Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Breaking Out The Bad...
Actually, the last several lessons have been really good. (Smiling and doing a little happy dance.) After about a year of working on my rhythm and making sure to keep my canter consistent over baby fences, I've gotten consistent enough to warrant moving back up to 3'. In the past raising the height of the fences would have put me in the fetal position, but since I've worked on my mental approach and the whole consistency thing, the "fetal thing" wasn't so much of an issue.
My trainer built me up to 3' in stages. I usually share lessons with my kids, which made sense since we were all jumping about 2'6". Lately during lessons she'd raise one fence in a course to 3' for me. Then maybe a second fence would be put up to that height. The rest would be the 2'6" my kids and I normally jumped. I'd jump a course with the 3' fence or two. No problem. Wheeeeeeee!
In the interest of honesty I should mention that the first couple times my trainer raised the fences on me she totally fibbed and told me they were only 2'9". I'm no expert, but she's the coach, so I believed her, even though they looked bigger to me. Finally during one lesson she raised a fence and it looked waaaay too big to be the 2'9" she told me it was, so after I'd finished Sug's post-ride grooming I snuck back into the ring and measured it. Sure enough, it was 3'. Ah-hah! Mind games! I can appreciate those! She knows how I work, and bamboozling me into thinking I'm comfortable at 2'9" when I'm really jumping 3' is not a bad strategy on her part. Well played, coach!
So, anyway, back to last night's lesson. Soph and I rode together, and usually our Tuesday night lesson is mostly flat with some cavaletti work or exercises over small fences. Last night the exercise was the "circle of death" exercise, where you ride in a circle over jumps working on rhythm, staying the center of the fence, and getting the horse to land on the correct lead. My trainer had complicated things by making the fences into ridiculously small targets - a flower box and two bales of hay. First we jumped the one hay bale, working on getting a rhythm and making sure we could get our horses to the middle of an obstacle only 3' wide. Then we did the hay bale to the flower box. Then the hay bale to flower box to the second hay bale.
Sounds easy, but it ain't. Luckily for me, I'd geeked out yesterday and had read Amanda Steege's article on nailing your lead after a fence in the November issue of Practical Horseman. Amanda advocates making sure you look up and across the fence in the direction you want to go, and that you close your fingers around the rein on the side of the lead you want as your horse prepares to take off, while you apply slight pressure with the opposite leg and step into that heel to move the horse's haunches over and cue him to land with the correct hind leg first.
I'd also watched a little EquestrianCoach.com while I was on the treadmill at lunch. Hope Glynn's video on "Making the Most of Your Turns on Course" was super helpful. She demonstrated how making a good square turn to a fence sets the horse up for a good jump. She also showed how fading in or out on the turn affects the horse's landing and approach to the the next obstacle, and thus affects balance and smoothness and your distance, as well as time if you're a jumper.
Well, DUUUUUHHHH, right?? I mean, I should know this stuff, right? But you know how sometimes you get to the barn after a long, crappy day at work, you've fought rush hour traffic and somehow all the stuff you should know doesn't seem to come out in your ride? I just read a blog post on Eventing Nation by Denny Emerson's student Lila Gendal on Being More Present and it touches on this.
So last night, I was present during my ride, and I nailed that damn circle of death exercise, right from the get-go! And what made it even better was that my daughter had trouble with it for a while, and so did my trainer's daughter (a fabulous little pony jock with several trips to pony finals under her belt by age 9). My trainer was telling the girls to watch me (watch me!!!) and how I set up my turns, how I used my outside aids, and how I got Sug to the middle of each fence. LALALALALALA- time for the mounted happy dance!!!! (I know, real mature, huh? Great parenting moment, right? Pffffftttttt!!!! Sometimes Mom gets to win! LOL.)
Yeah, I was getting high on my big, bad self. Got my strut back on, feeling like a badass! That's me, vanquisher of flower boxes, slayer of hay bales. Bring on that 3' course, baby! I'll kill that muthah!!!