Tired. No, wait. That isn’t a strong enough word. Exhausted is more like it. Why, you ask? Because I am old and because I can’t say no to Trainer AB.
Wednesday night I had a lesson at 8:45 pm. I got home around 10:45 pm and was in bed well after 11 pm. I’m too old for that. Was it worth barely being able to form a coherent sentence during work the next day?
You bet your bippy it was!
We worked on familiar themes: balance and tempo. We are trying to get Eeyore to rock back a bit more, use himself a bit better and slow down. All of this gets filed under “hard work” by Eeyore who would prefer to fly around on the forehand thankyouverymuch.
I’m really liking the progression of the lessons lately. I warm up as I see fit with Trainer AB watching from the rail and shouting encouragement or advice if/as needed. It puts me more in charge and gets me engaging my own brain. Wednesday night, I could feel Eeyore wanting to explode under me. He had reacted to the failing light more than I’d predicted having ridden in the dark at home without issue. Instead, he became jumpy and easily distracted by anything and everything. I asked if she’d mind if I skipped right to the canter to let him blow off steam and got into two point to let him go. She said she was happy with my choice. He settled after a few trips around the arena and was able to put in some good work after.
Following the warm up, we begin dressage work. Right now that is focused on the 20 m circle, using it to help rock him back, round his back, give at the poll and slow down. It’s getting better. We are now able to hold it for longer and when we do lose it, we gain it back quickly. My biggest issue was his tendency to want to look around through the shadows at every tiny noise and movement. It was bugging him out a bit that it was so dark.
The right remains the weaker side but I’m slowly closing the gap. Cantering right is easier than trotting at the moment and he is starting to get a better balance. I worked a lot on the sitting trot and my biggest homework here is to remain centered in the saddle. I had a tendency to slip to the outside and lean in trying to bend for him and that’s not very helpful.
I like starting with the dressage work because it forces me to really engage my brain and think about the timing of my aides, using my entire body to speak to him and holding him accountable for the task at hand. You can’t really get away with wavering off the circle without it showing and Trainer AB calling you out for it. It also really helps to settle Eeyore. It’s hard work for him to use himself in this manner and makes the hamster do double time in his head as well. Generally I end the dressage portion with a more in tune and supple horse under me.
From there we get to jumping which is typically a gymnastic exercise of some sort. This night we worked through a one stride vertical combination. The big key here was not letting him get flat and fly through it. I had to half half between the jumps which required me to stop becoming a deer in the headlights when I jump and you know, actually ride.
Eeyore tends to get quick before a fence. I think it’s part excitement to be jumping and part easier for him if he Superman’s through versus really uses himself properly. I’ve gotten a whole lot better at being able to think my way through the ride, anticipate and be proactive versus reactive on the flat but this still eludes me over fences when I’m still surprised I didn’t die.
Wednesday night started no different. We raced towards the first jump and then through the one stride to Superman our way out. We made it and left the rails in the cups but it wasn’t pretty. On the re approach, I made the decision to circle him in the corner and get him under control more before letting him jump and got commended for this decision. It’s the first time I wasn’t panicked and could make smart choices.
I gave a hefty half half right before the in and stalled him out which made the in a bit awkward and then he got mad and barreled across and over the out. Again, we made it but ugh.
The third time I gave the half half a bit earlier and then, wonders of wonders, with the horse actually in front of my leg we got a good jump over the in, I kept my brain on and gave a half half during the one stride between and was rewarded with a glorious jump over the out. It was the single most awesome feeling in the world.
After that Trainer AB declared us officially ready for course work and invited me to join her at a schooling show Saturday afternoon. She told me she’d like me to enter the tadpole 18” division to start and I was surprised that she acted like I was going to rebel or be insulted. Small jumps for the win! She said that she’d rather me do a full course below height to take that out of the equation so I can focus on the technique and getting around.
That’s when I asked how tall the verticals we went over were set. “Aren’t those two feet? 18” isn’t that much smaller. It will still seem plenty big”
“Uh…no. Those are set bigger than two. I think I set them at 2’3, maybe 2’6 tonight.”
Um…what?!?!? No wonder I almost peed myself coming up to them. They had looked huge but I don’t question Trainer AB and Eeyore did just fine so I figured they were set to a wimpy 2’. Huh.
We talked about the show a bit. It’s a real show but I’m too late to sign up for the CT so I’ll just do the schooling rounds. I did theM with Gem once before and had a lot of fun. The nice thing is that the schooling rounds are mostly after the CT has ended so a lot of people have left and the atmosphere is a bit more sedate. At least it was last time.
Anyway….she said that we will take it step by step. First see how he handles the crowd and atmosphere. If he is completely freaking out and unsafe (I doubt he will be given his attitude at the trail head earlier this week when horses were everywhere) we will walk across the street to the xc field and play over there instead. If he handles it ok, we will enter the warm up and do some fences. Again, if he is a spaz and not handling it well theN we will work him there until settled and then call it a day. If he is ok, we will go do some courses. Depending on how we handle the 18” division, we may enter starter (2-2’3”) after. It all really depends on his stress level.
This conversation made me love Trainer AB even more. I really appreciate her step wise, low pressure attitude and how she focuses on his well being and my fun-o-meter. She pushes me outside my comfort level sure, but always in a way geared towards building my confidence. Tiny wins, like my position becoming much stronger and more solid, are celebrated just as much as the big ones, like finally making it over the pipe of death.
I’m super excited for Saturday and I can’t wait to try a full course with him. Trainer AB is setting the course so I know it’s going to be technical and interesting as well as true to height so we will see! Plus ending the week with a show will be the icing on an already amazing f horse week for me: trails, lesson and a show?! Who’s life am I living?!?