Last week, we had to cancel my regular Tuesday night lesson due to the cold. (Since when is the high 23 in November in Kentucky?!) We had originally talked about rescheduling, but our schedules just weren’t lining up, as my work was craziness last week.
Then, on Friday, I got a text from Mandy asking if I wanted a lesson on Saturday. In the daylight! You can imagine how much hesitation there was… Typically, my trainer doesn’t teach on the weekends because, when you teach every evening during the week and go to a lot of shows during the season… you really do need Saturdays and Sundays to avoid burnout, so this was a real treat!
Then… I had an oddly emotional end of the week. I am, by nature, not a super emotional person. I am, mostly, pretty logical and stoic in a lot of situations. And, while nothing bad happened, last week was just… A LOT. So Friday night found me a puddle of emotions. Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t really abate on Saturday, so I found myself tacking up and just DREADING the whole thing.
However, I was determined to do the thing. Even if my hands shook. Even if my legs felt like jelly.
Unsurprisingly, my warm-up was not great. May was forward and a bit unfocused, looking at everything outside the ring. And while she was mostly listening, I felt like she wasn’t totally tuned in. More forward and scrambly than forward and in front of my leg. Luckily, Mandy is amazing because, when I relayed this information to her, she made sure we were set up for success.
We started with the same bounces of canter poles as we did during our last jumping lesson. Up the line, loop around, down the line. The first time through I just… didn’t ride, so it didn’t work. Second time through, I rode the way I know how to ride, and it worked out great. The transitions at each end of the ring got May a bit more tuned in, so we moved onto a little gymnastic exercise.
Short turn and over a large crossrail with placing poles on either side of the fence. Loop around and back the other way. This got May jumping super round up to me. We nailed it the first time through in both directions, so we moved onto the one stride gymnastic line.
The other benefit of Saturdays? I get a TON of footage. May’s step was super open and confident, so I actually had to half halt during the one stride line instead of feeling like I was chasing her through it. (This will become the theme of the day.) Either way, it rode great, and May felt great.
So we moved onto coursework. Everything was set around BN height. Up a vertical, down a one stride vertical line, left turn to a bending line (oxer to vertical) in either 6 or 7. Then right turn and over the two stride (vertical to oxer). Again, a ton of related distances.
The first time through… I was apparently not supposed to do the two stride. I don’t know if I picked up on everyone’s silence before I got there or what but I just… stopped riding. Luckily, May is awesome and bailed me out and got a ton of pats. I’ll leave it in the video, once I get around to editing that.
Other than that, the seven strides got a bit tight, so I wanted to clean that up. We did it again and… I got the seven strides, but the canter got a bit dead. As a result, May took that rail. Luckily though, I decided to RIDE at the two stride, and it was great. Whew.
So we added to it. After the two stride we added the five stride line and then a sharper right turn down the vertical the other way. And you know what? It all rode fine. I went for the six on the bending line this time, despite May tripping a bit in the corner, and it rode MUCH better, AND it set me up better for the two stride. As always, forward first.
Since this all seemed to easy, the jumps went up for the next course. Most of the jumps went up 1 or 2 holes so… not a big difference. But also like… bigger than we have ever really jumped. Bigger than I have ever really jumped. Seriously, almost 24 years of riding, and I don’t think I have ever jumped a full 3′ course… much less one with a one stride and a two stride.
So… I was freaking out a bit. Every part of me did NOT want to do it. This… is not a super helpful mindset. Either way, the course was the same 3 jumps, then the america oxer five strides to the green panel, the two stride and then bending to the purple and black oxer. Seriously, 8 fences. A short course by anyone’s calculations.
And… it took me a few tries to get over the vertical properly. The one stride though? That always rode fine. Then the America oxer… it all came undone. I didn’t see a stride, but I didn’t want to chase her so… I just rode to the SUPER deep spot and May LURCHED her body over it.
I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit this lesson. I wanted to quit eventing. I wanted to quit horses. Seriously, it all got VERY dark VERY quickly in my head.
But I didn’t quit. I tried again. And you know what? It was FINE. The five stride was FINE. I… somehow screwed up the two stride, but again, it was fine. Just a bit tighter than May liked into it.
We went to do it again… ugh. We got a bit tight to the america oxer, and she drifted right… and she landed cross cantering. I couldn’t make up the distance of the chip, the drift, AND the cross cantering, so we chipped HARD into the vertical. The rest of it rode fine, but we really wanted to clean up that one line…
At this point, I think May lost a touch of confidence. She jumped into the line fine… and then, right at the last stride, threw her body right and JAMMED in an extra stride. That is… not acceptable though. So I actually shoved her off my right leg, turned left, and came back to it. This time, I got it done… with a LOT of right leg and an open left rein.
So… how did I feel about it? I hated every minute of it.
Seriously. Even looking at the pictures, all I can see if how my form and riding disintegrated as soon as the fences went up. Of course, I am a classic perfectionist, so I had to re-watch everything… frame by frame… to figure out what happened. (Don’t do this. Ever.)
I did figure out what was going on. My saddle, as we all know, does not fit me. It puts me in a bit of a chair seat, and I have a really hard time getting out of and back into it. At 2’6″, this is fine. I can compensate. BUT I compensate by taking my leg off as May prepares to leave the ground and shoving my leg forward. This is fine at 2’6″.
When the jumps got a bit bigger, I had to keep my leg on that half second longer, and May was making a bigger effort. What do this mean? It means I lost that stable base, which doesn’t do much for one’s confidence. This becomes even MORE exasperated, when she starts drifting right one me. No right leg on? She throws herself right. Right leg on? My position becomes a bit perilous.
Unfortunately, the saddle I need is still out of the budget, since my Dressage saddle hasn’t sold yet. (UGH) However, it looks like Mandy’s old monoflap should be a decent fit for May, and she has offered it to me to try out.
Hopefully, that will help that little bit I need to be more confident for May over some higher fences.