That I have been able to ride every day I tentatively planned to ride is pretty cool, because rain has been in the forecast daily. I expected every day to be a wash out, but what I contended with instead was wind. So, so windy this week.
Monday actually wasn’t too bad, nor was it memorable, so I’ll just talk about Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday, I had decided to do a little jumping with Eli. Everything was still set from the show and the jumps were low. My hope was to trot in and canter out of every line once, and then canter a whole course once and end on that.
Best laid plans.
First of all, I had to prop up some of the jump standards with short poles so that they wouldn’t keep blowing over. Eli warmed up fine, although cantering into the wind felt like a bunch of guesswork. Are we going forward? Is Eli using his hind end? How far forward can I lean so that the wind doesn’t blow me back into the saddle? Ugh.
The guesswork theme continued over fences. We warmed up at the trot over a small plank back and forth a few times. So far, so good. Next, we tackled one of the inside diagonal lines. I wanted to make sure we got out of the line in five strides so I may have goosed Eli rather than just ask with my leg like a normal person and even then it felt like we weren’t going to make it out because of the wind. Eli also failed to pick his feet up a few times at the trot fence, but more on that for Thursday’s explanation (hint: problem isn’t Eli). I could tell Eli felt pretty irritated by the wind. We took the outside line with the wind at our backs and that rode a lot better than trying to go into the wind. We tacked on the other diagonal inside line that rode a bit long, again, I think because of riding into the wind. We never did string together more than a couple lines at once because I started to get really disorganized from the wind obstructing my sense of the horse under me. Eli rode fine as long as the wind was at our backs, but going into the wind we both struggled with getting out of the lines smoothly. Honestly, I can’t complain, as Eli jumped everything and kept going and we always got the striding right and mostly got to the middle, it just felt gross. We were accomplishing the task at hand but not with any kind of finesse or grace.
Eli got Wednesday off as planned–I worked late and bought him some more feed just before the feed store closed and brushed him off. Even if not riding, I spend time with Eli just grooming or grazing him. Better than cognitive behavioral therapy (although that works, just not as well as pony time).
Thursday dawned another long day at the desk job, but I looked forward to riding as I realized the sun would stave off the downpours for a bit longer. The wind, again, relentlessly gusted, blowing jumps over. However, pulling Eli out of his stall, I could tell he was in a really good mood. He just looked happy. I have no idea how I know this (and, yes, anthropomorphizing is a slippery slope) but his pleasant demeanor and relaxed attitude in the crossties made me think so. Of course this immediately put me in a better mood. I had low expectations because of the wind, but once I got on I could tell Eli felt physically well, too. And it helped that the footing was perfection!
I kept our flat work simple and wanted to gauge whether Eli still didn’t want to quite pick up his feet at trot fences. He felt like he tracked up from behind quite easily, although in my mind I wondered whether he needed a little chiro, or injections of a different joint, or or or, etc because of his lack of coordination and enthusiasm at trot jumps that seemed uncharacteristic to me.
And then it dawned on me. We took a trot jump on a figure eight, a nice upright white gate, and Eli rocked back and jumped it heartily each time. The difference?
ENGAGE YOUR CORE, DUMBASS. Sorry, Eli, I’ll try to ride better.
Moral of the story, as often it is with horses, fix your riding first before you start trying to fix your horse. Odds are, you’re the broken one. I’m not saying equine athletes don’t need routine maintenance because obviously many of them do, but if something is not going well, make sure you’re the one doing everything right before evaluating whether your horse needs help to fix whatever the issue is. He might just need *your* help, not the vet’s help. Yes, that is a high bar, but I am setting it.