Making Smart Choices: A Lesson Recap

What happens when you get your artsy-fartsy photographer husband to tag along at your lesson and there's 'good light'!
Despite getting sick AGAIN just about a week after recovering from the stomach flu, I was determined to ride in my scheduled lesson this weekend. Sure, I couldn't really breathe very well, and it was about 20 degrees out, but I could tough it out for an hour. After all, Dino and I are not going to get competition-fit again just loafing around at home.


Dino warmed up a little bit up-and-behind-the-leg. He was feeling slightly frisky in the cold weather, but was not super excited about using that energy for good. I did ride him in his quarter sheet in hopes of helping him stay more loose and comfortable, but my little old man was definitely a bit tight and grouchy in the cold, and threw a few minor tantrums after each break. I tried to stay light in my seat as he warmed up to allow him to settle into his body and get moving.

This canter keeps getting better and better!
Our flatwork warm up was very basic - we focused on simply going forward and loosening up with frequent changes of direction at the trot and some two-point work to ease into a balanced position and allow Dino's back to warm up. We also started incorporating part of the day's jumping exercise into our warm up: a long line of about 8 poles down the quarter line. Dino did GREAT with these in both directions and totally nailed the poles every time! Not so long ago a sea of poles would have totally overwhelmed him, and every time he aces a pole exercise on the first try I get so excited! It's a great feeling to be able to just support him through the exercise and not feel the need to over-ride every step.

After cantering around the outside of the ring a few times to get the motor going, we cantered the poles as well. Unlike the trot poles, this took a few tries to get right, but riding forward and balanced through the corners and then maintaining the impulsion really helped. Naturally.

My trainer then built up the exercise to include a small crossrail at each end of the line of poles, with four strides in between each jump. We cantered through this a couple times each way until she upped the ante by asking us to halt at the end of the line, and then pick up the canter and make a circle at the end of the arena.

"These poles are too much work." - Dino
I have I mentioned how I LOVE the way she sneakily builds in ways to directly address the things that challenge us?!

I was a little bit worried that Dino would have a meltdown over being asked to halt and then immediately canter off, but he responded FANTASTICALLY! The halt actually really helped me to stay calm, organize myself, and give a clear aid for the canter depart, and Dino rewarded me with some beautiful walk-canter transitions that I wish my husband had gotten on video! I was feeling pretty darn good about our ride at that point.

The exercise developed from there, morphing next into jumping the crossrail/pole line, making a circle, jumping a very small bounce at the end of the arena, and then coming up the long side to jump a vertical on a longer approach. You'll see us tackle part of this exercise in the first part of the video; Dino was really excellent! The vertical started off in the 2'-2'3 range and grew a hole or two over the course of the lesson. But even at 2'6-ish and off the long approach, and even as Dino got tired and fell a little behind my leg, I never once felt the butterfly in my stomach flap-flapping in anxiety.

My little SuperPony in his hero cape! 
That is a Huge. Victory.

Our little course reached its final form in cantering the crossrail/pole line to the left, making a circle, jumping the bounce, jumping the purple vertical, jumping the green panel jump on the centerline off the left lead (another looong approach), bending two strides to a cavaletti, then turning right to jump the crossrail/pole line in the other direction. There are various interpretations of this course in the other two video clips, showing where I had to make some decisions on-course to 1. Avoid jumping smack-dab into someone who was standing directly on the other side of a jump I was headed towards, and 2. Re-balance my canter and get straight before approaching the next fence.

While these courses certainly aren't show-ring perfect, I am THRILLED with the choices I made and the fact that I never once panicked when things weren't going 100% to plan. Dino, for the most part, stayed with me and tried even as he got tired and started to fall on his forehand and/or break around the turns. Even when he fell down into the trot, he bounced right back into a perfectly-acceptable canter when I asked, and jumped the jumps without question.

Locked on to the next fence in the bending line
Refusal-Free Lesson #4 In A Row is in the books!!

We've been making good progress over the last few months in me being able to get more while doing less in the saddle. Dino is responding better and better to lighter aids (when I remember to use them!), and carrying himself and our pace more often than not lately. While he absolutely still has some pony'tude moments and tantrums (I won't lie, there was ANGRY BUCKING in this lesson after breaks!), he is getting over them MUCH faster and going right back to giving me quality work once he gets over his little outbursts. I'm really pleased with how riding bareback has helped me maintain my core strength and position during the slow winter months, although I do see a need for me to keep working on not getting into a defensive, driving seat when approaching the jumps.

Just because he's adorable. 
As always, I need to keep plugging away at remembering to ride OUT in my turns and keep pushing forward around the corners! But the pieces are coming together, and I'm getting to see glimpses of what our jumping will be like when we can consistently achieve good turns and an energetic, adjustable canter. Jumping has truly become FUN again, I'm fighting with Dino less and less in our lessons, and I'm having a blast getting back into the swing of things. I think this year is going to be great.


  1. He is STINKING adorable in his cape! :) And great job riding in the cold and BEING SICK you might have super hero status in my brain right now too :) HA Looking good.

    I havent jumped all winter so am a bit worried i might get some ponytude when i get back to that (We already have temper tantrums in our dressage lessons once in a while ha ha) (QH with a pony brain is mine :). Great job! I hope you feel better!!

    PS i can tell how much more forward he is becoming each photo op i see. He looks really really good!

    1. Aw thank you so much!! I find being able to ride and jump outside vs. in the indoor helps a LOT with the tantrums - hopefully your guy will make a smooth transition back to work!

  2. So exciting to read about how much fun you're having fun jumping again! Hooray!

  3. I used to have that quarter sheet in brown. Glad to see you guys having fun!!

  4. Yay dino! Sounds like a great lesson all around haha. Also now I'm wondering if Charlie and Dino will trade war stories on their break-induced tantrums when they do eventually meet lol

    1. Oh man, they'll just reinforce for each other how we ABUSE AND LIE TO THEM. This could be dangerous.

  5. you guys look GREAT in this lesson!!! so excited for the upcoming season :P

  6. You guys look awesome!! Yay for riding pictures.

  7. You two look so balanced and put together throughout the whole video. Beautiful. Sounds like a great lesson; I love all of the little exercises and how they build on each other.

  8. You guys look great! Such a great start to the year!


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