|The Birthday Girl in all her glory.|
The Sainted Mare's Birthday
Madame Mare was treated to quite the fuss on Tuesday night. Noah and I arrived at the barn packing carrots, apples, mints, granola bars and other goodies, which Sugar gobbled down quite happily. She's not very ladylike when accepting treats. She lunges at whatever you have in your hand like a great white shark going after a seal. (Really, it's not quite that bad, - you do know by now that I exaggerate a little, right?) The only reason I even still give her treats is that she's very careful to never get any fingers, bless her heart.
Her Majesty was perhaps a bit surprised that she was expected to work on her special day, and maybe a bit less than thrilled that part of the festivities included being made to wear a birthday tiara and boa, but she accepted our shenanigans with typical Sug aplomb and did what she had to do to get more yummies. Noah thought she looked mortified but I think she secretely likes playing dress up.
Riding: Rhythm is Peace (and Safety!)
We have been having the most amazing lessons!!! We've been going back to basics and concentrating on rhythm to the fences. Our trainer has been having me re-learn jumping to erase some bad habits and fear that arose because of them. I've been concentrating on cantering one crossrail on the circle until I can stay in a consistent rhythm, and lo and behold, once I could stay in that rhythm, the distance thing wasn't as much of an issue. A little close, a little far away? Either was doable from the right rhythm. (Of course, it helps when the fences are ridiculously small.)
We progressed from doing single crossrails to two in my next lesson, just to see if I could maintain the rhythm when I had another fence to worry about. We worked on keeping the rhythm while changing the strides in a line. Question - can Amy collect Sugar and do 7 strides in the line, and then open the stride and do 6 without getting flat or strung out? Now she can, and consistently, too! In the past I could have maybe done it once, maybe twice in a lesson, but not 3 or 4 times.
Each lesson we've added another fence or two, low fences, and we jump one, then two, and then maybe three in a row if I can show my trainer I can maintain the canter rhythm throughout. We've gone to four, then five, and he's even raised the heights on some of the fences so some are crossrails and some may be 2'3", and another one may be 3'. This has helped me to stop worrying so much about the height of the fence. As my trainer tells me, "It's not the height, it's the rhythm." Notice a recurring theme here?
In my last lesson I ended jumping a course of seven or eight fences of varying heights. I've been able to jump courses before. Heck, Sug and I would jump 3' courses at shows, so it's not like I can't do it. It's more like I used to feel that after the third fence things were unravelling and by the halfway point we were getting strung out and if we made it to the end of the course it was on a wing and a prayer. I used to feel fear pretty much every stride of the course. Now I don't. Now I am so busy finding my rhythm, balancing her up, and then staying in my rhythm that I haven't been afraid.
Jumping is even fun again. We get to a slightly deep distance? No problem. Land and get the rhythm back. We see a long one? No need to panic. Stay back, land in my heels, regain the rhythm, and carry on. Sug is much happier with this new system, as there is consistency. Not so much pull-pull-pull, now go-go-go!!!! Am I perfect. Not by a long shot. But we've addressed a very real weakness and I am better, and that makes a huge difference tome, and most importantly, to my horse. I swear to you she's smiling after every lesson.
I told my trainer that I really feel this approach has worked for us, that it helps me preserve my focus and makes me more confident. My trainer answered (insert Argentinian accent here) "Of course. Rhythm is peace. For the rider and for the horse" He cocks his head and thinks for a second. "And safety. Rhythm is peace and safety. And that brings confidence."
So there you have it. I'll leave you to think about that pearl of wisdom until we meet again.
Thanks for reading!