I Just Need Some Space: A Lesson Recap
|Probably the best moment in trot we had all lesson!|
As per usual, I had a lot of problems I wanted to address in the lesson. I'd been having trouble with the left bend again, I felt like all my rein aids were way too over-dramatic, I felt crooked, and I was still figuring out how much contact I should maintain to keep Dino coming forward into the bridle. At home I had also started playing a bit with weighting my inside seatbone to influence bend and lateral movements more effectively, and over fences my usual distance panic/under-paced canter/jump anxiety refusal issues needed to be worked on.
Why is learning to ride so hard?
Dino was also rather disappointed that he came off the trailer at my trainer's barn, and not at the park or a hunt meet. He was pretty sure that a few weeks off from lessons meant no more lessons, ever. He felt super sticky and behind the leg, definitely the 'worst' he's been in the indoor in quite some time.
So we spent the warm up establishing basic things like bend, and forward, and shortening my reins once every other minute. I still go back to the habit of throwing away the contact when Dino feels dull, and it still doesn't fix anything.
|This is his eager face.|
Weird how applying the correct aids gives a better result than twisting oneself into a pretzel.
The ideas that really helped me make the biggest improvement in the connection in the trot were: #1 OPEN the entire left side of my body and bring my shoulder back, and #2 With short reins, ask Dino to come into the bridle and then once he says "yes," provide the space for him to do so by softening my hands forward and pushing him up with my lower leg into the space under my seat. When my reins are too long, I get into a constant "pulling" mode wherein my hands are always moving backwards. This is unhelpful in many ways; including shutting down the impulsion, encouraging Dino to retract behind the bridle, making all my rein aids super dramatic, and making it impossible for him to let go of the tension he carries in the base of his neck. Short reins allow me to "push" the bit forward without losing contact, so that Dino can reach towards it and "pull" us forward. (Not that we're going for him pulling on the bit here, it's just a really helpful mental distinction for me to differentiate between good connection and poor connection!)
|YAS LIKE THIS.|
|GO PONY, GO!|
|That's the stuff.|
And y'all.. it was perfect.
|This was the first jump of the day. Could've gone home after that and been totally happy!|
|BOING! Can you tell by my release that I wasn't sure about this one? HA.|
I would use the excuse that I had just spent the entire lesson working my butt off to keep him forward and I was very tired, and he was tired from the flatwork and jumping so huge over bigger jumps than we usually ride, but really I should have just put my spur in him and went for it.
We lowered the jumps a bit to boost my confidence and make Dino's job easier, and were able to end on a good note riding a good forward, flowing pace over everything.
While I was definitely frustrated that I wasn't able to keep up the good momentum from the first half of the jumping, this lesson did reaffirm the decision I made to enter our last HT for the year at Elementary, and to continue showing below BN height for a while. I'm very comfortable and very confident jumping about 2'3, and can make bolder moves and ride more decisively at that height. If Dino asks a question, I can confidently say, "WE'RE GOING" when the jumps are lower, even if I don't see a great distance. When the fences go up to BN height and higher, I start feeling more anxious, as well as feeling pressure to be more accurate in my riding. If I don't see a perfect distance at those bigger heights, I get panicky because somewhere in my mind, I've decided that we won't make it over unless I hit that perfect spot. If my canter is under-paced at all, my goose is totally cooked in that respect - an under-powered canter with a pony that isn't pulling me to the jumps isn't adjustable, and I have no leeway to move up to a longer distance (we'll be too weak!) or balance to a shorter one (any sort of 'take' results in a total shutdown of forward motion!).
In short, we need a consistently better (more forward, more uphill, more in the bridle) canter to be able to move back up to the heights we were jumping last year. A stronger pony built by better flatwork will help that, too.
As usual, I've got my work cut out for me! Riding horses is hard, guys.