Friday, August 28, 2015

Lesson Recap

To fill the gaps between Candy's retirement (who is pleased as punch his daily routine is now a 30 minute grooming session and handfuls of peppermints), and a potential new baby (who knows...), I figure I will start recapping my lessons to track progress!

My trainer, H,'s goal has been to put me on as many re-training/green/quirky/generally difficult horses as she can that fit my one caveat: no stops. I am still working on confidence over fences, and while it's definitely there and coming back, I just don't want to ride a stopper anymore. Been there, done that for 10 years, have the T-shirt, and the injuries to show for it.

So yesterday, I rode a fat, sassy mare named Lexie. She was a former eventer, now turned jumper, who just finished working at a riding therapy camp for the summer. Oddly enough, despite being totally chill at the walk, she is hot at the trot, canter, and over fences, and has a slight reputation for scaring other lesson kids because she likes to take off, speed up, and shake her head (sound familiar? I think it sounds familiar...).

I. Had. A. Blast. Yes, we had a few moments where I'm still trying to re-learn how to be soft and giving with my hands and ride strictly off my legs, but overall, it not only was a great riding experience and tune up ride for Lexie, it was an excellent tune up ride for me to stay still, forward, and confident.

We started out with 2 laps at the trot both directions, then did the same for the canter. She's out of shape, it was hot out, and I'm a wimp, so H didn't want either of us to get worn out during the warm up. I spent our brief warm up playing with her to figure out how much contact she preferred, which seat she preferred at the canter, and how to keep her bent and collected. I could tell she's very willing to work in a frame and push from behind, but not strong enough to keep it for a long time. I also spent a lot of time focusing on maintain 3 point contact, but still staying light in the saddle. I tend to prefer a half seat after riding Sawyer, but for jumpers, I will switch to a 3 point since I feel I can offer better support for turns and more "oomph" for collection. My half seat kind of "fakes" actually being light and supportive, and I get perchy instinctively, so it will just take time for my deep, light seat to come back.

Then we started on jumps. Just a small cross-rail away from the barn on the short diagonal followed by a straight halt because she tends to rush 3 strides out and take off on the other side, and I'm sometimes a useless lump of potatoes. First attempt, she was not rushing at all; very collected to the fence, a little quick on the other side, but I halted incredibly crooked and used my hands more than my half halt and seat to slow and stop the movement. The next 2 approaches were significantly better, with me focusing on keep her collected to the base of the fence, and sitting tall and still on the other side. Halts still need work, but they were there and they were better.

After we jumped the cross-rail, we added a small 18" 6 stride line; again, focusing on keeping Lexie slow and contained, and me focusing on not being a dingus, and not being over-dramatic in my 2-point. H left it up to me to do either a trot approach to every fence or keep the canter if it was nice and quiet. The line rode really nicely so we added a low 18" bending line as well. The bending line gave me a bit of trouble because Lexie had an inclination to swing her hind out on the approach, so the second time I made sure to support with my outside rein, and keep a stronger outside leg. As we went, she got increasingly frustrated that I was telling her what to do and dictating the pace, which lead to increasing amounts of head flipping and "stalling out" in corners. I remedied that by bringing her back down to the trot, circling, and, once she was settled, approaching the jump again. I'm sure it didn't help that as I got more tired, I became less supportive with my leg, used less half-halting through my abdomen, and more hand; some of my current bad habits are strength related, so I really need to up my overall workout routine. Unfortunately, on our last course, on my approach to the bending line, I changed pace after the corner and was left with a long spot or burying Lexie; I usually gun for the long spot out of habit because Candy needed that extra motivation to chip and clear the jump. Luckily, Lexie took the long spot in stride; I got left behind a little bit, and had to collect and change pace on the fly in the middle of the bending line, which lead to an especially sassy second jump.

H said I rode her well, and offered to let me hack her whenever I wanted to help get her back in shape, and remind her to behave. H also told me I definitely have a type: I am a jumper, and I love the quirky ones, and that I don't seem to have an electric seat when it comes to hot horses.

Overall, I was really pleased. My muscle memory is coming back, and I feel like rehabbing Candy has really been an exercise in patience. I'm just so grateful to be riding again that I have the patience to deal with misbehaving horses and take a joke. If I can maintain this mindset with a greenie of my own, I'm sure it will help the overall process. Right now, I'm taking weekly lessons to try to sponge up as many different tools as I can, strengthen myself, and bring back all those jumper instincts I had before I took a hiatus in Hunterland.

- K & C

1 comment :

  1. That sounds like an interesting ride! Always good to ride a bunch of different creatures (especially if you're looking at a new creature or shopping ;)