My catch ride, the littlest bay OTTB mare Moiya, continues to be my saving grace through the continuing trials with Miles. Typically I ride her 2-3 times a week, including one lesson over fences. We’ve been practicing a lot of the items on my goals list, like posting without stirrups, leg yields and a faster canter pace. She’s teaching me so much about being soft, yet firm throughout my entire body. My last lesson really showcased where we’re at together, I think.
We started out on the flat, with a follow the leader exercise: each horse follows the one in front of it, staying 3-5 lengths behind; it really tests your understanding of spacing and control over extension and collection. Additionally, we worked on our equitation throughout the exercise, keeping our hands “in the box,” elbows following the horse’s head, with our ankles absorbing shock (not bracing against our stirrups). Of course Moiya was excellent for this — she’s extremely adjustable — so it gave me a lot of time to focus on myself, where I even garnered a compliment on my equitation from trainer!
After that, we moved on to jumping lines. At the beginning of the lesson I’d said I wanted to work on pace (as always, right now), but that I also wanted to start jumping a little bit higher with Moiya. Currently, we mostly do 2′ with the occasional 2’3″ fence, and throughout the winter I’d like to get up to 2’3″-2’6″ solidly on Moiya. So when it was my turn, trainer moved up a few of the jumps so it was a 2′-2’3″ course. We stared out with two lines, both set at four strides. Typically, we try to keep Moiya a bit more compacted and do the add-stride because she’s so small, so that’s what we started off doing. Of course, the more I went around the more I really had to half halt to fit in all five strides.
Once, I completely missed the distance to the in of one of the lines — I really slammed her in and she had to chip HARD to get over the fence. I was happy though, because while I didn’t realize my distance was wrong in enough time to change it, I did realize it soon enough to support Moiya by not getting ahead of her and giving her enough release to get over the fence and not catch her on landing side. I also knew I really need to sit up and RIDE the next fence, and did so immediately. On stride 1 after the first fence, I was riding towards fence 2, which turned out LOVELY. I was really, really proud of both myself for staying in the moment and not panicking, but also of Moiya who wasn’t upset AT ALL. She jumped the terrible chip just fine, landed softly and was fantastic on the second fence. That right there speaks volumes about how far our relationship has come!!
Our lesson ended with a short course, that included one line. I knew going into the round that if I just let go and supported Moiya through the line with some leg, she could easily make it in the correct, four strides. So I went in with that plan and she DID IT. We did it!! It was a little wiggly, probably because I tensed up as I was a bit nervous, and she cut in on the turn after fence 2 (dang jumpers! hah), but she listened really well, and I stretch up in time to save our turn before the next fence. It wasn’t perfect, but we did it and it wasn’t sketchy or scary at all. I made a plan, rode the plan and stuck with it.
So even though I’m not making much progress personally on my own horse right now, I am making progress and learning a lot from Moiya, and I can’t thank her enough <3