Learning To Lead

Everything I've been working on this summer with Dino is really starting to come together.

Yesterday we had what I'm pretty sure was the best solo jump school yet. I managed to ride really well without the safety net of my trainer or a helper on the ground, and I'm really excited about that!

Dino's been getting a little tense in the canter depart going to the left, so during our warm-up I focused more on stretching and relaxation than getting a "correct," round transition to the left. I also used the right lead canter, which he's much better at, as a way to get his body working before we started cantering left. The result was a very nice, quiet, relaxed left-lead canter depart, and Dino even offered to go round all on his own without me having to get all up in his face about it. Actually, I think it was BECAUSE I didn't push the issue and get all up in his face that he went so well. Funny how that works.

To warm up for jumping, I had Dino trot over a free-standing brush box that was just chilling out in the ring. He thought it was a little weird. But I'm so pleased with myself for starting out with a weird-looking skinny fence and NOT freaking out about it! As my own confidence improves, I'm able to reassure Dino when we do something a little different, and he's learning that he can trust me to tell him what's going on. It's a really, really good cycle. After the brush box, I cantered him over a little vertical once before starting to build my course. And for the first time in a long time, picking a course and thinking about jumping it did NOT fill me with intense anxiety. I did let myself practice part of it before piecing together the whole thing, just to make sure we could get five strides in the line that Dino just loooooves to leave a step out in, but other than that I didn't feel the need to pre-jump each part of the course before stringing it all together.

SO we jumped the five-stride line, the small vertical, rolled back to the second fence of the line, rolled back to the brick wall, and jumped a single vertical on the outside from a long approach.

And we didn't have ONE single long spot. Not one! And the few times that Dino was unsure of where to go next, I didn't panic, I just told him where to go next. I maintained a short, bouncy canter the entire way around the course and it was just awesome.

The biggest factor in our jumping success has definitely been improving the canter, and learning what the "right" kind of canter is for Dino. Big-strided does not always mean balanced and on the aids, and speed has definitely been a confidence-killer for us. Discovering a more collected canter to use for jumping has been the key to good jumps. Another huge thing for me has been re-learning what it means to be the leader in our relationship, and understanding that Dino needs me to "drive the bus" so to speak. When I have a plan, and can communicate that plan to my pony, he gains trust in me and becomes confident that he can be successful in what I ask him to do, and knowing my pony is going to try for me instead of panicking and stopping makes me a more confident leader. It's a snowball of awesome!

And for the first time all summer, the thought of showing is fun and exciting, not terrifying.

I like where this is going.


  1. That does sound like a snowball of awesome.

    1. It totally is! I hope you are learning to be more positive in your riding, too. :)


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