I’ve talked a lot recently about how my confidence over fences has been somewhat lacking. What it boils down to, at least for this weenie adult amateur, is reps; it’s early in the season and I simply haven’t jumped very many jumps yet this year. So I added an extra private lesson to my schedule this week in preparation for our season-opener which is 9 days away. It was short and sweet, but exactly what I needed: we focused on the basics and I learned how to fix some of our biggest problem areas.
I’m going to attempt to give you a somewhat coherent lesson recap, but considering the amount of congestion I have and the subsequent number of cold medications I’ve taken… well… let’s just say I’m not promising anything. I’m also apologizing in advance for older, lower quality photos. Anyways, I’ve been struggling with a few key issues during my rides lately, which Trainer addressed:
- Low confidence over fences
- Lack of strength in my core and lower leg
- Extra-fussy transitions to the canter
- Celebration / being sassy after jumps
I warmed up on the flat by myself, and had some trouble getting good transitions to the canter. Miles does this evasion where he throws his head up in the air and just WILL NOT GO FORWARD and you can’t make me. Trainer said to look farther ahead and ignore it. It’s just Miles pushing my buttons a little bit and being grumpy. Okay, fine — I can do that. And of course the more I ignored and insisted that he go forward, the less he did it. Cross #3 off the list!
After that, we started jumping. We started with a warm-up jump, a simple 2′ vertical, which of course I totally botched the first time. So we stopped and discussed. This is the part of private lessons that I really get the most out of — the chance to stop and talk things through. What does riding, in its most basic form, boil down to? Keeping your eyes up, your heels down and your lower leg on. It’s very rudimentary, obviously, but if you can’t do that, you’re never going to succeed. And I wasn’t doing those things. I came to that first fence as a passenger and when the short distance came up, instead of helping my horse, I said ‘JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL.’ Luckily my horse is a saint and went over (although he did take the rail with him). So the take-away is this: when I find the short spot, and I’m gonna find it sometimes, I need to add leg.
Next we did a short course, a 2’3″ oxer across the diagonal, to a 2’3″ diagonal line in 4 and then a 2’3″ single. I was nervous about starting with the oxer, but I made sure to have some pace and it went fine… except for after the fence Miles celebrated. He does this periodically, where he ducks his head and shakes it, kind of crow-hopping a little bit and doing some small bucks. Of course, this totally freaks me out because I get unseated and that’s usually how I fall off. So we stopped to discuss again. Trainer said I needed to focus on riding after the jump; Miles was taking advantage because I was being too soft. I needed to sit up, package him a little bit and send him forward.
I started the course again, and after the oxer I took charge. And whaddayaknow? Miles didn’t do his celebratory sassy dance and we got a perfect flying change! We did the course once more, and again I rode strongly, telling Miles what I wanted. I could feel him think about celebrating once, but he didn’t. Overall, I felt a lot more confident after the lesson. I guess I just needed to stop being a passenger and start driving a little bit more. And it felt really, really good to conquer the sass!