The other day I was talking to Lauren of She Moved To Texas about some of my confidence issues as of late. She recommended that I start visualizing Miles and I completing the perfect hunter trip. She said “think about any height, but I bet if you do that right now, your trip has lots of problems with it.” And she was right. While I have a better mental picture of a 2′ or 2’3″ hunter course, at 2’6″, the wheels fall off the wagon, so to speak. To document my progress, I thought I’d share what my mental picture of a 2’6″ hunter trip with Miles looks like to me right now.
I imagine a simple hunter course, set in Ring I at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. I start my visualization when I walk in the ring. I pick up my reins, and turn right, along the fence line. After walking a few steps, I pick up a trot. I shorten my reins a little bit, and notice that Miles is a little lethargic. We go halfway around our courtesy circle, when I decide I need to pick up the canter. I think about it, and Miles gets rigid, slows down and pins his ears. So I work on ignoring him and waiting for a slightly better moment to ask. After a few more steps, I do ask and while the transition isn’t picture perfect, we do kick into gear (probably without an actual cow kick, but I can’t promise that.)
I shorten my reins again, stretching up into my half seat, and really try to use my legs to push Miles forward, since we are loping and I know it’s too slow. I feel like I’m working really hard to get him to go, and I can hear my trainer saying “more” and “keeping working” from the in-gate. I do keep working, but it’s only marginally successful. I look for a distance to the first fence, and I see it about 3-4 strides out, and it’s a little short, but acceptable. Up and over, and I think about stretching up after the fence and creating the canter departure away from the fence. We stay straight (I’m good at that part), and we turn the corner at the top of the ring. I start looking for the diagonal line, and I cut the corner a little bit short, but it’s okay.
We hit the in of the line just fine, and since we’re coming towards home, I don’t have to work quite as hard to get out in the correct number of 6 strides… but I still can’t take my leg off! I get nervous about jumping our first oxer on course, so I stare at the fence a little bit too long, but eventually I remember to look up and focus on the bleachers in the corner. We go out just fine, but I’m a little loose in my lower leg, and I don’t stretch up quite as quick as I’d like. But Miles canters on and we’re already on the correct lead, so I sigh a little bit and try to settle into a rhythm.
Next is the judge’s line, next to the in-gate, so I know I’m going to have to push out of the corner. I do so, but without much success and we chip into the first fence. I should have sat up and legged Miles into the short distance, but instead I kind of dropped him a little bit. But he’s a good boy, so he jumps anyways. At this point I know I’m going to have to really gallop to get out of the line in six strides, so I add leg. A lot of leg. We gallop up, but it’s still going to be a long distance to the oxer. I say go, but probably could have been more confident. Miles jumps a bit bigger, and I am discombobulated on the landing. Miles ducks his head a little bit, pulling me forward. He’s saying “get your shit together, mom!”
Luckily, I’m able to pull him up and we continue on, but now I don’t have much time to prepare for our final diagonal line. Plus I’m tired, so I cut the corner way too short and meet the first fence of the line oddly. We make it over, and continue on, luckily by this time in the course Miles has some momentum, so I’m not pushing quite as hard to make the numbers (plus we’re headed towards home, which helps). We meet the oxer well, but land needing a lead change. I gallop up into the corner and we get it, which is good!
We finish our courtesy circle, trotting the last quarter and walking out. I let the reins go loose and pat my horse. Because I always thank him for a good ride. Always.