Eric Horgan, was in town and my friend Wendy set up a lesson for me. If you've been following AWIP for a while, you've maybe read about some of my experiences with Eric's teaching. Have you ever had a trainer who just made everything seem easy? Who cuts through all the confusing mumbo-jumbo and deconstructs things so what seemed difficult yesterday seems incredibly simple today? Eric Horgan is that teacher for me.
A friend and I rode while Wendy and another friend, Gail, took video. This was something new, but I could see the potential upsides. So Dawn and I warmed up like we normally would while Eric watched and the ladies filmed. After we were done, Eric had us come to the center of the ring to tell him what we felt during the warm up, and then he told us what he saw. He felt that Sug was not engaging that big ol' engine she's got. He had Wendy show me a clip of her trot where he pointed out that her hind legs were not truly coming underneath and carrying her. He then showed me clips of her canter. The canter to the left seemed lackadaisical, while the canter on the right lead had more punch because her inside hind leg was more active. Being able to see what Eric saw while watching the video was amazing. You know, that whole picture-worth-1000-words thing.
Eric then asked us to jump a small vertical off both leads. The reason behind this was that our while our warm up gave him a sense of what we needed to work on, watching us jump a bit would confirm some things and possibly show him some other weaknesses. Our warm up jumps pretty much established that we needed to get Sug's engine firing, and that we had (no surprise) a harder time landing the left lead than the right.
Eric's fix for us was shoulder-in, or what he called walk-with-bend. We worked on that down the long side, with Eric telling me when to activate my inside leg aid, when to relax the inside rein, and when to give on the outside. He reminded me to turn my shoulders so that they mirrored hers while at the same time keeping my hips facing forward like hers. I mean, I know I should be doing those things, but you know how sometimes what you know in your head isn't what your body does. At one point he took the controls from me -- walking beside me and handling the reins and so I could concentrate on what he told me to do with my seat and leg aids. He'd tell me to do one simple thing, and BAM! Sug would round up and step under, or bend around my inside leg more.
Once I got to doing the walk-with-bend thing pretty well, he'd have me "take her for a test drive" by asking for the trot. Her walk to trot transitions out of the WWB exercise were sparkling, crisp and powerful We had a working trot with impulsion and purpose. When he had us due WWB into a canter depart, she bounded into the canter with such power it almost felt like she was bucking into it.
Now that we were working with impulsion, we began jumping. Of course I went into what I call "calculator mode" -- adding and adding and choking up on her, basically killing all the impulsion we just created. Forehead, meet palm. Smack! Eric told me to get out on the rail and get my "magic canter". Once I did, then and only then was I allowed to approach the jump. As we bounded down to the fence, Eric repeated "The canter, the canter, the canter" in a hypnotic rhythm, effectively keeping me in the on the pace I needed.
Now, I know what you're thinking: I could just count strides or sing the Alphabet song to keep myself on a rhythm. Nope. I'm rhythm challenged, and apparently unable to multitask. Math is hard enough as it is. Trying to do math while remembering to keep my heels down, keep her straight, and not jump ahead - well, that's damn near impossible for this bear of little brain. Clearly I need to win the lottery so I can pay Eric to do nothing but give me lessons and say "The canter, the canter, the canter" as I ride to every fence.
Not only was I jumping well, Eric had me jumping bigger than I typically do. He has a way of giving you courage - not Dutch courage, but the kind that comes from doing something right and knowing deep down you can do it again or do something even better. And off I went to jump a line and a bending line, feeling like "Hey, we got this, no problemo." The video below is how it worked out.
I might not be ready for any Big Eq finals, and at some points I cringe thinking I look like a monkey humping a football, but hey, it's a start..