Well, I’d say Saturday was one of mine and Schmoodle’s best ever lessons!
Once again, he came out looking for reasons to be distracted. He was a bit stiff on the flat – I felt I couldn’t really get my inside leg into him – but instead of worrying about getting that perfect feel, I simply concentrated on getting him very forward off my leg in canter. I knew the course set up in the ring would pose a challenge, both due to the scary fillers, and to the fact we hadn’t jumped a proper course in weeks; thus, I tried to make sure Schmoodle was in a “Yes, ma’am!” sort of mood.
And it worked! We warmed up over the cavalletti line, at which we’re getting pretty darn proficient, then added in most of the other jumps in the ring as singles. He was very backed off at first, even the plain stuff, and I stuffed him under the base of a good square oxer by being too locked in my elbows – not the most auspicious start. Then, one of our lesson mates had an unfortunately fall in which her horse pulled off and became tangled in his bridle, scaring himself and taking off at high speed around the property, shedding bridle pieces as he went. Of course, this caused Schmoodle’s anxiety to surge – but once the horse was caught, we got right back to it.
And lo and behold, instead of getting stuck and reactive, I was able to put my leg on, ride positively, and flow forward to each jump – even the dreaded fake ferns that Schmoodle (and I) were so nervous about! Schmoodle gained confidence with each jump, and I have to admit, I was really proud of myself for not getting tense and picking away the canter to nothing while searching for a distance that isn’t there. Instead, I was able to put together solid patterns and focus on finessing the smaller details of line and balance.
Our course is below: a holding ten steps down the cavalletti line; short turn up the fern single; flowery oxer to brick wall in a flowing six; aqua oxer to plank in a balancing three; triple combination (1+2 stride); brick wall to oxer in six again. (Nothing was super big, all between 2’9 and 3’3.)
Takeaways: when I keep my eye up, my leg on, my elbows following, and Schmoodle’s engine revving, it really doesn’t matter what distance I come to, or even how spooky the jump is: it ends up working out fine. Easier said than done, of course – but today was a big step in the right direction. Good boy, Schmoods.
Homework: After a forward line or a big jumping effort, Schmoodle tends to get a bit heavy and low in his balance. I need to be able to rebalance in the first corner in order to recreate the necessary energy in the second corner. This worked pretty well today, but the balancing could have been smoother. I’ll need to set up some exercises this week to work on this.
Bonus: after my lesson, my best friend KPT and I got to watch a livestream of the individual show jumping finals from the Pan Am Games. The Pan Am equestrian events are being hosted at Caledon Equestrian Park in Palgrave, about four hours from here. Our barn shows there often, and KPT actually showed in their big Grand Prix ring for the first time last month. It made it doubly cool, watching world class show jumping in such a familiar venue.
There were some really wonderful horses in the class: I’ll take the stunning liver chestnut Quabri de l’Isle, please.