How I Got My Groove Back: Lesson Update - March 2019

Last November I had two somewhat iffy falls (which I obviously did not dwell on) which seemed planted amid a series of unfortunate events. Fires in Northern California and a few storms kept me from diving right back into jumping the way I thought would be ideal for getting rid of my new-found fears. I think my step back helped me regain my confidence more efficiently in the end. My trainers were also amazing at structuring a series of confidence building lessons. I was able to return to “jumping” with exercises like a simple 5-stride line of cavalettis and as well as small grids to incorporate larger jumps.

In early January there was a storm so extreme that the middle section of our indoor was blown off, essentially splitting our indoor into 2 one-third sections on each end. This meant that our entire barn had a new [mandatory] focus on flat work and smaller jumps. Again, back to basics for the winter was not the worst news to me and it was a great exercise in taking it slow and confidence building. When I say ‘confidence building’ I don’t necessarily mean that I was scared to jump anymore after my initial reintroduction, but there are always holes in your education where just doing one thing repetitively at a very low level can give you the chance to make mistakes, identify, and then correct them without the worry about jump height or ‘can the horse make it from this ridiculous distance I just set up?’.

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Once the footing was dry enough to lesson outside, we were able to apply a lot of what we’d been working on inside which could basically be boiled down to: is the horse listening? We jumped the wall! Insert sassy girl emoji. I’d been warned previously about Leo’s “tendencies”, can’t do this, won’t jump that. Well, you expect more, you get more. I was riding with a newer trainer at my barn for this lesson who did not share the previous knowledge of him not doing x or y because z. She told me to go get it, and at my first turn towards the jump Leo was super offended. But she had me come around again, trot right up to it, slow to a walk, let him investigate and canter away, circling so that we didn’t pass the jump. We came to it confidently and supportive and he just did it. NBD. We also ended up doing the black plank jump in a course that day, which I don’t think we’ve done since last November - the planks were the original culprit in my falling-off legacy. Did I mention to my trainer that either of those things could cause issues? Nah. The more you focus on it, the more it’s likely to happen. Stop. Dwelling. Also, I can’t say enough about working with more than one trainer. Each one has different insights, different ways to explain things and can pick up different difficulties you and your horse are having.


Side Note: I watched the first episode of The Saddle Club recently after discussing the show with a friend since she absolutely needs to start watching it with her daughter. No joke, in the first episode one of the kids (Carol, duh) is afraid of jumping the wall and I was just like, wow is my life really a children’s horse show right now? Should I really be this proud about jumping a “scary” jump? Oh, and here’s the link because I know you want to watch.


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So anyway, the lesson!

What can I even say about it? It was so good! It’s been rainy the past few weeks/months/all of winter, and so we’ve been stuck inside relegated to either side of the covered arena. I won’t say it’s been awful though, it’s clearly made a huge difference in my riding, the need to ride in a collected manner helped me learn to sit the canter and control my body a bit more over the jumps if I’m not allowing him to immediately extend after even a small jump - there’s no room to let him go anywhere. Proper turns that use every available inch of a corner (opening outside rein!) also really aided me both indoors and in this lesson. And finally, all this rain and riding inside has made me appreciate being outside and having a proper jump lesson.

I can remember last summer and fall not looking forward to my jumping lessons because I found them daunting, stressful and probably too frequent. Jumping, though I feel it probably shouldn’t, takes considerably more mental effort than flatwork. If you have a goal in mind for your flatwork, e.g. practicing a halt by a certain place in the arena, and it doesn’t work out you can simply try again, noting what went wrong the first time. If you’re jumping and misjudge a distance or don’t get your proper, energetic canter, things can turn south quickly.

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I don’t know what it was about this day, but every single distance came up perfectly, Leo was totally excited and willing. Well, I probably know why we did so well. The day before we worked on a set of poles and eventually cavalettis on the ground set at 3 strides and worked on collecting enough to get 4 in, and switching back and forth for my pace perception and his adjustability. The concept just carried over to this day.

Our only ‘miss’ was when he spooked at the liverpool that we’d already passed ten times, but that’s horses, and it wasn’t awwwful. My only critique would be that my right heel is now able to flex much further down [and is overall stronger] than my left, so that’s next on my To Work On list. It’s also ridiculously hard to rein in Leo’s stride down the 4 to 4, but but hopefully can work on that with my seat and position. We did just switch to a D-ring Happy Mouth, so we’re still learning how to effectively use it. He’s excited, he’s happy and he’s got a monster stride. It was great practice for next weekend though, since he loves to gallop down the lines (and so do I tbh).

Should out to my barnmate’s friend for taking video for me! I owe you Shelby!