Miles was actually (for the first time ever) a bit strong to start, but he softened back to his usual self in no time. We started with a single crossrail, and quickly moved on to some small courses. I did the first course a few times, and the first trip was probably our best. We trotted into a natural crossrail, cantered out in six strides to a natural box, cantered around to the green gate and finished up over the purple vertical. We had one simple change from the gate to the purple, but it was pretty quick, and I was happy with it.
We went again right away, and I totally messed up the entire course and Miles saved my butt over every. single. fence. I got a little left behind to the crossrail, half halted in the first few strides of the line, then tried to tell Miles to speed up for the five strides (WRONG!) and he chipped in hard to the natural box. Then we went around to the gate and I didn’t see a distance, so he chipped in to that one too. Came around to the purple and it was the same story, except I didn’t release and laid on his neck so he knocked the top rail. Ugh!
We finished up with a slightly different course: fence one and two were the same (crossrail to natural box), but then we did the purple vertical and finished up over the green gate. Our first attempt at this course was better, but I was unbalanced after the line and had to circle before going to the purple vertical. Our second attempt was smooth and pretty good.
Overall, the lesson was great. Here’s a quick strengths/weaknesses assessment I thought would be helpful moving forward and give me some good things to focus on.
- No Spook: Even though this was our first time riding under lights, Miles didn’t bat an eyelash at anything. Every time we go out and jump in a new environment or over new jumps without issue it gives me more confidence.
- Miles’ Listening: Miles was a bit “up” but it definitely wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle and he still listened to my half halts every time. Good pony!
- Thinking on Course: I’m getting much better about thinking while on course. I know it sounds like something I should just do naturally, but honestly I don’t. So deciding to change my plan and circle in the middle of a course is a big deal for me.
- Analyzing: I’m getting very good at analyzing my ride, both in terms of thinking the same thing my trainer is, and making those changes the next time. When I had my bad round, I knew WHY the line sucked and what I should do differently. I also knew that I chipped in to the gate, so I had to change my path the next time around.
- Core Strength: I really need to work on my core strength. It’s hard for me to pick myself back up after a fence, and it’s dragging Miles down.
- Leg Strength: This has two parts, the first being that I haven’t practiced any leg strengthening exercises on Miles yet. We did two-point a bit during warm-up, and Miles got strung out. I need to remember to practice different seats during my flat rides. Also, I need more strength in my legs, and I need to imagine it flowing all the way down and out through my heels. I can’t squeeze for more forward and have my heels come up three inches.
- Partnership: My partnership with Miles is getting better all the time, but knowing his stride and his movement more intimately will help me pick a distance farther back and know how much “go” and how much “whoa” I’m going to get with various strengths of those cues.