05.11.17 – Dressage Lesson: Sideways is the New Straight

During my first dressage lesson with my new trainer (NT), she was entirely focused on creating a steadier contact in the bridle. We worked on making the aids super clear and getting the back end properly engaged. That lesson was about 6 months ago. I am happy to report that May has become much steadier and more reliable in the contact.

As a result, it is time to move onto new things! More specifically, NT wanted us to work on gaining mobility through May’s body. In her words, “It’s a lot of horse, and you need to be able to move it with not a lot of work.” Fair enough.

The first exercise was to pick up a trot and trot down the rail in a straight line. However, I would want her head facing towards the wall and her hindquarters off the wall at about a 40 degree angle, like the below. (May is the yellow line)

Dressage Exercixe 1

It seems simple enough. The issue? As soon as I put my leg on, May threw her whole body weight into my leg. Making us look more like this:

Dressage Fail

My reaction? I immediately start messing with my hands, get tense in my seat, and take my leg off. This is also known as doing everything wrong at once, and as a result, causing additional problems like our inability to even travel in the proper direction… along the wall. This is where my trainer gets tough. To paraphrase her instructions, “if she resists your leg, you need to keep your leg, and possibly even get tougher WITH. YOUR. LEG. until she yields. Then release the pressure. DO. NOT. release that pressure until she gives and don’t block the rest of her body with her hands and seat.”

Well Yes. Ok. Let’s do that. Except at the walk. We started at the walk to give us enough time to get the desired response as well as to help give me the opportunity to property time the aids so they would be clearest to May. (I was trying to signal the outside hing leg to step over as it came off the ground.) After having a discussion with May about how she needs to yield to my leg. No it doesn’t mean throw your body into my leg. No its doesn’t mean faster. No it doesn’t mean backwards. She finally stepped over with her hind leg away from my leg.

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Shenanigans from another time 🙂

May got big pats and all pressure released. Then, we tried again at the trot. She had a much more appropriate reaction to my leg, and we were able to tale a few steps along the wall at an angle, straighten out, then move back to the angle again without any fuss. We tried it the other direction and has similarly good results. Smart Mare!

Once finishing the exercise, I noticed an immediate, positive shift in May’s response to my leg. Instead of nagging with my inside leg to get some resemblance of bend, I was able to just close my leg and she moved around it. Brilliant!

The next exercise took things a bit further… and into the canter. Canter leg yields have been notoriously hard for May and I. I find she just runs through my hand and half halts instead of actually moving over. This drill required us to start against the rail and leg yield off the rail to the center of the arena. NT asked me to keep her in a slight counter bend and allow her to lead with the shoulder. It looked like this:

Canter Leg Yield

Our first attempt was off of the left lead and was abysmal. May threw her head up, ran through my hand, and on the half halt, broke into the trot. UGLY. My trainer asked me to try again, but this time to really open the left (inside) rein to help her understand where her shoulder should go. It couldn’t be that simple right? It couldn’t be that my countless failures at leg yield at the canter could be solved by opening my rein.

It was… it was that simple though. We came around the corner, got straight, got the slight counter bend, and leg yielded over. We then came across and did it again. No issues. Well then, okay.

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We then switched to the right, which is May’s more difficult direction. so difficult in fact, that we didn’t even get a proper canter transition. NT wasn’t going to allow us to get away with that, so we came back onto a 20 meter circle and did a few more T/C transitions until they were clean and reliable. Then we tried the leg yielding. May leg yielded… she also threw her head around in the air as much as possible in protest. NT just had me keep my hands quiet and to continue to ask her to move over. Right now, we were just focusing on getting the correct response to my leg.

All in all, it was a great lesson that left both May and I tired and sweating. It also gave us a lot to work towards. Unfortunately, she came out a bit footsore in the left front on Sunday, so we ended up doing hill work on some softer footing than our current arena. (Due to copious amounts of heavy rain early in the month, our outdoor is quite hard now that it has dried out). However, the fields are quite nice right now, and in her hoof boots, May was comfortable.

Saddle Search Update:

The saddle fitter came back and recommended a Black Country, since I told her in no uncertain terms that $5K was out of my budget. She told me specifically that I need to make sure any saddle I try has upswept panels in order for an 18″ to fit on May’s back. This is actually a great article (for arabians but on the issues I am having).

I have a used Black Country I may be interested in, but I am taking a Duett Bravo jumping saddle on trial to check it out. Thus far, the team at Duett has been helpful and responsive, so here is hoping it works out!

Why I Need Lessons

Since moving to KY, May and I had been able to fit in/afford 1 jumping lesson in the Fall and 2 Dressage lessons (1 in the Fall and one in early Spring). That is, until last week when we had our second jumping lesson ever with my new trainer and the first jumping lesson in pretty much 6 months.

But let’s backup first. I was putting a bit of pressure on myself before my lesson to increase height, difficulty, and length of our jumping sessions on our own. Luckily, the first weekend of April there was a clinic at my barn, so the jumps were moved all over the place in a way that promoted a lot of turning and related distances. Also luckily, my awesome fiance was there to take video. I figured I could watch myself after and figure out where my problem areas are.

 


There were some awesome moments where May stayed soft and light and practically jumped me out of the tack. I even left the oxer at a pretty decent height and a good width to force us to really jump it. Looking back now, I think it was the first oxer we did all season. Oh well, it went fine. 🙂

However, turning and finding jumps has always been a pretty good skill for me. Sure I miss, but I am usually just added on a 3/4 stride or leaving a tiny chip out. The long approach to a jump has always been my nemesis though. I just want to do SOMETHING, so I usually end up doing the WRONG thing. Does anyone else do this? Anyway, I was riding to the oxer off the long approach, and I Could. Not. Find. My. Distance. Below is the video. Can you tell what I did wrong?

 

 

Our pace wasn’t changing around the corner, she wasn’t losing her balance, and I was really looking past the jump and not pulling. I was, however, forcing her to keep her balance. Buuuuut I didn’t keep my leg on, and we didn’t have enough power from behind. It becomes really obvious in the video between the 12 and 13 second marks, where you can CLEARLY see her fall behind my leg… Damn…

I reviewed the footage and decided came back to jump again on Sunday. Jumping back to back like that is rarely my plan, but I figured we would pop over just a few fences. I didn’t mean for it to be literally a few fences. I think we jumped a total of 3 fences. She was tired and just not into it. I figured it wasn’t a big deal, and I would give her Monday off for my birthday. (I need to do a post on all my horsey-related birthday gifts!)

 


Then I had a very, very early morning for work on Tuesday and started feeling sick. Ok fine, I went to bed early on Tuesday… then had to travel a bit for work on Wednesday. That’s fine though. I can power through. I didn’t power through. I went to bed at 8:30PM on Wednesday. Thursday was my lesson. May hadn’t been ridden in 3 days. How was she? A bit spicey, but mostly perfect. Of Course. 🙂

What did we work on? Well… going forward and turning. First turning, which involved jumping a single, low jump on a 20 meter circle. Then jumping a small jump and making a tight roll back to an oxer. All of that went fairly well. Then we put together a small course, which involved this:

Our first corner. I had ridden some VERY small corners before, but nothing quite this wide, and definitely nothing that had been made narrower by a tree… My trainer asked how she was with corners. I told her she had never really done one, but she would be fine. We then got a short lecture on how to ride a corner:

  1. Stay straight
  2. Ride as if there were a pole in the middle that you were trying to jump straight across
  3. Keep my outside leg on and keep control of the outside corner
  4. Don’t push too far in the middle
  5. Controlled but forward and “bouncy” canter

Ok. Sounds good. Let’s try it. We did the rest of the course fairly well, came around to the corner and… never got straight. I mean this was the longest approach ever. Maybe 15 strides from the last jump and this one, and we rode the whole thing with her left shoulder popped to the outside. Better yet, while trying to correct this, I ended up pulling all the way to the base of the jump. We got there with no impulsion and on a half step.

May’s reaction? Ignore mom and jump the damn thing anyway. Needless to say, my trainer agreed with me that she is good about corners. However, what we were not good about was getting the strides. Remember that trot in/canter out in 4 strides jump line from earlier in the week?

Well apparently, we really like doing it in 4 strides… even when it is going the other direction and a vertical to an oxer. No surprise, but trainer found this unacceptable. She reminded me that we should be getting the strides as not doing them was leaving us a bit under powered (see video above of us being under powered and practically eating an oxer). Then she said, “unless you think she can’t make the horse strides.”

“Oh… oh… No. She can make them.” And just like that – foot in my mouth. Now I had to get the strides right. First attempt was just to get her in front of my leg and let her flow through it. We got 3.1 strides and demolished the oxer. Front pole, back pole, got them both. It was an accomplishment in a weird way. It also took a lot of pressure off. Like ok, I had made my first BIG mistake in front of my new trainer, and she wasn’t upset. Just told me to add more leg this time. Luckily, one of my fellow boarders apparently had faith in me, because she took this video:

 


Was it perfect? Not at all. Did we commit and execute though? Yes, and that is a big thing for us. Since she was then a bit spicey, my trainer asked us to jump a skinny in the middle of the ring off our right lead (the same lead we just did the line on). May was… not having it. She started throwing her heard around and sucking behind my leg.

In a weird way, I was so happy to have this argument with May in front of my trainer. I have been struggling with her randomly pulling this stunt for a couple of months now. I wish I had video of it. Basically, she starts flinging her head around so there is 0 contact with the bit and then sucks back almost to a stop. I had been solving it by sending her really forward, like spurs in sides forward. This was, and still is, the correct reaction, but my trainer took it a step forward.

She recognized that our issue wasn’t really with going forward – it was with the transition between going forward, coming back, and going forward again. In that serious of adjustments, she was building up this big resistance. Why? Mostly because we hadn’t really been practicing it outside our jumping.

Fun Fact: The worst time to practice something is when there is additional pressure. Aka – don’t try to put flying changes on a horse at a show, don’t try to teach a horse to tie on the 4th of July, and don’t try to teach adjustability in the middle of a jump course. Those skills should already be installed because taking them to a more advanced level.


However, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Instead, my trainer had us practice coming forward and coming back at the canter for a couple of circles before asking us to take the skinny jump again. May popped over it without a fuss. Then it was back to the corner. This time, I rode aggressively and definitively. I pushed to the jump, and we took a big, XC style step to it and over it. May got lots of pats both from me and from my trainer.

It felt good to come away with homework and solutions. I can’t wait until our next lesson! Heaven knows, I need them!

03.26.17 – Dressage Lesson

Our first lesson since December, and as usual, it came with a few stupid epiphanies. I would even say it was riddled with stupid epiphanies. They started AS SOON as May and I started walking. That’s right. I couldn’t walk right.

Over the winter, we have worked a lot of May’s connection in the bridle being more steady. (aka – less head wagging, looking up to see what’s going on outside the arena, and truly engaging the hind end) All of this was actually very much improved and my trainer was impressed (yay!). What she was not impressed with was my new found love of pushing May past her point of balance.

May is not a big, fancy, expressive mover. She moves correctly, especially when fully engaged, but she’s not a horse that is ever going to have a massive walk stride. My solution? Just keep pushing… all the way past her balance. As a result, she get a forward but oddly stumbly and uneven walk. Literally my trainers words were, the bottom of the pyramid is rhythm, and you don’t have it. Well damn. So I sat in the saddle, quieted my hands and legs, and we immediately found a better walk. Alright, I got that.

Then we were asked to halt, and May’s head came up, she braced against me, and she stopped. So we proceeded to work on the walk/halt transitions. I would ask May to halt, and if she came off the contact, I would send her forward again… for about 10 minutes. Below is some of it. I was reminded that it might take 700 tries, but that on the 700th try, it would be great.

We finally got a halfway decent walk, so we moved into the trot. In an effort to keep May on the contact, I was keeping her too keep in the contact, and she was falling behind the vertical. Luckily, May is, surprisingly, not a horse that loves being behind the vertical, so this was as easy as engaging my seat and lifting my hands. We did a few W/T/W transitions, but those were significantly better than the W/H/W transitions, so we didn’t dwell on them. We made some tweaks to how much bend I was asking for, but most of the trot work was just fine tuning, which was nice. We kept the tempo and energy slow to make our adjustments, so it’s definitely not the nicest looking trot May can muster, but it’s a great one for building strength and fine tuning our connection, rhythm, and balance.


Then we went to canter. Before we cantered, I was told to sit the trot… We ended up cantering one circle, and sitting the trot for 15 minutes. I will fully admit that I do not sit the trot often. I am not great at it, and I am not light enough to be bouncing all over my horses back. However, my trainer had a good point. My horse does have a strong back, I need to have a sit-trot in my arsenal for training, and it won’t get better by ignoring it.


I do what I believe most people do at the sit trot: I sit fine until I get unbalanced, then I try to correct with strength. The result is, I get stiffer and the sit trot get worse. The solution? For me, it’s to just keep moving my hips. Sometimes I am with the motion, and it works. Other times, I am not with the motion, but it is still better than being stiff. My trainer talked about how our bodies have the ability to rotate our hips in basically any direction except straight up and straight down, which is when we bounce. I am sure you see her in the video moving her hips around, attempting to inspire me. She is definitely the kind of trainer that rides “with” you!

Overall, it was a really good lesson. My new trainer (NT) teaches in a vastly different manner than my old one (OT). It’s almost the difference between having a task-based job, and an project-based job. In the former, you are assigned specific, short-term tasks with deadlines and a good deal of oversight. In a latter, however, you are given the overarching goal and are responsible for setting up your own tasks and deadlines to complete the project. Does that make any sense, whatsoever?

Basically The Best Pony Ever

Basically, if May started losing her rhythm with my OT, I would get very specific instruction on the timing of lifting this rein and applying this leg and changing my seat here. With my NT, she points out that we are losing our rhythm. It’s not that she doesn’t help me correct things more specifically, but she forces me to think about how I can solve a problem, rather than me simply following a set of directions to get a specific result. It is mentally exhausting, but I can already see the impact it is having on our rides outside of lesson.

Which do you prefer? Trainers that walk you through every step of your ride, or trainers that force you to come up with your solutions.

 

2016 – A Review

There are few years I can think of that have had a larger impact on my life than 2016. Maybe 1990 🙂

The year started off fairly slow with January consisting of trail rides, bareback rides, and a trip to the fiance’s hometown in Kansas. However, maybe January was just the perfect synopsis of the rest of the year – a big of downtown surrounded by the farthest trip West I have ever gone.

trail.jpg

February got a bit more exciting. I got engaged on the 3rd… in the barn of course! Then, not even two weeks later, I participated in a clinic with Marilyn Payne… by far the biggest name I have ever ridden with. And I proceeded to fall off, and then actually start riding.

March saw us start to get serious about the upcoming season. Jumps got bigger and I started this blog! We also had our first cross country schooling of the year, where May was a touch wild but completely game. My confidence wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but I had recovered quite a bit from falling off in front of Marilyn.

April consisted of my birthday and my (and May’s) first Beginner Novice horse trial! We completed with a rail and a stop at the water on XC, but after having to convince our trainer to let us try it, I couldn’t have been happier with the result.

Early May marked one year with May, and I still can’t believe how far we’ve come! The end of May marked a new goal with our (both of our) first recognized horse trial! We were second after Dressage and clear XC, but added penalties in stadium to land us 7th out of 10. It was a lesson in humility where I worked on my ability to leave my mistakes behind. The very next week, we got another opportunity, as we ran BN at a schooling horse trial. While the jumps were significantly smaller, I was very proud of my ability to just. keep. riding. We got our best Dressage score of the year (which was perhaps a bit generous) and ended up third. Best of all, our team took home first place and some prizes!

June allowed things to slow down a bit, as my trainer was now nearing the birth of her first child. However, we did get to participate in a clinic with Meg Kepferle. May put on her sassy pants for that one, but I am still happy with how we performed. It definitely put a few extra tools in our toolbox!

We spent our Fourth of July on the longest trail ride we have ever taken! We also got amazing engagement photos taken by Tav Images Photography!

August opened up hot and we spent some time on our Dressage work before getting back to jumping! However some uncharacteristic unevenness behind made us decide that it was time to call out the vet and get some hock injections.

September was very slow as May recovered and my fiance and I faced some life changing decisions, but, by the end of the month. I was able to share the news. We were moving to Kentucky! Early in October, we officially moved. By the end of the month, we were able to have our first jumping lesson, where I jumped more than I had since our first clinic with Meg.

In early November, I found a new job and was able to start putting money back into the pony piggy-bank. Then in December, we had our first Dressage lesson with the new trainer.

It was a crazy year full of new experiences and adventures. Looking back at it all is a bit exhausting, so I am so happy with how far we have come… both in and out of the ring. Here’s to an even better 2017!

Ask for 100% and Reward 100%

The title of this post could also just be called “dressage”.

I finally got around to scheduling a Dressage lesson. Unfortunately, it will likely be our last lesson until the Spring since my trainer will be off to warmer weather soon. However, it was a truly eye opening 30 minutes. I am still very new to Dressage, having converted over to the eventing world only a couple of years ago.

 

See? Hunter Princess

 

In my first Dressage lesson ever, my trainer at the time asked me to put the horse on the bit. I did a wonderful job of creating a “hunter-frame”. You know, with the nose poked out and big loops in the reins? Every time the horse took contact and offered even slightest resemblance of pushing from behind, I gave. The very smart appaloosa I was on learned that if he sort of held it together, I would totally leave him alone. Then my trainer said, you want 5lbs of weight in each hand.

 

He knew he was smarter than me

Wait… what? This resulting in (for the first time in many years) me being pulled into the middle of the arena so that my trainer could physically explain to me what she was talking about. She stood in front of the horse, took each rein in each of her hands and pulled against my hands. Then she said, “There. That is what you should feel.” Turns out, it only gets more complicated from there!

 

Overall, however, that habit of taking a small effort and giving it a big reward has continued to plague my Dressage career.

My most-recent lesson started as soon as I began walking in a 20M circle around my trainer. She told me that May, being a fully matured horse, should have no problem staying “in the box” that I assign her. May is not a spooky horse, but she loves to know what is going on around her. She will try to look through the farriers tools, peek into people’s car windows, and watch things off in the distance that you and I can not even make out. Since she isn’t spooky, I have never really addressed her lookiness. However, I quickly realized how allowing her to pick up her head and looks at things has become an evasion tactic that she uses anytime work gets hard.


Once we had her attention fully on the work we were doing, my trainer asked us to do a couple of turns on the forehand. While we have worked on turn on the haunches a few times, we have never tried turn on the forehands. This has more to do with the fact that we are always working on getting May off of her forehand and onto her hind end, so doing a change on the forehand always seemed counter intuitive. Until we tried this exercise… and I realized she didn’t know the aids for moving her hind end over as an independent part of her body… Whoops…

Off of my right leg, we had no issues and she swung around like a champ. Off the left leg… not so much. She would either blow through my rein aids and go forward or she would go backward. My trainer had me “reset” her back to the place we started each time. Finally, we took a break and walked a lap. Then my trainer explained that she just seemed confused. So she asked me to take my right leg completely off of her. I did that and voila, we got a few good steps off my left leg! Definitely putting that on my list of things to work on.

Finally, it was time to trot. And trot we did. Again, I was reminded to keep May “in her box”. Once that was established, we were able to push her forward into the contact and engaging the hind end. I could actually see the muscles in the top of her neck and to her withers working, as opposed to her dropping behind the vertical and falling on her forehand. It was truly the opposite of what we had been doing: avoiding momentum in favor of balance. By giving her somewhere to go and pushing her forward, she found her own balance and suddenly had a lot more power.

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Old Picture… same dressagey goals
However, my hands wanted to revert back to pre-Dressage days: pick until you get 75% of what you are looking for then drop all contact. My trainer told me to be 100% clear with what I wanted, even if it meant getting stronger with my aids, and then giving 100% with my inside hand when I got what I wanted. Slowly, May would revert to an outside bend or lose the impulsion, but when that happened, I asked again, 100% clear. I was fairly good at this to the left but AWFUL to the right. To the point where my trainer had me hold my hand right out like I was handing someone something (I joked that I was envisioning handing her a check. I am glad she laughed).
After doing this a few times, I found May holding the contact with my outside (left) rein a lot better. My trainer said I was a great rider, as I could clearly feel when it was right and could reward immediately. That made me feel great because sometimes i manage to convince myself that I am completely numb… but I probably just need lessons to enforce what I feel… like everyone else other than George Morris who rides horses.

Now, for the canter. The canter is by far our hardest gait. It’s not that May has a bad canter, in fact my trainer commented on how correct all of her gaits are. It’s more that there are so many ways for her to escape holding herself correctly and she takes advantage of them all. Her favorite is to pull me off balance, then she’s off balance, and it is quite hard to correct without going back to the trot, regrouping, and cantering again. Of course, trainer immediately caught onto this. She told me to lengthen my reins and sit back. Then, to pull my elbows back to the point where she could have stuck a stick between the crook of my elbows and my back. And THEN try to get May connected. Oh man. That was hard.

 

At least, we’ve had some improvement…

I eventually, kind of sort of got it, but I don’t feel like I ever truly got May “connected” in the canter. My trainer recommended practicing that seat until I sit better. She also recommended I lengthen my stirrups a hole or two (or even take them off altogether). Definitely something to work on so we can have more success at it next time.

 

Unfortunately, with the cold weather, I haven’t been able to get a ton of new media. Maybe once it warms up a bit, I can convince my better half to come take some new video / pictures for you all.

10.28.16 – Jump Lesson

A couple of weeks ago, I did something incredible. I had an actual, honest to goodness, jumping lesson! I had spoken to my new trainer about lesson for a couple of weeks, and we were finally able to coordinate a time. (a time where I didn’t have a photographer, so there are some old pictures in here)

 

Originally, I was going to opt to do a Dressage lesson. I figured it would give us a chance to get to know one another while still giving her a feel for where May and I are in the process. However, at the end of the day, no matter how much it scares me, I love to jump my horse. The feeling after jumping around a great course is positively euphoric. So without telling anyone about it first, I threw on my jumping saddle and my figure eight noseband, and I walked out to the jumping arena.

To give you some perspective, I had jumped May once before this lesson. And it was over nothing higher than 2’ (ok maybe the oxer was 2’3”). I had jumped May before this to just to see where her head was at, and she was perfectly calm and listened reasonably well. I think that is what got it in my head that I should jump for this lesson. My horse was in a good place, and at some point, you have to just trust a trainer. Even if they’re new to you.

 

I was warmed up and ready to go before my lesson officially began. To start the lesson, my trainer had me do a few trot to canter transitions on a 20 M circle. We then stopped and she spoke about the importance of having a solid base when riding and especially jumping. She gave me a couple of exercises to help me work on strengthening my base. She didn’t say it was awful, but she did say she is a stickler for it. And heaven knows, we could all use work on the strength of our base.*

She also asked if I would mind shortening my stirrups a hole. Techically, they were where they should be, but she noted that May’s conformation needed me to ride with a  slightly shorter stirrup. I let her shorten my stirrups and I told her that I am not committed to really anything I can doing right now except for riding this horse. I think she might have thought I was joking. Either way, she told me May was very cute.

 

We then started jumping. The first exercise was one my trainer said she likes to use a lot. It’s a 20M circle with a low vertical at one point on the circle. She calls it the “Circle of Love” (as opposed to the Circle of Death). It’s one of those deceptively easy exercises that gets harder the more you try to do other than just riding. To the right, my crookedness came in bigtime. I kept collapsing my left shoulder in towards my right hip (yeah, it’s that bad) instead of opening my shoulders and my spine. We worked on it for a  few rounds before switching to the left, which was pretty much perfect.

We discussed how my crookedness made it more difficult for us to stay balanced on a circle. I was told to ride while concentrating on keeping my spike in line with May’s. This is kind of hard with May, as I am not sure she has a spine under all that fluff… How about keeping my spine in line with her dorsal stripe? I can do that.

 

The next exercise was another deceptively easy one. Canter on the right lead over a single vertical on the diagonal. The vertical was set to about 2’3” at the time. I had a SLOW canter coming around the corner, so May opened up the last few strides. We were told to adjust to that we start strong around the corner and then balance up to the base of the jump. Fun Fact: We are AWFUL at that. Perhaps it got a big better, but the trainer noticed a bigger issue. May was throwing her whole shoulder through my right leg and hand over the fence. The Result? We ended up incredibly crooked on the landing.

She had me fix it by keeping a connection with my hand and leg all the way over the jump: approach, base, jump, landing, exit. She even drew a circle in the middle of the landing side of the jump and told me to land her there. Our first attempt I ended up all of 6” farther to the left of my first attempt. My trainer noted the improvement and told me to try again. The second time, May figured it out. She landed dead center in the circle and was so balanced I could easily circle to the left after the fence.

 

We then did the same exercise off the left lead, where she was considerably straighter. The vertical got raised to a 2’6” effort and we did it a couple more times. Then we got our first mini course, the vertical off the left lead, to a fan oxer (our first one ever!) then a bending line to a different vertical (the first part of this line just backwards). We were given a specific line to follow and nailed it! I did notice something though. I was being asked to ride WAY more forward than I have previously and was a touch uncomfortable. May, however, was hitting every distance spot on and was listening, so I figured we would try to embrace it. Again, however, we found ourselves moving into the trap of going slow around corners and then opening our stride to fences. Something to work on.

 

Then I was asked if May has done a bunch of gymnastics. And I said yes. So I was told our first course. The course started with three x-rails set 21’ apart each, so one stride in-between each. Then we came down the oxer on the diagonal. From the right lead, we picked up the neon and black box. We had a long loop around to the two stride before finishing up over the white oxer.

course3

1. Crossrail Gymnastic

2. Oxer

3. Neon & Blue Box

4. Two Stride

5. White Oxer

(Not on Course, but Jumped!)

A. Green Vertical

B. Fan Oxer

Every time I took my foot off the gas, I got a loud “CANTER!” So I rode forward. And guess what? Pretty much every fence came up in stride. The only issue I had was getting a bit unbalanced after the two stride and not getting the change before the white oxer. We redid that exercise, forcing May to come back with my half halt, but I still botched the distance to the white oxer because I lost my pace in the corner. Again, it’s something to work on. But overall? I am SO proud of May and I. We came out and performed like a real team, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

*  Unless you’re Michael Jung or Beezie Madden. Then you’re perfect.

 

Finally – Jumping Lesson

After our Dressage lesson, I had originally planned to spend the rest of week getting accustomed to some jumping again. I was going to focus on rhythm and impulsion over crossrails and small verticals (maybe 2’ max). Instead, I showed up on Saturday and my trainer asked if I wanted to join the weekly group jumping lesson. I was about 45 minutes early for it. My initial reaction was to tell her we weren’t ready for it. Instead, I asked her if it would be easy. She said it would be everyone’s first jumping lesson back, so I agreed to do it.

I am super happy I did.

 

The lesson started out with a quick flat warmup, asking us to get our horses thinking of moving forward and light. May and I are getting to be experts at this one. (Finally. This is hours and hours of just asking her not to run around on her forehand.) Then, we started with cantering through a set of poles to the right, getting the correct 6 strides, then adding for 7, then opening for 5. May was able to do the 6 and the 7 without any issues. The 5 was pretty elusive for us, as she doesn’t have a very big stride, so we ended with a 5.25 strides and called that close enough.

 

When we went to the left, we just asked for the regular 6 strides, since we were coming toward home. The first time through I over corrected for the change in direction and we got 6.25 strides. Then, I pushed through the line and got 5.75. My trainer and I got a bit of a laugh out of this, as I definitely have a more adjustable horse than I had last time I jumped.

 

Then, it was time to begin jumping. The goal of today was to make sure that everyone had breaks and had a positive experience (horses and riders). So we put up the first part of the line to a small vertical. We were asked to trot in and halt. May was actually really, really good about this. See below:

 

See? Not kidding. Really good. Which was great because the next step was to trot in, halt, and then trot out of the line. May was lazy off my leg and the small verticals didn’t entice her to try. Everyone tried this, but May and I didn’t have to try it again. The next time through, we had to canter into the line and canter out in the 6 strides then halt. How was May? Perfect again…

 


Oooook. So everything just kind of kept going really, really well. We did the one stride and halted without an issue.

 

Next up was the roll top then three strides to the pink vertical. This is not an easy exercise for May and I. May tends to fall out through her left shoulder and this was a left turn past the in-gate. As a result, we got crooked into the line and ended up doing 4 strides a couple of times. Finally, I figured out how to keep contact with my right rein and pushed my right spur (soft touch spurs) into her rib cage of the fence. And Voila! We got the 3 strides.

 

Then, we jumped the skinny to the Liverpool in 4 strides. This is the point May started to get tired. Can you tell? I can because all of a sudden her nice steady head start flinging around like she’s in a rock band. It’s her way of fighting me because she wants to drop back onto her forehand. Solution? Fitness. Fitness. Fitness.

 

From there, we added a 5-stride bending line from the first part of the outside line to the coupe. This was an awkward line, as you had to go almost a full 4 strides straight before turning to the coupe. Of course, that is also a jump that has no standards or wings, so you have to be pretty spot on with your steering. If you all remember, May and I have a history with this jump and May thinking that it was a stupid idea to jump it. Now though, she seems to have gotten over it, and she jumped it great. Our line was wonky and we got 6 strides. I landed and let my reins slip through my fingers and let her stretch down, and got told to put knots in my reins so I stop doing that and to do it again.

 

So here I am, in my mid-20s, knotting my reins so that I stop letting them slip through as soon as I finish an exercise. The next time through, we found the proper line and had no issues getting the 5 or making it over the coupe. I had no issues with letting my reins run through my fingers at the end, and we watched as others gave the line a go. For the most part, it was the same. Everyone had an awkward first attempt but found the first line on the second try.

 

Finally, it was time to string the whole thing together. Below is what the course looked like: (1. Purple Vertical, 2. Barrels, 3a. block oxer, 3b. America Vertical, 4a. Roll top, 4b. Pink Vertical, 5. Teal skinny, 6. Liverpool, 7. Purple Vertical, 8. Coupe)

Course.JPG

I also have video of how it went! For our first time back jumping, and the end of an hour long lesson, I am really happy with how I rode and how May listened.

May was tired and fought me a bit on staying light. In an (entirely misguided) effort to keep her light, I held onto my right rein entirely too much. By the end she was popping her whole shoulder through my right rein and leg (because endless nagging doesn’t make a soft horse). As a result, the bending line at the end ended up being a super direct line, and we got 4.25 strides. It was an ugly chip and May was exhausted, but I still see a lot of positives.

 

I think once we get the fitness back, May is going to be a super easy ride. We are able to start courses with the same forward rhythm as we are ending them on and the lightness of May’s forehand is allowing her to start finding her own spots without a whole lot of input from me other than maintaining the rhythm and the impulsion.

My #wcw everyday #may #eventing

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

Things to work on include getting May to supple more on her right side. Again – as she gets tired, she gets disproportionately heavy on that side, which I am about 90% sure is the result of my weaknesses on that side. I also want to get May really fit again. My trainer suggested some interval training routines for us and recommended utilizing poles more in our flatwork. Of course, hill work is always encouraged.