Saturday’s lesson went really, really well. I hadn’t had a lesson in a few weeks because of conflicts like weather and show set-up, so it was definitely due time to have eyes on my ride. I wanted to stick with my plan of giving Eli a proper, organized warm up, so my coach helped me build a grid–a trot-in pole to a cross-rail one stride to a vertical one stride to an oxer:
Eli and I went through this about 4 times, and the jumps stayed pretty low. If the jumps got any bigger, I think we’d have to open up the one strides by a few feet at least. The oxer got up to about 2’6″. Eli went through it beautifully each time, although the second time through he was a bit quick in the second one stride, but we still landed organized and the third time through with the oxer raised a bit he rocked back and jumped around it nicely. The fourth time through he was so slow off the ground and really jumping around the jumps. We then moved on to what we will probably always be working on–turns! Rollbacks, so many rollbacks, which I really enjoy riding and Eli is getting handier about them.
The jumps stayed at 2’6″ to 2’9″, and we struggled with leads, of course, but after going through the exercise one time, my coach had some suggestions that helped a lot. Things like “look where you’re going” and “close your outside leg.” I must be the world’s most frustrating student some days.
The first time, I approached the yellow off the left lead, which is pretty much how it is set up for the hunter rounds. So of course because of this and also because I looked to the blue way, way, way too late, Eli cross-cantered through that rollback. He jumped out fine, but if this we’re a timed event, that’s seconds piled on that don’t need to be. Also, cross-cantering jumps larger than 2’9″ really does not appeal to me, so it needs to stop before we really move up. My coach suggested approaching the first jump from the right lead, and look sooner, which I did, and consequently Eli landed on the right lead for a much neater right turn to the blue oxer. Turn left is a little easier for Eli than turning right, so the green vertical to the pink oxer went smoothly.
We took two more trips through a different rollbacks exercise with the jumps at the other end of the ring. By this time, I was more organized, so the turns were smoother and Eli was landing on the lead I asked for every time.
We went back to do the first exercise one last time, because we seemed to stick through that one more. The last time through, Eli was less sticky, and we even got a lead change from the green vertical rollback to the pink oxer. I had asked him to land on his left, but he didn’t, but then he swapped before the apex of the turn. SO EXCITING! My coach told me to quit with that, because he could not have been better, and she especially complimented my follow through with my release, and not getting snatchy with my hands on either side of the jumps (Retraining muscle memory is hard! My last jumper liked a pretty strong feel and basically ran me around attacking the jumps so I had to half-halt a ton to balance going to the jumps and that doesn’t work with Eli.). So with Eli, the less I use my reins, and the more I turn with my eyes and body and leg, the better he turns. Like, amazingly better. Will we be competitive, time-wise, at our next show on Nov. 8? Right now, I don’t think we are there yet, but we are getting very close! I’ll try not to get greedy about the time and I’ll just focus on jumping double clean, which I think will leave us in a spot to be more competitive on time next year.