Looking for pictures? Skip to the second half of the post.
Last minute decision from the people in charge of people at work resulted in the library being closed for Good Friday. Hooray! I asked my trainer on Thursday night if we could school Eli on Friday and she said “sure!”
Eli has been doing great flat work, so I was looking forward to a productive lesson, and I think I got one. One thing that I’ve been working on–and it still needs work in the form of finessing so it will never not need work–is how I ride to the base of the jump. Last summer, I got into a rut of picking up the reins, taking my leg off, and thereby chipping in. So how does one work on not doing this, and instead stay on pace, keep hands steady and relatively low, and close leg (just a little, not a lot)? Mental game. I am trying to develop it. Basically, I am trying to program my muscle memory in to just knowing that if I don’t know where I am in front of a jump distance-wise, my reaction needs to be close leg, not pick up rein. I think I kinda am finally getting that down, as quite a few times during my lesson Friday, as soon as I felt my self hesitating, I closed my leg. Consequently, Eli was all “RAWR” and trainer was all, “um, could you maybe, um, you know, LESS.” However, I ride in a program where trainer would rather ask me to chill out and drive a little less than tell me to step up my game and get going already. It’s a good feeling, knowing my horse and I have the energy and the desire to attack the jumps now.
However, the bad thing in the lesson was our turns. And not just the turns themselves, but the ride to the jumps we’d roll back to. The turns were messy, and therefore, twice, I reverted to the pick up the reins habit instead of the new close the leg habit I’m trying to hone. Each time, trainer asked me to come back through and correct the ride. The turns were still messy, but I kept Eli going forward through them, instead of trying to hold him in the turn, and we got to much better, easy, non-chippy distances. (We jumped a 3’6″ Swedish on an angle, for crying out loud–of course I’m going to miss at that the first time! Ha! Trainer still insisted I plan for success and nail that s.)
So my flat work project for this week is circles. I’d been working on transitions and some lateral stuff, and that has done wonders for Eli over fences, and even helped him get leads while we’re cruising around the jumps. But rollbacks? We just haven’t done anything lately that translates to easy turning and steerability on course. Adjustability, yes, but if you get stuck at the apex of a rollback turn you can’t get out of, you immediately lose the ability to adjust. You can’t turn anywhere if you can’t go forward, and you can’t go forward if you’re trying to turn with your reins instead of your leg and seat. My oversight. Flat work circle camp starts today.
So after this lesson, which over all was great, not because we were great, but because I made mistakes that I then successfully corrected, trainer and I discussed doing a grid the following day. Something easy, to take Eli down a notch, as he was pretty amped Friday around the jumps.
I consulted my Linda Allen book, and decided a good exercise for Eli to keep him relaxed but also not lackadaisical would be:
Eli was pretty easy through it. Trainer and I were both happy that he was relaxed enough without being dull. He certainly tried to tell me that we should be cantering a few times, but I just relaxed my hand and pet his neck and he decided that he could then trot to the exercise. He’s getting that jumper go button. I love it. One last MAJOR take away from the grid was that I am chasing the jump a little with my shoulders, so I need to really concentrate on not doing that, and let Eli jump up to me instead of ducking at him. The rest of this post is media.