Well, my spurs are still rubbing the back of my ankles, but the Super Comfort Stirrup Pads I mentioned last week were easy to install and they’ve improved my slippery sole problem. Over the weekend I also punched a bunch of holes in my leathers, so I’m no longer wrapping them around my irons like a child riding in their mother’s saddle. On top of that, The Trainer made an adjustment to the length of my stirrups that has doubled my stability—but more on that when we get there. 😉
Monday was very productive. After a rowdy lunge, The Pony and I spent a lot of time practicing our circles that we worked on last Wednesday. She gave me some very soft, supple figure 8’s (I was so proud!), and then we did a ton of cantering. By the end of the ride Belle was puffing away and I was soaked with sweat—why is Western Washington so hot right now?
Tuesday was the opposite. It started out okay—our figure 8’s were still organized and we even did a bit of a hand gallop—but then I started to feel unbalanced. I’ve been struggling with the right lead for a while now. I feel like I’m unable to anchor myself through my right leg and it puts a lot of pressure on my outside iron and makes me feel very precarious in the saddle. Fighting with my body left me with low spirits.
Flat Wednesday was devoted to turns on the haunch/forehand while in motion. The idea was to work on Belle’s ability to yield her hindquarters and shoulders while at the trot and the canter. We went back to our figure 8’s, except this time we alternated between pushing Belle’s hindquarters and shoulders to the outside track of the circle while maintaining the bend through her throatlatch. (This is hard to describe—see the picture to the left.) I had a harder time controlling her shoulders than her hindquarters. I had to bump with my inside rein to encourage her to give while maintaining our circle. These exercises took a lot of mental focus to execute!
I stayed late on Wednesday to watch The Show Buddy’s jumping lesson… only to find out that The Trainer decided to check her progress by having her jump Belle, since Baby Teak can jump kind of wonky sometimes (though he gets better everyday!). Watching Haylie jump (and listening to The Trainer coach her) was really eye opening! They worked on a lot of things that I want to work on (riding a course without hands, using a dressage whip to help hold The Show Buddy’s shoulders back, exaggerating crest releases, etc.) and it was great food for thought, so I’m glad I stayed. Plus it was cute to watch The Pony jump with one of my buddies on board.
Jump Thursday was one of those lessons that reminds me why I love to ride so much. The Show Buddy was busy with her working student duties, so I had The Trainer all to myself, which made for an intense (but slightly lonely) lesson. There was a full course set up in our giant, 80′ by 192′ indoor arena—and The Show Buddy even busted out the fancy, intimidating standards and the flower boxes when she set it up that morning. Belle and I have a schooling show August 21st, so The Trainer put everything up as cross rails (the level we’ll be competing at) and then gave us a few minutes to memorize the course.
This Thursday was the first time I felt truly competent jumping a course. Something clicked and suddenly I felt comfortable making decisions instead of letting The Pony pick and choose her takeoff spot. I started asking for jumps instead of waiting for them, and I remembered to keep my eyes up so that I could see my distances (though not always correctly, of course). We cruised around the course five or six times, with a couple of breaks here and there where we fixed some bending lines and adjusted one or two long jumps. There’s something incredibly awesome about making a mistake and recognizing that it was my fault for jumping too early—it’s so exciting just to have the agency to make bad calls!
As for that adjustment The Trainer made to the length of my stirrups… after one trip around the course (that left me with an aching thigh and a poorly positioned right foot) and a lot of complaining (The Trainer is a great sport about listening to me whine), The Trainer had me drop my right iron down one hole. Hallelujah, suddenly my foot stays where I want it to stay and it doesn’t feel half as wobbly anymore!
In short, Thursday was the greatest day ever. (Ever.) The payoff of seeing how far my jumping skills have come is the best reward and I’m super pumped for the schooling show with The Show Buddy, especially after such a confidence-building lesson.
Oh, and there was also a little riding on Friday… but that probably deserves a post all to itself. 🙂
What to Expect Next Week:
It’s the last horse camp of the year (sad, but also thank God), and judging by how the weather has been it’s going to be a scorcher. I’ll ride The Pony every morning, but I’m not guaranteeing that we’ll accomplish anything. We have the schooling show this coming weekend, so it’s probably not bad to take it easy.