I Neglected To Wear Proper Socks To My Lesson

The giant, oozing blister on my heel was SO worth it.

I had a lesson with Elissa yesterday, and as always, it was fantastic.

We trailered up to the farm nice and early to beat the heat, and passed the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile on the way.

Somehow, I think it was fitting.

The footing in the outdoor was pretty wet and sloppy from the 2 day monsoon that pummeled our area over the weekend, so we opted to ride in the indoor instead. I was also secretly thrilled to be able to ride in the shade.

We started off with a rundown of what we've been doing for the past month and a half since our last lesson, what I've been working on at home, my experience at the clinic, and the direction I've been headed with our training. Once everyone was all caught up, Elissa had us begin with some trot work.

Her goal for us was pretty similar to what I shoot for at home: a forward, light, round, balanced trot. Dino, being the pony mastermind that he is, looks for any way out of having to use his body that he can find, so we worked on a few different exercises to keep him from finding the loopholes. Elissa had me send Dino forward when he started leaning on my hands, and then pick him back up once he regained better impulsion. I have such a tendency to just lean and brace right back at him, so that was a great reminder that I need to have forward before I can have lightness! It's true what they tell you that more leg and less hand gets the job done.

We also worked a ton on haunches-in, since Dino really loves to stick his hind end on the rail and just bend his neck instead of keeping an even bend throughout his whole body. I got a serious full-body workout riding H/I both on a circle and on the quarterline, but it helped so much to increase Dino's straightness and carrying power. In the canter we worked on keeping the bend and moving in and out on large and small circles. I'm happy to say I was able to ride a very nice SITTING canter the entire time.

After a short water break, it was time to jump. Elissa had us trot a small crossrail a few times to get warmed up, and in my nervousness I was jumping ahead of my pony. I jumped it a few more times until I got it right, and then moved on to some small verticals. We worked up to a small course of 2'6 fences made entirely of turns, which helped us with our jumping goal for the day: GET TO THE BASE. Elissa helped me to the lightbulb realization that Dino's long stride can be deceptive. In her words: "You're cantering along, thinking everything is great, then HOLY SHIT WHERE DID THAT JUMP COME FROM?!" Which is pretty much exactly what happens when I miss a distance and have a stop, run-out, or fall. The solution? Package up the pony, and get to the base of the fences. Since Dino's step is naturally pretty long for his size, it's easy for him to get long and flat as we canter around a course, so it's my job to keep him collected and balanced back; ready to jump from a closer distance. Elissa told me to try and keep my pony bending on our approach to the jumps, not just around the turns, and it helped SO much in keeping Dino more collected. I even started to really feel him rock back as we approached on the left lead, which was the coolest thing! And when I rode him more up, round, and bending, he jumped incredibly well, and we didn't miss a single distance.

After riding the mini-course a few times, we took a walk break and Elissa started setting an oxer to add in to the mix. She asked me how high I was jumping Dino these days, and I replied honestly that I really wasn't jumping much higher than 2'6" at this point.

She laughed a maniacal laugh, and set the oxer to 3'.

But Elissa has a great way of pushing me past my comfort zone without overfacing me, and had me jump the oxer as the second fence of a line. We were to trot over a crossrail, canter seven strides, then jump the oxer. I was mildly terrified, so the first two times I gunned it in six. Dino jumped the heck out of it, because he's awesome. The third and last time we got the seven, and then jumped the rest of our little course, which was an absolute success. It was a great lesson, and Dino got a very well-deserved day off today.

Take-home ideas and homework:

-Haunches-In, especially on the quarterline, to help with straightness and rideability. Any work we do at the trot will carry over to the canter as Dino gets stronger and straighter.
-When the pony starts leaning, let go and kick forward! This breaks the cycle of Dino and I pulling on each other and re-establishes the impulsion we need for a round, balanced ride.
-My pony really is a difficult horse to jump. It's not just me. Because of his long step, I need to be super-vigilant about keeping him together and aiming for the close distance. He's such a good boy, he took the long one for me many, many times, but it's not the best thing for his jumping style or his confidence, not to mention mine!
-Ride jumps out of a short turn, not a straightaway. This helps keep the bend and keep the canter collected while I get a feel for the right way to jump my pony. The Circle of Death would be a good exercise to incorporate into our schooling at home.
-DON'T MOVE for the lead change! Because Dino is small, he really needs me to be still!
-I ride a rockstar pony who is fit, athletic, smart, talented, and has a great work ethic. We've improved already, and my anxiety level has definitely gone down since our last lesson. We can do this.


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