained habit. Something to work on.

Also, since I am jumping in with more impulsion. I don’t then need to CHASE her down the lines like I did over the last fence. If I had just maintained balance and rhythm, it would’ve ridden better. Oh well. Good horse.

The second course was similar, but we bent to the right after the pink and then did the liverpool the other way to finish up over the blue and purple oxer.

Not totally sure what was up with that first line… She went to fade right on me. I corrected and pulled her off the lead in front. Oh well, all is well that ends well. The yellow&orange and red,white&blue, jumps went up a bit, but they still rode great.

My line from pink to orange&yellow wasn’t maybe the best line, but after she blew me off turning to the pink, I really didnt want her to just keep falling through that right shoulder. That change set us up almost TOO well for the liverpool to oxer line…. since she moved off my right leg better than I was expecting and we faded left… making that line a bit long.

Honestly though? I was super happy with it. We feel more than ready for BN next month. As for the saddle? Jury is still out. I think it is better than what I have, but it doesn’t make my butt sing like the bliss monoflap did. That being said… it’s well within my current price range, AND I did feel more secure when things weren’t quite right… vs. feeling thrown out of the Stubben and having to scramble to get back into it. I would like a saddle fitter to see it before I make any decisions, for sure.

So lots of change this lesson, but I think we handled it really well. Do you feel like making changes in your riding/equipment leads to immediately improvement? Or does it just always feel kind of weird at first but better later?

Cue Internal Squeals of Joy

Typically, when I tack up for a jump lesson, I find myself battling some internal demons. It is usually a process of dragging myself to the barn and forcing myself to grab my jump bridle. Not because I don’t like jumping. Honestly, I LOVE IT. There is NOTHING better than the feeling after a great jump school.

However, I battle a lot of anxiety around jumping. Most days, that anxiety makes me want to run to Dressage. But then, last night happened.

Last night was the worst set up. I got stuck at work a half hour late (but have an amazing trainer who DIDN’T EVEN CONSIDER canceling on me….  is it too early to start thinking of Christmas gifts??). Then the pressure had me sporting an INCREDIBLE headache. When I finally got tacked up, it started down pouring. Annnnnd I forgot my regular jumping bit in my show trunk because I had switched to a gag bit for the hunter pace.

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Oh, and yes, that hunter pace IS the last time we jumped.

However, I am not sure if it was the combination of knowing we now have a show on the calendar, the cooler weather, or the brand new jumps in the arena… but I was DYING to jump. Luckily, Mandy was cool about waiting even LONGER to start my lesson as we waited out the rain storm. SO. SO. THANKFUL.

When we got out there, the footing was perfect, but all the jumps had that “shimmery” quality jumps get when they have water sitting on top of them near sunset. No big deal.

We warmed up through an exercise that focused on moving May off my inside leg and connected with my outside aids for canter/trot/canter transitions. This went mostly ok.

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You can see the puddle on these boxes

We warmed up over a small course that, honestly, went really well. I had a bit of trouble getting May really in front of my leg in the bigger bit (UGH), but figured it out by the end of the course and my second attempt was good.

Then, we moved onto a longer course. Single diagonal, triple line, skinny vertical, bending line to oxer, roll back, then sharp bending line to a vertical. WHEW! The first attempt was good. The second attempt tho, was EVEN BETTER.

Not only was the second attempt better, but the jumps were bigger. And you know what? I really wasn’t nervous. The entire lesson. No nerves. WHO AM I?

Are there things to fix? Of course. Am I going to get nervous in the future? Of course. But last night was FUN from start to finish. I might write a more in depth post about this lesson, but for now, I am just going to bask in my love for this little yellow horse.

Hunter Pace Fun

This Saturday practically the entire barn emptied out in order to attend a hunter pace put on by a local hunt group. The day was nearly perfect with temps in the mid 80s, sunshine, dry ground, a little bit of a breeze, and low humidity.

From last year, I knew that the course would be about 45 – 50 minutes long with a few water crossing and a bunch of jumps, almost all of which were jump-able for May and I. Last year, we lost a shoe, which kept us from jumping most things, but this year, my goal was to jump pretty much everything.

This year, I also remembered to grab my cambox! While I have the ENTIRE 45 minutes pace on video, I picked out a few clips that are, in my opinion, the most interesting. Eventually, I will get the whole video up on youtube, but that is a project for another weekend. I figure, as a result, it makes sense for this post to follow a similar highlights reel haha.

The start of the pace was a line of a few, smaller jumps, which I think everyone in my group easily popped over. Actually, now that I think about it, May was the least experiences horse in the group, as every other horse had gone at least Training. Oh well, she was the best as far as I am concerned. 😉

When we got to the first water crossing, I had a slight spike in nerves. Last year, May launched herself awkwardly over every water crossing. One of which ended up with the butt of my crop colliding with my lip and lower teeth… which of course left a GIANT bruise and a nearly busted lip. This year, I have a new set of head-shots scheduled at work on Thursday so… COULD NOT afford to have a busted face.

animated-5Luckily, all the work we have been doing with water obstacles seems to have paid off. May took a look at the water, decided where to put her feet, and then stepped carefully through the mud/water/rocks. Good girl!

One of the big elements of this hunter pace is this GIANT HILL coming out of the woods. You can see the video of it in the below instagram post. BUT what you can’t really tell is the fact that May’s ego got a bit bigger than her legs. Halfway up the hill, one of the teammates went to pass us on the OTTB she was riding. Normally, this makes total sense. Big OTTB has a huge gallop stride vs. May and May isn’t one to get pissy.

EXCEPT, this time, May decided she was going to RACE the nearly 17h OTTB. Halfway up the hill, she suddenly SUNK down and TOOK OFF. I took the audio off the video because it was literally just me HOWLING with laughter. Oh mare. ❤

The middle of the pace kind of went along similarly. Although, I could tell May got pretty frustrated towards the middle with the stop/go/stop/go rhythm we had. Luckily, my group was great so we took a nice long walk break in the middle and then spent most of the last few minutes just going forward.

In fact, so forward, that I jumped the biggest XC jump I have ever jumped on May… As we cantered towards the coup in the below video, I was convinced that it was only like BN height. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why two of our teammates were skipped it. I figured they just weren’t interested in jumping on the slight downhill. So I cantered down to it… and about the time the below GIF starts, I realized it was quite a bit bigger than I anticipated. In true adult amateur form, I proceeded to chip into it.

I later learned that it was about Novice height, but the downhill approach may make it more of a training level fence… go figure. May, as usual, couldn’t have cared less and thought all the jumping was great.

All in all, it was a SUPER fun day. I am hoping to get more media, so maybe you all will get a wordless Wednesday out of the rest of it.

Perfect Princess Pony

To start, May probably wasn’t a total perfect princess last night in our lesson, but she was still totally amazing. Also, I like alliteration. I only got to ride May once this weekend since my mom was in town for a visit. However, since I had someone with me on Saturday, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to work continue to work on the idea of May listening my cues regarding what lead to land on over fences without sacrificing our balance, rhythm, or straightness.

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Random old media

We popped over a few fences to warm up. Again, I just kept the emphasis on landing on the lead I was asking for, and she was really listening and getting into the “game”. I decided that we would go for pulling a little course together.

Then I jumped around a little course. After the first line, she landed on the left lead (her favorite), even though we were clearly turning right after it. I corrected her by moved her off my right leg before picking up the canter again. We popped over a little vertical over a liverpool to change directions. (Again, no issues landing on the left lead).

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Then, I decided to really test my correction. I jumped a vertical diagonal and then made right, bending line, to an oxer with the intention of turning right after the oxer. This did a couple of things. It gave May the opportunity to fall through her right shoulder while turning right, while also finishing at a jump that is square to the rail (i.e. could easily turn right OR left after).

And you know what? She landed on the right lead. So I gave her pats and let her be done with that.

So last night, I came out to my lesson with the plan of working on the same concept over a longer, more complicated course. (outside line, diagonal, bending line isn’t exactly a SJ course…) As always, Mandy did not disappoint.

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The first exercise was a gymnastic along the short side of the arena. It contained 4 rails as one stride bounces, an oxer, one stride to a last placing rail. Since it was set along the short side, you only really had one or two straight strides before the first pole and had to turn immediately after the placement pole after the jump. AND we came at the whole thing from our right lead.

The first time through? I kicked May past her point of balance and, while she fixed it because she’s awesome, it was not pretty. We came through again, and I figured out the right balance, while maintaining the forward. Like all my jumping, I had to really remember to move her right shoulder over coming around the turn to help us stay straight.

Mandy put the oxer up a bit, and we cruised through again. By this point, May had figured out the game, so it became my job to keep her as straight as possible. Even when I didn’t do the best job of that, she still landed on her right lead, so I felt pretty confident about our ability to bring that new still over to course work.

Our first course was over the liverpool, bending to the black oxer, right turn to the pink oxer, and around to the yellow line. There were a couple of bogies in this course. First, the liverpool was on the ground with no standards or anything over it, so it was a bit like riding a ditch. Fun fact, May could care less about ditches but always puts a HUGE effort over liverpools the first time she jumps them.

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5A and B we added in the second course. 

This time was no exception as she jumped a bit long with her knees around her eyeballs and even jumped us past our line a bit. As a result, I had to really contain the right shoulder and get her super straight to the oxer. We ended up a bit right of center but were straight as a pin, so it rode great.

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The left turn to the pink oxer was a hard turn for us. It was both away from home and a sharp left turn. I wrangled the right shoulder a bit late (when we were almost already out of the turn), and then didn’t have the impulsion I needed. I added leg, but the distance wasn’t there. HOWEVER, I am super happy that I made the decision to add leg vs. either making NO decision (my favorite) or pulling (also my favorite). May can get us out of most ugly situations as long as I ride forward.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t get our right lead over the pink oxer. I corrected it, and came down to the yellow line. Now, it is worth noting that the yellow line was deliberately set at 4.5 strides. I find that once you get above 4 strides, it becomes a bit of a choice on a horse like May regarding if you want to add or ride the forward stride. The first time to it, she jumped a bit under the oxer coming into it, and just lost her balance on the landing side, so I gave a fairly firm correction (deep seat, leg on, lifting hands).

It was the right call though, since the firm correction during the first 2 strides allowed me to soften into the last five strides. AND it left her in a good enough balance to land on the right lead. (on Saturday, this was the jump where she wanted to always land left). Not a perfect first course, but one where I made good decisions and May listened to me.

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At this point, Mandy got to listen to my word vomit about all the things I needed to do the next time. Seriously, I am not sure how that woman puts up with me. No matter how long-winded I get in my blog posts, trust me, I am WAY MORE rambly in person. However, here were my takeaways:

  • Keep my right leg on over my liverpool, so we don’t shoot past the line for the oxer.
  • Counter bend a bit BEFORE the turn to the pink so that I can wrangle that shoulder early and then ride forward through the corner.
  • I have a long ride from the pink to the yellow line, so make sure that, while i need to push her forward for a bit, I get the balance back BEFORE the oxer.

So we did it again, and I WISH I had video of it. (It kept raining on and off last night, so made it a bit hard to have the phones out.) This second time, though, we added in the purple line, which was a vertical, on stride, to an oxer off the right lead. This was set for a true one stride, so a bit open for May.

As expected, the liverpool jump was a bit more reasonable this time, so I got a better line to the oxer. I landed and checked in on that right shoulder before riding forward around the turn. I know you are all shocked to know that the pink rode super well when I did my job.

Again, she landed on the left lead after the pink. (UGH) However, this time I just kept the counter canter. She jumped MUCH better over the yellow oxer, and I saw the four strides being RIGHT there. So I just kept my shoulders back and my leg on, and it was easy peasy.

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I cut the right turn to the one stride. I KNOW I KNOW. BUT I did get SUPER straight to it on a nice open stride and May happily pinged through it. All the pats, all the cookies. Good girl! At that point, we decided to be done. It wasn’t a ton of jumping, but with a hunter pace this weekend, I wanted to keep it a bit on the lighter side.

Don’t worry though, Mandy got a solid 8 minutes of word vomit after that round too. Mostly about how I actually executed on my plan and how May actually listened to me and OMG isn’t she the BEST.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at. Right?

Riding Through the Ugly

It’s always interesting to compare how training is so different from showing. At shows, the goals is to keep all the rails in the cups (and do the million other things required to  make this one thing happen). However, in training, we sometimes need to correct the issues that sometimes pop up and cause those rails to go down. When I got May, the biggest issue was balance.

Then, we started trying to get more forward while maintaining this balance, and things fell apart for a while.

Then… we moved to KY hahaha. So this really didn’t get fixed for a while. Recently though, this balance and forward thing has REALLY been coming together.

However, when I was watching Mandy ride May last Tuesday, I realized that she was having to make some pretty clear corrections. Almost all of these corrections were keeping the straightness to the base of the jumps.

Go back, rewatch that last video. Do you see what I see? I see a rider who tries to get her horse straight coming out of the corner, and then about three strides away from the fence, just gets soft and let’s her horse get crooked. That rider is me hahaha. I don’t hold May to any real standard as we get to the base of the jumps, and many times, it costs us our balance over the fence and on the landing side. When the jumps get bigger, it gets even more obvious.

So when I showed up to my lesson on Tuesday, I asked for one thing: Teach me to make corrections to the base of fences even if it means an ugly jump. As I soften over those last three strides, I just invite May’s right shoulder over. Sooo we want to land on our left lead and fall a bit right through our turns after our fences. UGH

The lesson started out pretty conservatively. We went down the line near the seating area next to the ring that Mandy did last week. It was set on a short turn to an open 3 strides. So Mandy had us come in with more collected canter, get super straight, and stay straight and collected for four strides.

First time? A bit rough, as she popped her shoulder right over the first fence. Second time? She tried to blow through me and we got 3.5 strides. Third time? Finally nailed it in a soft and even four. Then we had to get it in three, and I sliced around the corner and made it all ugly and ugh. We finally nailed that though, and went out to do a course.

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Mandy clearly being more influential over fences than I am. 

The course had several jumps set off the short side of the arena, so you really had to square your turns, get straight, and be prepared for another square turn after. May though? She felt she had all the time in the world and could counter canter all the things. (We did A LOT Of jumping out of counter canter this week by pure default). We did the same vertical to oxer line Mandy did and then beant it to the three stride we warmed up through and… I COULD NOT nail this.

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Cute pic, but even here she is pushing through my right leg. 

I could not get the right lead over either of the jumps set off the short side. I kept pushing too much through the bending line to the oxer, almost getting 4 strides instead of 5 at one point, and I kept slicing the turn to the last line. At times, May threw her head up and had full meltdowns when I insisted that she not fall through her right shoulder. It was… not pretty, but I could feel the holes in our training. As a result, Mandy and I figured out a plan to fix them, complete with my own homework.

For now, the plan is to continue to work on her responsiveness on the flat and to add in smaller verticals or large crossrails and loop through them with straight approaches and lots of changes in direction.

Definitely not the jump lesson that leaves you on a high of confidence, but it was so necessary at this point.

The Horsey Part of the Equation

Last night, as I got changed at work for my lesson, I realized I was missing one of the most important part of my riding wardrobe… a sport bra. Damn… At first, I was debating what to do. Do I try to run home and get one, putting me half an hour behind schedule at LEAST? Do I ride without one?  Do I wrap my chest in a polo wrap?!

In the end, I realized that it was probably a great opportunity to give May another pro ride. While warm last night, there was a good breeze that kept it from being ungodly hot, and Mandy has set up a new course in the arena. On top of that, it has been more than two months since she has sat on my horse, and as we are looking at some bigger heights (for us), I wanted to get her opinion on where May’s confidence/ability really was.

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Lucky for me, Mandy was happy to hop on and put May through her paces. Of course… May first decided to try to run away as she was getting on… which was met with a reminder that, “unicorns don’t run away with their riders.” That got a quick correction, dismount, remount. And then… May proceeded to be pretty spicy warming up.

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Sassy Tail Swish

As a result, they started with an exercise that I have actually done quite a bit with May, but not in a while. They looped back and forth over a vertical with a placing pole 9.5′ behind the jump. The idea was two fold, get May to rock back over fences, and get her to take the cue on what lead to land on. The first few times, she tried to blow through the half half and required a solid halt and back, but then they got into a rhythm.

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They moved onto a full course, and honestly, May just popped around like she had jumped that course a thousand times. Was it perfect? No. Mandy puts a lot more pressure on May to be straight and adjustable (vs. me just trying to get out of the damn way). When May softened and listened, the jumps were smooth and easy. When she locked up like a donkey, the distances weren’t as nice.

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The left turn to this oxer apparently meant that outside aids and half halts meant nothing. 

Eventually, we pushed the yellow and black oxer up to closer to training height, as she was consistently nailing the bending five to that jump. Mandy wanted to give her a bit of confidence over a slightly bigger height without pushing her too much over a fence that they weren’t 100% agreeing on.

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You mean a left turn PAST the gate??

At the same time, Mandy also mentioned that she was going to jump the chevron. My response? “She’s never jumped the chevrons so… just steer.” Like… yes… my pro rider is definitely going to steer to the narrow chevron jump… Luckily, Mandy humors me and allows me to pretend like I am helpful.

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Mandy “You need to take off at the base.” May “Hold my beer”

The full video is below. Of course, the very first jump didn’t come up quite the way Mandy wanted it to. However, May still easily moved forward down the five line to the larger oxer and popped over it. The rest of the course went super well, so they just repeated the last line one more time, and they nailed it. You can see both courses at the bottom of this post, but I just had to share the last line they did.

Overall, I got some really good feedback from Mandy. She’s definitely not as finished as she needs to be to do a full course at Novice height. Mandy pointed out that she probably could get around, but it might rock her confidence, which is just so important. She said that, for right now, our goal should be to fix the straightness/balance issues at the height where May can “figure it out” when it goes wrong, and then move May up when she is a bit more reliable. However, it’s not that she has any difficulty with the Novice height, but we don’t want her to start feeling like her job is hard or not fun. I couldn’t agree more and am so thankful to have a pro that enjoys my “spicy dijon” pony.

Getting Comfortable with More Height

This lesson was a bit different than our usual lessons because we ended up doing a semi-private instead of a private lesson! The girl in the lesson before me jumps a bit bigger than I do on her horse, but when her horse lost a shoe while she was warming up yesterday, she ended up taking a catch ride on another friend’s horse (barefoot horses for the win).

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Since I was already pretty much tacked up, a bit behind schedule, and it was 90-something degrees out with humidity, I asked her if she wanted to share the lesson. Luckily, she said yes!

I gave May a super light warm up, since the heat really isn’t her friend. Then, the lesson started really simply. We just looped a figure 8 back and forth over two verticals. The idea was so keep the balance through the turn and get straight before the jumps. It was a good exercise to get me focused on managing that right shoulder.

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This face says it all. 

When we reversed the exercise, Mandy put the jumps up a bit. May and I are pretty comfortable with the whole 2’3″ to 2’6″ thing. However, this lesson ended up pushing a little over the upper end of that. Honestly, I think if it was a private, I would have chickened out.

Once we figured out our rhythm, balance, and straightness over the figure 8, we moved onto course work. We did the same course as last week, but we added the two stride combination to it.

Good thing this little mare is game…

Now, the set up of that two stride was REALLY hard for me. We jumped big over the corner… then I CHASED her to try to get 6 strides… which didn’t work… then I jumped up her neck… (enjoy the below pic)

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Can I say again how lucky I am to have this little mare?

Luckily, I have mostly fixed my historic reaction to this mistake. Not so long ago, I would have pulled to try to shove 3 strides into the two stride… Now, I kicked on and focused on getting her super straight. Guess what? We were able to jump out of it fine. I kept that rhythm around the rest of the course, and everything else worked out really well. The jumps I was the most concerned about (the corner and the triple bar) rode the best.

Then, we did the same course again. May, by this point, was hot and tired, so you can see her just kind of getting lazy with the verticals, but I was super happy with this course. Perfect? Nope, but I made the necessary changes and smoothed most of it out really well.

You can see the full video below:

When It Clicks – Jump Lesson Recap

Once again, I walked into a jump lesson feeling totally dumpy. Stress and hormones were taking their toll, and as I warmed up, I felt like my body was loose and unwieldy. Why couldn’t I sit in the saddle or put my leg on right or do anything right? The world may never know.

As usual, I debated about telling my trainer (can we just call her Mandy now?) that I wanted to keep it easy and simple and whatever. Also as usual, I didn’t. I took the hour of time to lay myself at her feet and let her do what she thought was best. Sometimes, that is oddly therapeutic.

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I finally managed to jump the middle 😉

Our first exercise was a classic… but something that I realized I had never done with May. We trotted into a 4 stride line. Halted, and then cantered out over a low, wide oxer. It got… better… but we never really nailed it. May think that whole idea is dumb. We should just jump the thing and then the other thing, no stopping needed. She did, however, jump the stuff out of the oxer EVERY TIME. Seriously, this is probably the best thing we have ever done to help strengthen her back end.

Since it was so hot (mid 80s with humidity and no breeze, yuck), we didn’t want to push things too much, so after doing the line exercise a few times, we moved onto a course.

Almost asked Mandy to make this one smaller/narrower…

The course was a short approach to the pink vertical, bending right to the oxer, loop left over the corner fence, long approach to another wide oxer, right turn over the plank vertical, then a long approach to the triple bar. I do not doubt that the reason both approached to the long oxer were off the left lead is because I tend to let May fade right on that lead.

This time though, I didn’t! For years, we have worked on getting the right balance and rhythm. Now? We are adding the straightness, and it is clearly making ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

I honestly got a bit lost going to the first jump, so I just put my leg on and got her straight. She jumped it great but a bit big… and I panicked and cut my turn to the oxer. It kind of surprised her, but she jumped the snot out of it.

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The left turn to the corner was great. We got a bit close, but I would rather do that then take a flyer to a corner. I kind of just let her coast around until we made the turn to the red black and white oxer. I really pushed her off my inside leg. While she was surprised by the slightly bigger height of it and tapped the rail, she landed on the right lead. Yay!

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Almost asked Mandy to make this one smaller/narrower…

I should’ve kept her moving through the corner but didn’t, so we had a bit of a long spot to the plank. The nice thing about the plank is it looks a bit more solid, so she jumped it night. Then the triple bar. Mandy specifically told me to just keep my leg on to it and DON’T PULL. So I didn’t I got her straight off my leg, kept my leg on, and she jumped it great!

So was it hoof perfect? Nope, but it was the best I have ridden a course on the first try in a LONG TIME… like maybe ever. And, it’s a long way from this Way Back Wednesday Post!

Since it was so good, we decided to just end on that. No point in making a pony tired when she just laid down a trip like that!