Back To Class: A Lesson Recap

 This weekend found us back at our trainer's barn for our first lesson since before Christmas! I opted to make it a semi-private with Sully's Mom, since all of us are super out of shape at this point in the year, and I don't think I could have survived an hour-long private lesson without keeling over from exhaustion. I was really pumped to get back into the swing of things and get a proper tune-up as I start to look forward to this year's competition season.

We utilized our current go-to warmup, which has essentially been all about instilling Dino with a sense of "GO FORTH AND CONQUER!" while keeping my reins short and reinforcing my forward aids to get him a little lighter off the leg. No long & low stretching until he's going forward! It's been working really well for us lately, and Dino felt pretty darn good considering we've had about a month of very inconsistent, very light riding at this point.

We incorporated some cavaletti work into the warm up, making a 20m circle over two cavaletti set opposite each other on the circle. The focus was on the bend, track, and shape of the circle, not the obstacles, which would prepare us well for the jumping portion of the lesson. Dino did really well with this exercise, and kept a really nice rhythm, connection, and impulsion throughout. The whole thing felt much better than I expected the first lesson in a month to be!

This arena is so pretty I can't even stand it.
The exercise du jour was this fun little zig-zag pattern. We started with poles, cantering over them in a sort of endless figure-8 over the two end poles, then the two middle poles, with simple changes in the corners so that we could get the hang of the pattern. While Dino was a bit sticky starting out, after some brief clarifications of the concept of "Leg Means Go," we were bopping around the poles with no issue. He was even able to stand and walk around while Sully took his turn and then go back to work like a CHAMP with only minor 'tude! I was so excited about that!

It grew!
The poles then grew into crossrails, and we did the whole thing again! For Dino and I, the important things to remember were forward, as always, and riding straight away from the fences and deep into the corners. If I didn't move Dino out in the turns and allowed him to cut to the inside, my line to the next jump got all screwed up and I would ride past the turn, getting us there on a weird half stride or otherwise making the distance awkward, not to mention making our simple lead changes rushed and unbalanced.

When I did remember to use my inside leg and ride straight after each jump and out into the corners, everything was rainbows and butterflies and perfect one-stride simple changes and ideal distances. Of course. The simple changes also worked quite well to get Dino coming forward and back, and rehearsing that troublesome canter depart over and over again. There were a couple times that we landed so straight and lovely that we didn't even need a change, but when we did, the simple change through the trot was very beneficial.

After Sully and his person had a turn through the crossrails, the jumps went up to verticals at about 2'3-2'6ish for me and we rode the pattern once more.

Big girl jumps not pictured because I didn't take any. Here's Dino checking out some flowers. 
In comparison to the crossrails, the fences looked "big", but to my surprise and delight, as I picked up the canter and headed to the first one, I felt no anxiety. I saw a distance, and rode to it, and Dino jumped the jump, and we continued on and kept looping around the pattern, jumping the jumps. One mistake that does stand out in my mind is when I neglected my straightness and inside aids around a turn, rode past my line to the next fence, and instead of sitting up and compacting Dino's stride and putting my leg on, I just kind of sat up and pulled a little. We ended up trotting the jump because of that, but it was a great illustration for me of what happens when I don't stay straight and ride forward out of the turn!

After the first couple fences at the bigger height, Dino's Jumper Pony Switch also engaged. His stride opened up as he started having fun, and I had a lot more pony to work with! We ended up putting in some chippy distances towards the end as I we both got tired and Dino started going faster, but more on his forehand, but I understood why and what I should have done to manage the canter better. (Sit up, leg on, and make a bouncier, shorter canter!)

We are so dang cute. 
It was a great tune-up lesson to knock the rust off, and I had a blast riding with my friend as well as being thankful that she was there to share the time slot with me. I was definitely BEAT by the end of the not-super-intense lesson! Parting thoughts and important concepts to remember are as follows:

  • Dino is looking, feeling, and moving great! He is starting out the ride in a great place physically & mentally, putting in a good effort, and is moving much more uphill these days. He got a bit heavy in front as he got tired, but overall he's going wonderfully.
  • I need to keep on working on getting a response to lighter forward aids. So often I go straight to 10 when a 4 would do the job. 
  • When jumping, focus hard on track and straightness! The way I landed off the backside of Jump 1 was incredibly influential in the way that we ended up approaching Jump 2. If I nail the track and keep the pony straight, everything else works itself out. 
  • Remembering to push my hands forward in the turns helped me retain the impulsion and avoid shutting down our forward motion. 
  • I am seeing (and riding to) distances like a boss without panicking at all. This is awesome. 
  • Keeping Dino out in the turns was sometimes difficult. Perhaps working on some leg yields in canter would help?
  • Despite not having the cardiovascular fitness and endurance I had at the end of the fall season, my overall strength and balance hasn't suffered too much this winter. I felt very comfortable and secure throughout the lesson, and only felt loose in the tack a handful of times despite not riding regularly at all over the past month. I credit XTreme Bareback Dressage with that one! 

And just for the record.. this has been lesson number THREE IN A ROW without refusals. Hell. Yes.



  1. ooo i set up a very similar exercise with ground poles during boring rehab days. so versatile!

    i'm drooling at that indoor

  2. Awesome lesson!! And I have *mad* arena envy, wow.

  3. Yasss!!! I love this haha - Dino sounds like a rockstar!! I definitely need to utilize a similar jump set up for Charlie's new "romp abouts"

  4. Woohoo!! This sounds like a really great lesson :)

  5. Gorgeous arena and the lesson sounds amazing! Dino is such a superstar.

  6. Yay! Glad you picked up right where you left off!


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