Lesson Time: Precision

My trainers M&L are back from a few weeks of horse shows, which means – lesson time! This summer, there is no assistant to stay home with the few of us clients who get sadly left behind, so I spend the majority of my time chipping away at things on my own. That means lessons serve as both instruction and report card on the work of the last little while; today, we passed with flying colours!

Not today, but you get the idea.

Not today, but you get the idea.

Schmoodle has been in a pretty quiet and obedient mood lately (maybe because he’s just happy for an excuse to get out of his field, where he’s plagued by bugs and three geldings who tend to get all up in his business?) and has been feeling quite good through his body, which M was happy to see. He set us a pattern of cavalletti: a nine-, ten-, or eleven- stride line down the centre of the ring; a flowing four-stride on the diagonal; and a shaping nine-stride bending line on the other diagonal. The name of the game was being able to get the numbers as smoothly as possible while working off short turns into each of the lines.

I know cavalletti are not the most exciting thing around but I seriously love these lessons, as they’re challenging and testing without having to also focus on actual jumps. Schmoodle flatted beautifully, despite staggering down to the ring half-asleep and almost falling on his face during our first upward transition. Wake up, sleepyhead! We got nine (a little flowing), ten (basically normal but a bit quiet for us) and eleven (very steady) strides down the centre exercise pretty easily each time. My first time adding in eleven, I reverted to my perennial habit of too much hand, not enough moving elbow. Seriously, I can just hear my old trainer hollering “Following elbows!!!” at me at my first horse show with my old horse, in…2007. Talk about old habits dying hard…

The rest of the lesson, though, I was actually proud of my body control – I kept Schmoodle active in the short turns, worked out the numbers early, set up the leads in the air and basically thought about what I was doing rather than panicking when, for instance, we got in deep to the flowing nine and had to work it out (admittedly, nine strides is a lot of room to work things out). Amazing the results you get when you use your rational brain instead of reverting to (bad) instincts…

The other thing I was glad about: we only got one swap off the canter lead in the whole lesson. Generally, Schmoodle will take any excuse to merrily swap leads: long one, short one, weird thing sitting by the side of the ring, thinks he’s turning left, thinks he’s turning right… Anyways, today I actually, you know, treated my courses like flatwork with speed bumps and used my shoulder-fore when shortening for the eleven steps. Magic!

Takeaways:

  1. Our ring is really big. Eleven strides is a lot of strides in one line, even when the jumps are tiny.
  2. The only place where Schmoodle was dull to my aids was the short turn to the right off the centre exercise – I really had to hold outside and leg really hard inside to prevent him from diving in. To school this week!
  3. My focus on adjustability in canter is paying off. Schmoodle is feeling very well-broke indeed: sharp off the leg, soft in the mouth, attentive to half-halts. The quality of the canter was evident in the short turns where we had to keep balance and engine to give us options into the lines. Keep working on this – and keep those elbows soft…
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