After a tough show, I always look forward to my next lesson. By nature, I’m a planner and action-oriented; I like to have clear goals and a way to get there. So when everything went to shit at the show, I came home with a renewed sense of vigor to fix it. What I lacked was a way to channel my motivation — how, exactly, do I change what went wrong? That, right there, is why I take regular lessons. I’m aware enough to know when things aren’t right… but I don’t always know specifically what’s wrong or how to fix it. So Trainer and I talked about it and came up with a game plan. We started off by addressing me: I have to insist on getting what I want from Miles and I have to believe it; I can’t ever ask and then give up.
The lesson started off on the flat, where we addressed the right leg. Specifically, I need to use my right leg to push Miles out and around in corners and on circles… and Miles has to listen to this aid. We started at the walk where I encountered resistance; Miles sort of did what I asked, but not really. So I had to get tough, and kick him a few times with my right leg (yes, I insist you move horse!). We did three circles at the walk, trot and canter. At the canter, I just couldn’t keep Miles going; he kept breaking to a trot at some point during our circle.
This was particularly frustrating for me because holding a gait is a very elementary concept and should be something I barely need to think about at this point in my riding education. It was also frustrating because I couldn’t tell if the problem was me or Miles; am I physically not strong enough to keep him going or is he just being lazy and ignoring me? For this ride, Trainer and I opted to add spurs to see if that helped. And as soon as I put them on, wouldn’t you know we didn’t break! It was still a lot of work to get Miles bending around my leg and not just motorcycling around the circle — but at least I wasn’t struggling quite as much with just going forward.
After that, we jumped a little bit. Over fences we focused on three things: turns/corners, path and landing. All three of these things are interrelated and I found that when I got them all right, my ride over fences was easier and much more consistent. Just like what we did on the flat, I kept working to get a better bend heading to each jump. This allowed me to have a better path heading to the jump so that I had more time to get straight and find a distance. We also focused on the stride(s) immediately upon landing and really riding, not just being a passenger. I sat up and sent Miles forward, which gave me a better path following the jump and allowed me to prepared him for the upcoming turn. Wash, Rinse, Repeat for 8-9 jumps. See how it’s really all connected?
It was a great lesson that gave me great homework to do when I’m riding by myself. Step 1: increase leg and core strength; Step 2: insist on and maintain forward; Step 3: insist on a right bend; Step 4: Believe that we can do this!