The schooling session also came on the heels of a Sunday sermon about managing anxiety, which couldn't have been more needed or appropriately timed! Thank you Jesus!
I felt overwhelmingly calm, happy, and confident the entire time. I also had my incredible support team of Michael and Rachel by my side, who always seem to know exactly what I need. I couldn't do it without them!
My plan for the day was to create an overwhelmingly positive experience. Dino and I took a hand-walking tour around the ring, checking out all the jumps and decorations, and he was underwhelmed by it all in typical Dino fashion. However, he did REALLY like one wooden cutout of a dog placed by the side of the ring in one corner, and had to go check that out a few times. He really likes dogs in real life. He also tried to eat a potted plant and subsequently knocked it over. Clearly we were not going to have any issues with spookiness.
Warming up on the flat he was hunter-perfect. Quiet, relaxed, happy, listening to my aids, and just enjoying cruising around on a loose rein and taking in the sights. I was SMILING the entire time. Rachel gushed that he looked awesome and would fit right in with the other hunters next weekend. In the canter he was almost TOO quiet, so I tried to get up and hand gallop him down the long sides to get the motor running. A short walk break, and then we started jumping.
I trotted him over this little baby flowerbox a few times just to install the idea of jumping and get a feel for how he was going to be over fences. Dino was perfect and totally not impressed by the microscopic "jump."
So I put my leg on and motored over the outside lines, which he jumped great! I was slightly unprepared for the longer spots that a more forward pace gave us, but I just rolled with it and Dino was fantastic and happy about the whole thing.
Then Rachel gave us some courses to jump!
Everything in the ring was set between 2' and 2'6, PERFECT for us at this stage in the game. Rachel was very fair in her course-designing, and had us do some more huntery things while throwing in a bending line or two.
Aaaand my pony was perfect. Totally. Over everything. Even when we had an iffy distance, I supported and rolled with it and Dino jumped EVERYTHING without question The only fence he really peeked at was the natural looking rolltop/log/brush thing, and I just sat down and put my leg on and he jumped it fine. I couldn't be more thrilled with how the day went!
As far as things to work on, I want to try and carry a little more pace to the fences and not jump from the super-deep distance. Dino jumps a lot prettier and smoother when we open up just a tad without getting flat. When I got worried about a particular jump, I also sat REALLY far back and drove him with my seat. While that's a lot better than freezing and jumping up his neck, it's not super pretty, so I want to continue to work on our trust and confidence and be able to create a good rhythm and pace, and just let my pony do his job without feeling like I have to drive so hard. Other than that... completely pleased with everything! I was pretty impressed with my equitation in the pictures as well! I would be totally cool with sending a couple of those to George Morris.
Overall, we've learned a lot and come a long way in the past year. A year ago I was still trying to push us past our fears and anxieties too quickly, and didn't yet have the tools I learned from Dr. Jenny. I've taken this past year slow and steady, and I'm really glad I did. I'm also so thankful that I've been blessed with such an amazing support team. Team PONY'TUDE... you guys are the best. I couldn't do anything without the resounding support, encouragement, advice, and strength of my husband, friends, and trainers. Whether I see you every day or only a couple times a year, all of you have made it possible for Dino and I to grow and improve. Thank you.
I'm also just in awe of the relationship Dino and I have. I don't want to get all Black Stallion on y'all, but we do have a really special bond. People have told me many, many times that it's evident that we love each other. That's incredible to hear from someone looking in from the outside, because I really do feel the love! Dino and I are a team, and seeing our relationship from that perspective has also helped me look at showing in a new way. It's not me vs. him, it's the two of us working together to help each other succeed.
So excited to show next weekend!