Poor May. I am about 90% sure she is ready to go on strike now that we have settled into California and into a training program. Tuesday – Tuesday last week, we had 1 trainer ride, 2 jump lessons, 1 Dressage ride, and 1 nearly 2 hour hack. From Friday – Tuesday alone, I rode 4 times for a combined 5 hours and 12 miles. (Thanks Equilab for the stats).
But let’s start from the beginning. On the 5th, I had a lesson planned and was excited to get back to jumping after a few dressage lessons in a row. Unfortunately, my back had other ideas. I woke up being unable to turn my body without serious back pain. Cool! At first I was like, I am just going to power through and it’ll be fine. Then I sat, immobile, during a very busy work day from 4:30AM – 2:30PM. By the time I drove to the barn (with the heat seater on) and walked out to get May, my lower back had basically completely seized up on me.
So like any good adult ammie rider, I asked my trainer to ride instead. This ended up being great for May anyway because my trainer has never jumped her. May is also way more fit and better in the contact than she was last time my trainer rode her. Also, it has apparently been a full two months since Chloe sat on her, so 100% worth a training ride.
While it was super fun to just get to watch May jump around, it was even better to see what issues Chloe was having and how she fixed them. I always want to make things super perfect and smooth, so I let May get a little stiff or on her forehand if she doesn’t take my correction just to get a good distance. A pro though is much more comfortable getting a weird distance but holding the correction.
Mostly, May wanted to get stiff through the right side of her body (the bane of our existence since I got her) and she didn’t want to cover more ground while in an uphill balance. Sometimes, you ask her to move up to a distance in the good balance & suppleness, and she just… doesn’t. My reaction would be to then half half and make the shorter distance work, but really, I need to hold the request and let it be difficult for May to not listen.
Thursday, May got an accuscope treatment (new to us and probably worth its own blog post. Friday, May got a super easy hack… that I almost fell off at the end of. Just when I was getting off, May stepped sideways… onto a branch. The other end of the branch (the nice leafy end) flipped up into her face, and she spun sideways. I was… about 90% of the way off. Luckily, my toe caught the bottom of the block of my dressage saddle, and May stopped immediately. So I was able to pull my body back into the saddle… with a very sore left hip.
But we had a lesson on Saturday, and I was not going to miss it! All the jumps got moved around and new exercises were set up, but the idea was the same. She needs to move off my right leg and stay in a good balance throughout. We started pretty simple, a figure 8 over a lowish oxer. However, it pretty quickly became apparent that a figure 8 gave May a great excuse to pop her right shoulder, so our version got modified into doing it on a fairly tight circle.
Then we played around with a little 2 stride. (baby log to vertical). First time through, I really wanted May to keep her balance up, so we added for 3. Then I was able to open her up a bit more to easily get the 2 in a better balance.
Then we put it together into a little course! A little grid, left turn to the oxer, then right turn over a vertical will fill, and then around to the 2 stride. First time through, I only got as far as the oxer… On the approach, I saw a shorter distance and asked May to half halt and soften to it. Her response? Turn into a 2×4 and launch from a weak, long distance. Cool mare. I have to say, that is the MOST unsettling feeling in the world. We basically almost crushed the oxer.
SO ATTEMPT #2. This time she really blew me off through the grid, you can actually see her throw her body through my right leg. I made a big correction after and carried on. And then… wouldn’t you know it, she got a lot softer after. She gave me a great jump over the oxer and then was in such a great balance over the vertical. The two stride was good, but she did get a bit on the forehand through it, so we circled and corrected after.
Since she showed so much improvement over that course, we moved on to the gymnastic. It was set as a pole, bounce to vertical, 1 stride to oxer, 1 stride to oxer, bounce to pole. And… it was a hot mess. The first time through, May DOVE through her front end to it. So while the first couple of jumps she could get away with, she had to jam in an extra stride before the last oxer. FUN!
So I had to be more insistent on her staying in a good balance. The next time through? Better balance in… and then May just… didn’t move off my leg. So that was fun. My natural instinct was to half half and balance up to do the adds, which still felt terrible. Truthfully though, I should be kicking on. If she doesn’t move off my leg, it shouldn’t be like “oh well. ok then.” The next time through, I made a bigger correction and had a better ride through it, but it was still the grid of my nightmares.
Last, but of course not least, Chloe had us do a bending line of black and white oxer to rainbow vertical to the new pink and purple skinny monstrosity that I had started the day by telling Susan, “at least we don’t have to jump that.”
It was supposed to be 6 strides to 6 strides, but the first time through, I did 7. May and I were having a full argument about the balance and right bend, so adding seemed to make sense. Of course, the point was to do 6 strides to 6 strides, so we had to do it again. She was good… but totally threw her body through me over the last fence. Taking a page out of Chloe’s book, I kicked her back up into the contact and bend and made her got through the gymnastic one more time.
It ended up being a really nice place to end the lesson. Both of us were pretty wiped. Is this post long enough? I think it is… so I will end it here and update you all on Sunday and this Tuesday’s rides tomorrow!
Oh and I totally keep forgetting to update you all. The cough ease did relieve May’s symptoms, and as soon as it rained, her cough completely went away. It seems like we will just need to give her a little support a couple of days after any super dry and windy days.