So a weird thing has happened. May is like… really rideable. I mean like… really, really reideable. Wanna move her shoulder 6″ to the right? No problem. Wanna open her step? Sure! Close it? You got it. Unfortunately, this has happened faster than my brain has been able to process or my riding has been able to adjust to, so we have had some kind of interesting moments in the past week.
Last week, we did a XC lesson at the small XC field at our barn. It doesn’t have a ton of BN-height stuff, but gave us a chance to work on the rideability in the XC field. At first, May was her typical, spicy self, wanting to take me to the fences. While she was really rideable front to back, she was a bit stiff side-to-side. Lots of circles and encouraging the softness, a couple of halts after fences, and suddenly… I had this horse:
She was a bit stuck back, and I wasn’t really supporting the shorter step. After this, we looped back around, and I just softened, and she stayed soft and listening. GO FIGURE.
We then moved onto a little corner exercise with a ditch, and again, she was just soft and lovely.
I have a habit of riding corners REALLY poorly because I over think it, but this one went ok… Then Chloe made it a bit bigger and wider and had me do it in the other direction. And… it was great going downhill too. I definitely think we could use a bit more XC schooling just tying things together, but it was nice to establish that level of rideability in the field with the terrain.
Later in the week, a friend of mine mentioned that some people were going to have a group lesson on Saturday with another trainer on the property, since my trainer was away. My trainer coordinated the whole thing, and on Saturday, I found myself in basically a mini clinic situation.
Now, let’s not forget my historical track record with clinics.
Oh and I am 90% sure the last jump lesson this trainer saw me have was the one right before our suppleness boot camp… where I left the arena in tears halfway through a lesson. I am sure he was like “omg this train wreck.”
But the trainer did a REALLY great job of setting us all up for success. The first exercise was 4 ground poles on the ground, set in a pretty standard canter stride. We trotted through it first, making sure we could hit the center of each pole while maintaining the rhythm, suppleness, and balance. Once we had it at the trot, we picked up the canter and worked through the same goals at the canter.
At first, I kind of struggled with it. We wouldn’t get a perfect distance to the first one, so May would break to the trot to make it easier… Which kind of defeated the whole purpose. Finally, the trainer told me to just ride to the first one like its just one pole. No way dude… no way that is going to work. There are FOUR poles and they are on a CIRCLE. But that’s why he is the professional and I am not. Because when I just rode to the first pole and then supported, it worked out just fine.
We then added a xrail to the other side of the circle. So 4 canter poles, around the rest of the circle to a xrail, around to the canter poles etc etc. I was really happy with how May handled this. As long as I chose a good line, she jumped well and stayed balanced and soft. If I chose a bad line… well it would get a bit messy, but we were definitely recovering faster than we had in the past.
Now that we had established rhythm, suppleness, and balance, we moved onto adjustability. We came down a 4 stride line in 5 strides, then 4, then 5 without stopping. May did this well, but I felt a bit like I was needing to run to get down the line. Which… I didn’t… so that’s fun.
Then we moved onto course work, which I was really excited about, because I had been hoping to get some different course work in. First course, we did the line in 5 strides, down a diagonal in 3 strides, then a bending line in like… 8? strides, then a single fence before coming around to the same first line again but this time in 4 strides. And… I forgot to turn my helmet cam on.
But! It was the best course I think I have ever ridden in my life. No joke. May was SUPER rideable, and I found all my distances. She stepped up for the related distances, and settled and softened right after to get the balance right for the single fences. Seriously, I was like, “I do not ride well enough for this.”
So like, I am on cloud 9. And we are given another course… that I promptly forgot. So I ended up making up my own course? It’s fine. The first 7 fences went really well. In the video, you can hear the trainer encouraging me to sit lighter coming to the first fence, and I think I took it a bit too far. Instead of using my seat to open May’s stride, I started using my leg A LOT again, which resulted in us getting a bit toooo rushed coming through the 3 line. I didn’t need that much, and May let me know that at the end.
So instead of doing the LOGICAL thing of fixing my lead, getting my balance and reestablishing my step. I got my canter and did… absolutely nothing. No surprise, I was facing down a REALLY bad distance into the 3 stride line. SO WHAT DID I DO? I GOOSED May off the ground from a long, weak spot. Since I had been SO HONEST with her the rest of the day, and she had been so rideable, she was like “OMG OK, and tried to leap off the ground at that moment… chesting the rail and sending rails flying everywhere.
I feel like this video almost needs a warning label so… watch at your own risk I guess.
We ended up doing the last 4 fences over again, and it was fine. Not as great as it had been, but at least I didn’t make any awful decisions.
At first, I had my head wrapped around the idea that the one bad moment was the defining moment of the entire lesson. I harped on it and fretted about it and overall was giving myself a TON of grief. But the truth is, we had the strongest lesson I have ever had, and even pros have bad moments where they make the wrong decision. I am wildly proud of how rideable and easy this little horse has gotten, and I am proud of how I am adjusting my riding to better compensate.
It’s still a work in progress, but jumping has been more fun lately (even with the oops moments) then it has been in a LONG time. Hoping to squeeze in another XC schooling tomorrow.