It is probably a sign of mental growth that I had a lesson like I did last night and still walked away feeling proud of myself for getting it done. In a way it was a no good, very bad, terrible lesson and Past Me would have been all over lamenting about the jumps we literally crashed through (2 to be specific), the dozens of times I had to be reminded that getting left behind over a jump is a bad thing, and the complete twat Eeyore was at the beginning which led to me giving him over to Trainer for the first time in a long, long time.
But Present Me, while wanting to be real on here, doesn’t want to focus about all the ways the lesson was ugly and hard. About the times we failed. Instead, I find myself rehashing the praise Trainer doled out for me finding my grit and getting the job done. For the fact that I tackled jumps set to a height I’ve never done before, in a fun mini course of 6 fences including two pipe jumps and the coop and didn’t feel a single twinge of nerves or fear. Even when Eeyore decided that life was too hard and he would rather not thank you very much.
Sure it was ugly, but as I thought about it last night I realized something. We are doing hard things now. We aren’t pitter pattering over a single 18″ cross rail anymore. My “Grand Prix (which by the way is my absolute favorite thing about Trainer AB – she always ends the lesson with my very own personal Grand Prix, an exercise that is challenging and pushes me out of my comfort zone, but that she has complete faith we can do) isn’t a two fence vertical combination anymore. No, my grand Prix last night was a doozie of a 6 fence course set with two 4 stride combinations and a skinny I had to slice at a pretty good angle. Of course it was ugly. This is all new to us! And you know what? We got it done. Left all the rails up (at least the second attempt, the first attempt had us take the entire first fence down with us oops). Made good decisions to regroup after I royally screwed up. At the end of the course I sat there laughing and saying how that was the ugliest stadium course ever and Trainer AB walked over and pointed out everything she was super proud of and ended by saying that a couple months ago I would have wimped out of the entire course. So yeah..it wasn’t a no good, very bad, terrible lesson after all. It was a hard lesson. It was a challenging lesson made no less so by a horse who was not with me for the majority of it, but we got it done and I learned a lot.
Want the nitty gritties? No…well too bad here they come!
It started off rough. Rougher than I can recall since that first lesson with Trainer AB way back at the beginning of summer. Frat Boy wouldn’t even let me mount which has never happened before. It took me four tries before he stood still at the mounting block. It didn’t bode well. It was an odd night for us. There was a beginner lesson occurring at the same time with a different trainer and while I know excuses are lame, Eeyore hates when another horse is in the arena. His brain gets shut down for some reason. Then there was the fact that the footing was sloppy and not safe in some regions, there were jumps everywhere, it was a cozy 45F and the black kittens were hunting in the grasses by the rail. I did my best to contain the powder keg under me, but when one of the kittens jumped on a post by the gate right as we went past causing Eeyore to bolt forward – I gave up, slid off and handed him to Trainer AB to work the wiggles out. She can do it without emotion and I can’t.
Fifteen minutes of cantering later, she proclaimed him “10% better, good enough” and handed me back the reins. He was sweaty, sulky and pissy at this point, but the other horse left the arena, the cats decided to play inside the jumps in the arena instead of hiding in the grasses, and his brain turned back on, so I worked him a little at the trot and canter to make sure he was tuned in to me and then we moved to jump work.
Now typically he suffers through dressage and then lights up when we move to jumping, but last night he was tired and sulking which resulted in him sucking back behind my leg and putting in the least amount of effort he possibly could get away with. It was tricky though because he had reverted back to his old behavior of “mistaking” any tiny rein aide to mean he could stop moving his feet. It was really hard work to get him to slow down his roll, move up in front of my leg, but still keep moving.
But we managed to get it together enough to start jumping. We began on a left bend cutting between the two pipe jumps and jumping away from the barn, then when that no longer sucked , we came from a right bend cutting between the two and taking the other pipe jump towards the barn before running through the combination as a four stride. The individual jumps were fine though Eeyore kept trying to take the easy way out by heading right and only sorta jumping the full pipe. This resulted in Trainer AB adding a rail above the pipe which meant that we couldn’t cheat. The first time through the combination, I felt him trying to run out to the right but a lot of right leg and left rein got us over the second one. We chipped in badly and I got left behind badly, a theme for the entire night ugh, but we did it. Trainer actually praised me for staring down #2 and getting it done, another theme of the night.
From there we headed over to an airy vertical. There was a second set of standards one stride out from this and Eeyore gets a bit hairy about empty standards. He expects a rail to jump and when he sees open air it confuses him. The first approach he was so focused on what was happening with those standards that he ran through the entire first jump scattering poles and standards alike. It was…special. I was about to get upset when Trainer chimed in that she thought I rode him really well through that and hoped he learned his lesson. She really has a way of knowing exactly when to keep me out of my own head. Love her. Have I said that before?
He did fine the next approach, though he remained sensitive and in this weird zone of behind my leg but when I got after him to move up he’d then go hollow and on the forehand and then when I tried to get him to use himself properly he’d go “oh ok I’ll just walk then”. It was a delicate balance I had a hard time following and it ended up with a lot of chip ins, me being behind the motion and then getting told to do better.
Once we didn’t biff that so much, she pointed us at the coop heading away from the barn. I don’t know what happened to me, but when she asked me if I was comfortable doing it I replied with “yep, we’ve done it before!”. Seriously don’t know where my bravery came from, but I liked it. We soared over that coop as the best jump we had done all night.
As we cantered back towards her, I knew Eeyore was pretty tired. I mean, it was his fault for being such an ass in the beginning and wasting all his energy, but still he was tired and I didn’t want to over do it. We had already gone beyond our lesson time, he was lathered despite the chilly temperature and we had done a lot of jumping efforts. So I spoke up! First time for that! I told Trainer AB he was feeling really tired and I didn’t think doing the coop again was necessary since we aced it the first time. She agreed and told me I was ready for our Grand Prix.
It was a doozie of a Grand Prix too. She set up a skinny vertical in the center of the arena towards the back 1/3rd as fence 1. She wanted me to come at it at a sharp angle from right to left to give a big sweeping right hand turn to the four stride pipe combo, turn right and come back tot he skinny as fence 4 on a left to right angle to make a big sweeping left turn to hit the coop four strides to airy vertical to end. I knew I had to ride Eeyore pretty forward and my #1 goal was to NOT BE LEFT BEHIND.
I casually mentioned to her that I have never done a fence on a n angle before and approached. The previous horse had peed a small lake right in front of this jump and Eeyore had eyes only for that. He slammed to a stop. Now in the past I’d get all scared about this and let him back off. Not last night. I made him face that jump and take it from a stand still. He was not getting the option to say no. So we did and took out the entire jump on the way through it. But again Trainer was full of praise that I made the decision I did and got the job done.
We started over, re-approached fence 1, I rode backwards to it planning for another refusal and got left behind, made the turn and took 2 and 3 in four strides. Then…..
I forgot that I had the rest of the course to ride and blew past my turn back to the skinny. Oops. But….I didn’t freak out or panic, I simply made an s shaped turn to get back on line and this was one thing Trainer pointed out at the end that she loved about my ugly course. I didn’t circle. I didn’t stop moving. I didn’t cross my tracks. Sure I was off course but it wouldn’t have been a refusal, so we were still ok.
Back over the skinny now angled the opposite direction, sweeping turn to the left and over the coop, four strides to the vertical and we were done.
It was pretty ugly with a lot of chip ins, a lot of me being left behind and a missed turn, but you know what? This was the hardest course I’ve done, with the scariest jumps and the biggest heigth and we did it. It was gritty but we left all rails up and hit every fence.
So yeah…I’m proud. I’m proud of my tired, sweaty beast who had no interest in playing along but did it anyway. I’m proud of myself for digging deep and making choices, some better than others, throughout the course. Heck, I’m proud that I was still awake at 9:45 pm when the lesson ended. Ugly yes. But hell yeah for the rest.