Zipping out to the barn, I loaded up Annie, and at the last minute decided to leave Spud at home. My initial idea was to lunge him post-lesson, but after being poured on the day before, it left me with little motivation. Plus, the list of chores I had wanted to complete that afternoon meant I had to be aware of my timing.
Annie was great and unloaded just fine, quietly going to work on her hay while I tacked her up. I wouldn't be riding for nearly 40 minutes, but I figured I'd tack her up, throw a cooler on and watch some of the lesson before us. The weather was more manageable, but cold. My fingertips felt icy as I did up the girth and I cursed myself, wishing I had brought mittens of some kind. I was relieved to find my riding gloves had dried enough that I could wear them.
|Jumping some jump filler with cones on either side|
(it looks like we're jumping the cross rail, but we
I watched a bit of the lesson before us, and took some videos for the riders, who are both friends. The wind was relentless, and I lamented that I couldn't wait for our lesson so I could get warm. It didn't take long for time to pass, and before I knew it, I was convincing Annie to put a verrry cold bit in her mouth (sorry, mare) and swinging a leg over.
We warmed up in the grass and the walk felt good - forward and reaching. Unfortunately tho, the trot was a fricken disaster. She got kinda hot, unwilling to bend to the inside and kept pivoting herself around the circles I attempted to make. It made me revert back to my old habits (hello, Left Rein), and just made Annie pissy. There was a lot of tail flicking, head shaking, and huffing. I contemplated going back to the walk and just waiting for our turn instead of trying to get to a positive place.
|This jump gave me heart palpitations.|
(See below for the gif of Annie and I going over it ;) ).
We moved onto canter, which was also a disaster. For the first time this year, she coiled up, bounced, and started cross-firing with her tail cracking behind her. I sat about three or four strides before I simply said enough was enough, brought her down to trot and worked the gait until I felt like she was actually listening and responsive. I sat on her a bit, encouraging her to stretch during those times and she did quite nicely.
|We jomped da box!!|
So we did just that, me remembering to be more Zen and Annie to be less... sensitive, haha. We picked up canter again and I suddenly had a much more agreeable horse beneath me. I sat up, encouraging her to push herself forwards vs coiling up behind my leg. She agreed and we switched directions and cantered the other way without zero issue.
She still felt tense tho, which was kinda frustrating to me, but I just let it go and walked a few laps before going into the ring. We started several minutes late, but once we started, we got right into it.
Some pointers from this lesson (in order):
|Big, scary jump and mare takes care of me <3|
- Starting with the walk, Anthony reminded me to make the walk interesting. "Don't wait to be bold in the canter - be bold in the walk first, as it is a more controllable gait." I like to have Annie in a very slow, controlled and collected canter, so this was a good exercise for me, as I vocalized that "I like slow. Slow feels controllable!" And Anthony once again reminded me that control does not come from the speed, control comes from practicing those speeds ;) Gee, who woulda thunk.
- Annie needs 1000s of forward transitions (working canter to working trot). He did caution me to not overdo this and to not ask for a forward transition every time. Too much of something is never a good thing. He suggested I implement something similar to "2 working canter - working trot and then 1 collected/slow canter to collected/slow trot" and even "working canter to slow/collected trot". The power of keeping things interesting, and honest.
- Instead of ripping at the left rein (tracking right), think of controlling her right front leg at the canter. You are steering that, not her outside shoulder.
- Get her head up, looking and interested in her work. She should only be ridden in a "deep" frame 20% of the time. The rest of the time she should be in your hands and looking where she's going. (This makes it sound like I ride her in rollkur, haha, but he's meaning having her poll higher vs a more dressage frame).
- He had us complete a 5-6 serpentine loop around the arena, alternating posting and sitting trot. Annie had some resistance during the turns and would fuss with the bit. I asked him about this, and Anthony said it is simply resistance to an aid. It doesn't necessarily mean pissiness, it may simply mean I am using too much of an aid when turning. He said that fences train horses more than we know (for example, when riding serpentines, we turn to avoid crashing into the fence), and he was saying that riders tend to override the turn and instead of simply directing the horses feet, they clamp the outside leg on to push the horse through the turn, clamp the inside leg on to bend thru the turn and block with the outside rein. He said I'm probably doing too much and to just simply turn her - it doesn't need to be complicated.
- We also did a metric shit ton of canter-trot-canter transitions where Anthony had me on a 40m circle and as soon as we changed directions, I was to grab mane with the left hand and ask for canter. Annie, understandably, got the wrong lead once or twice, but it really changed how much power she had. Typically, I unintentionally block with the left rein and she'll wander into this short, quiet, but no good for jumping canter. Without my rein blocking her, she popped into a rather lovely, forward canter.
|Those are some happy mare ears <3|
- Are you making her better, or are you encouraging a habit?
- At one point in the lesson, Anthony asked me to do a walk - trot transition and trot down the short side. There was a woman scooping manure in the ring kind of close to the track, so I across the short side to avoid her. Anthony wanted me to do it again, and this time to not sway my path and to commit to the track like he had asked. His reasoning was that just because we run into "problems" doesn't mean we should avoid them (ie. this could be another horse in the ring, spooky coat hanging from fencing, etc). He said by nature, Annie should look at these things and I should encourage her to acknowledge them. He mentioned that jump standards in a ring train riders more than we think, as we often use them as markers in the ring vs riding around/ utilizing them in our work (just like the woman in the ring). It's not to say you should be riding rings around some poor soul in the arena, but it's about riding your plan and instilling bravery in your horse. You expect them to jump spooky jumps, but will avoid a certain situation because it may cause an "issue". School through it!
- Practice the hardest at trot poles - these are your million dollar jumps, so jump the shit out of them.
- Allow there to be a thought process about the jumps - you want her to acknowledge the jump from several strides away and say "OK".
- "Look at the jump, little mare!" Encourage her to poke her nose up and out, while still having a feel of her mouth.
- Anthony had me jump a little set of jump filler in preparation to jump a vertical with boxes beneath it. He said this when I went to jump the filler by itself before trying the vertical: "THIS is your winning fence, so ride it like it is."
|Such a good bean!|
We jumped quite a bit, and quite a bit bigger than I'm used to and certainly the biggest I've jumped on Annie to date. I had to have a minor pep talk when he raised the x-rail to an oxer. It was good though, I got brave and trusted her and we had a really, really good ride.
We also did a lot of cantering to fences, which is something I'm not the most comfortable with, esp to the bigger fences (trotting approaches are less scary, haha). Overall tho, I'm super proud of not only Annie, but myself (Anthony may or may not have given me a high five at the end, haha!).
Still lots of greenness, of course, but never said no once. She got stuffed with many cookies for being a good girl and I'm already looking forward to our next clinic in June with Anthony!