THIS POST IS HUGE. #SORRYNOTSORRY
Last week kicked off with a very awesome Monday jump day! The Trainer had a full course set up and waiting for Belle and I. The course was fun and straightforward: outside line, diagonal line to the bend, the single, and then trot over the cavaletti and halt at the wall (with all the jumps set at 2’0″~2’3″).
I rode the course six or seven times before I ran out of steam, and the Trainer was really pleased with my eye and how well my hip angle has been closing over the jumps. The Pony was giving me an awkward bend over the first jump, so at one point I jumped over it with a huge counterbend (we’re talking the Pony’s nose halfway to my left knee as we were jumping) to fix her shoulder, and we consistently missed our lead after jump #2 (the right lead is her bad lead), but otherwise it didn’t look half bad, either.
I’d say at this point I feel like I’d be confident showing at 2’0″ or 2’3″, especially considering that I warmed Belle up over the 2’3″ course in Lynden over the weekend.
I took Tuesday off to watch the Trainer at work and prepare for what I knew would be a tough Wednesday lesson. Over the past six months my confidence in the saddle has grown leaps and bounds, so recently the Trainer and I have decided that it’s about time I have a rematch with Boston. The last time I rode him was back in late July, and I had to dismount halfway through my lesson because being on such a big, somewhat nervous horse freaked me out so badly that I was pretty much in tears.
I’ve come so far that I felt 100% ready to get back on him, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous. 😕
So up I went! I decided that I was going to approach my ride on Boston the same way I rode Ezhno back in the days where his wonkiness made me nervous: a long, flowing walk/trot warm up with a lot of circles and serpentines and bends to keep him focused and to stop me from overthinking everything.
It didn’t take long for my nervousness to fade away and my confidence to kick in. We picked up the canter (without the Trainer having to prod me into it, which I consider a victory unto itself) and I really dedicated myself to putting my leg on and being very selective about when I used my hand, since part of Boston’s nerves is that he’s always worried he’s going to get popped in the mouth. He likes the comfort of having a lot of feedback from his rider, but he needs the feedback to be gentle so that it doesn’t damage his self-esteem.
When you’ve got him going nicely Boston puts his head really low—so low that his neck all but disappears. It’s disconcerting to have nothing in front of you, and it’s a great reminder to sit back and look up to prevent yourself from tipping too far forward (one of my weaknesses; when I fall off, 9 times out of 10 it’s because I got pitched over the horse’s head). Still, it’s a little terrifying.
In the last fifteen minutes of the lesson the Trainer set up a cross rail (!). I knew going into the jump that B-dawg has a tendency to drop his head and throw a buck after he jumps—we call it his “celebratory buck”. It’s a trick he only pulls after small jumps (cross rails to around 2’0″) and it goes away with consistent schooling, but he’s been jumping 2’6″ with his lease rider, so I figured he would probably try to toss me for a loop.
We trotted into the cross rail, I put leg on right at the base, and as expected he landed from his jump and immediately tried to drop his head and pop me off. I was ready for it, though. I lifted my hand high to yank his head up (only felt a little sorry, because come on, B-dawg!) and then gave him a couple of hard kicks to push him on. Next time he was worried about getting in trouble, so we did a couple of jumps where I kept my hands down and just put my leg on until he was going quietly again, NBD.
I call that a super success, and I plan on taking him over some real jumps in one of my lessons in the near future! It’s the Trainer’s hope that he’ll be an upgrade from Belle that will let me gradually bump my jump height.
My riding time on Thursday and Friday was dedicated to tuning up Belle for the IHSA show. We spent one day working on hunt seat and the other working on western (ew, split reins~!). Hunt seat day went awesome, she was much softer and more adjustable than normal, but apparently later that night she bucked off her cute preteen leaser…
So when I took her out for western I let her get warmed up at the walk/jog and then used my cute palomino pony knowledge to push her #1 naughty button: the walk to canter transition. I asked nicely once and then popped her with the end of my (admittedly handy) split reins, which got me a couple of bucks and gave me a chance to wallop the Pony for her bad behavior. 1,000,000 backing steps and walk to canter transitions later, she was fixed and we moved on to working on her slow. 😎
After I put the Pony away, I had an appointment with Trainer A to do something… unusual. A few months ago Trainer A got a cute little bay mare named Nova in part time training. She started out terrified and over-reactive, and she had to be lunged for at least thirty minutes before Trainer A could get on (and she’d still spook if too much happened around her).
At this point Trainer A considers Nova sellable to an intermediate+ rider, so Trainer A invited me take her for a ride to show her owner the progress she’s made. Trainer A gave her a quick ~5 minute lunge, then hopped on her for a light w/t/c warm up so that I could watch her work. Her walk and trot look nice, but her canter’s still in that awkward stage where Trainer A is establishing that forward is good, so she sticks her nose in the air until Trainer A gets her in front of her leg.
I climbed aboard and almost immediately regretted not wearing spurs. Trainer A warned me that Nova took a lot of leg… but DAMN she took a lot of leg. It took about two minutes for me to get irritated and then, with Trainer A’s blessing (since I was wary of setting Nova’s reactiveness off), I gave her a Grade A pony club kick. She lurched in place and then stalled out, so I had to dig in and get after her until we established how much leg I was willing to use, but then everything was smooth sailing!
We had another small problem when we first picked up the canter. The best way to describe it is that Nova seized up and just sort of bounced in place like a car caught between gears. She was stuck so far behind my leg that she was pretty much trying to canter at the halt, LOL. I really had to push her out to pop the clutch, but once she hit her stride she automatically put her head down and she looked and felt super good.
Altogether, Nova’s doing SO AWESOME. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt nervous to be on her. She’s a horse you have to keep working so that her mind can’t wander, but once you get past the struggle to get her in front of your leg she’s agile and athletic. I could see her being a great little reiner, or maybe even a cutting horse, if she ends up liking cows.
Speaking of reining horses, on Sunday after we got back from Lynden the Show Buddy and I made the dumb decision to ride more horses even though we’d only gotten like five hours of sleep the night before. We’d spent the night talking about the idea of project horses, so the Show Buddy was pumped to ride Dually and it seemed silly not to ride when we were already at the stable. We probably should have just gone to bed. 😆
While the Show Buddy had a grand time taking Dually around barrels at the trot, I put on western spurs for the first time and did my damnedest to figure out how a bonafide western horse works. It went… not awesome, ha ha.
At 21 years old Rein (Dandy Rein Chex, registered AQHA) is very much a polished western horse. She’s used in the Ready to Ride lesson program for beginners or timid riders, but underneath her stalwart personality she’s a very talented, athletic horse. I could tell while I was on her that she had a lot of really awesome buttons installed… I just had no idea how to press them.
We spent most of our ride meandering about while I tried to figure out how to ride properly with only one hand (I sucked), when to use my spurs (sucked at this, too), and how to sit deep and use my seat to really rate our speed (SUCKED). I could tell that I was vastly out of my depth, and I was very grateful Rein was so chill about my fumbling.
REIN WAS SO COOL AND WE RODE COOL TIGHT CANTER CIRCLES AROUND DUALLY WITH ONE HAND AND IT WAS AWESOME, I JUST NEED TO TAKE A LESSON OR A HUNDRED ON HER.
So anyways, here’s another GIF of Bob the Giant to end this post: