In Which Hard Work Pays Off

Gotta switch up these mirror selfies.. they're all starting to look alike! 
In my lesson this week, I got to taste the fruits of last week's intense physical and psychological work, and it was so, so sweet.

After having glorious 70-degree weather last week, winter came back and we experienced brief but intense blizzard-like conditions on Friday (During which I was doing trot sets around the farm! Delightful.), followed by sub-freezing, windy weather on Saturday for lesson day. 

Part of me was wishing that my lesson buddy would bow out, or my trainer would reschedule. I didn't feel like busting my butt in the cold, getting the horses on the trailer, not being able to feel my face in the wind, and digging deep to ride my best in the lesson when all I really wanted was to be inside and warm. And a nap. 

Regardless, I showed up with my pony and my work ethic to get down to business. 

Transitions were the name of the game for our warmup, for which I was glad. Dino wasn't really feeling the crazy weather patterns, and came off the trailer feeling stuck and stiff. Transitions in a light seat did a lot to help him get loose and compliant, and after working in walk and trot for about ten minutes or so he was reaching into the bridle and making a really good effort at balanced self-carriage. I did, however, definitely need the reminder to half-halt through my core and then give forward with my elbows to keep Dino working from behind and lifting his front end. He felt a little sticky going into the canter, but after a good hand-gallop in each direction in half-seat, Dino's back really unlocked and he found his Self-Propulsion Gear. He was feeling good, and I was feeling ready to start jumping! 

Our jumping warm-up was a big circle over a cavalletti bounce. I had a tough time getting Dino really forward through the exercise, and he threw a lot of sass and cranky faces as I tried to get him going. Eventually, though, we nailed the bounce off of each lead and were ready to tackle the real jumps.

Instead of a complex gymnastic exercise or work focused on a specific skill, we rode short courses in this lesson. We started with 2' fences, jumping a single vertical on the quarterline and then coming around to a 6-stride outside line on the opposite side of the arena. 

Dino and I had a ridiculously easy time with it the first time through. We got 7 in the line because our cater was pretty laid-back, but the distances were just fine and our pace was even and flowing. I almost thought it was a fluke - I had no jump anxiety whatsoever, hardly even had to think about it, and just rode. There had to be a catch, things were feeling too good to be true.


The next time around, we rode the line going the opposite direction, made the inside turn to a small oxer (!!) on the diagonal, and then galloped all the way around the arena to jump the line again, going the other way. Again, we had very few issues with this little course! The line rode well - if again in a quiet 7 - the first time, we kept up our pace through the turn to the oxer and it jumped great, and had a nice gallop down the long side going to the line the second time. Dino lost some momentum in the last turn and chipped in and out of the last line, but it was good for both of us to be able to compare a good turn (forward, balanced back on the haunches with shoulders up) and a bad turn (getting "stuck" in the corner, on the forehand), and have to deal with the consequences of the latter. Still, the less-than-ideal trip through the line didn't cause a moment of indecision for either of us, and we just worked it out and jumped on through.

For our last little course of the day, my trainer put all the jumps up to a very solid BN-or-a-little-bigger height. Our first fence was an oxer near the centerline that we hadn't jumped yet in the lesson (cue internal screaming), to be approached on a circle. Then a right turn taking the longer approach to the diagonal oxer, which posed the potential trap of getting stuck in the more angular turn off the wall. After landing from the second oxer we were to make a sweeping left turn, gallop down the long side, and jump the outside line again to finish.

I eyed up that first oxer and crushed the butterfly before it could even get one flap in edgewise. I was feeling tired, and wondered for a moment if we could jump the bigger course successfully. Before we started, I made the conscious decision to replace thoughts of "We can't," with "We've got this." As I picked up the canter, my trainer reminded me that without a good, strong, gallopy pace there was no use in coming to the first fence. I made two or three opening circles to get that magic gear, and when Dino finally clicked in and powered forward, I made the turn to the first oxer. He lost a little bit of momentum around the turn, but I just kept my leg on and we popped right over the first fence without any problems. The next turn was just about perfect, and as we came off the wall towards the second oxer I sat up, squeezed, and Dino surged forward as we attacked the fence! We maintained that awesome momentum on the backside, flying through the lefthand turn in a sweeping gallop and eating up the long side of the arena on our way to the final outside line. We jumped in and out in a perfect, forward 6 strides and Dino absolutely jumped the snot out of both verticals, exploding over the fences and cracking his back at the apex of each jump.

I landed on the backside with a cheer and struggled to hold back happy tears, hugging Dino around the neck. I cannot remember the last time I was able to jump a course at that height with total confidence and zero second thoughts or anxious feelings. Even though it was only four fences, I felt like I had just won Rolex. My trainer reached up to give me a huge hug, and I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for getting me to that moment. I cannot express how absolutely wonderful it felt to have ridden that course at that height as well as we did! The past few years of my riding life have been all about building confidence, and rebuilding it, and rebuilding it again, and each time I go back to basics and fight these same mental demons, I feel like I grow exponentially as a rider, even though the fences have stayed small.

It's just so exciting that I'm confident, Dino's confident, and we are truly working as a team. Maybe 2017 will finally be our year?!


  1. Smiling as I read, so wonderful to hear you so happy and confident! Also, I'm inspired because as you know our barn lives are eerily similar :)

  2. Yay! I'm so happy things are coming together for the two of you! I can't wait to read all about your year ahead! Nice work!

  3. yassss!!!! ready 4 rolex!!!! i just can't get enough of that awesome feeling after a great round of jumping - sounds like Dino is loving it too!

  4. How wonderful! I totally get the never ending up and down struggle to build confidence. It is so awesome to read this post. You are right-- I think 2017 is going to be a great year!

  5. Yeah! Confidence is hard-won, and it's a great feeling when you finally realize that you've got some again <3 <3 <3 :D :D :D

  6. I love this so much!!! I feel like I'm in the same spot lately with my trainer, and it's such a good feeling to end on a high note after a ride!

  7. This IS you year and you're totally going to keep rocking it.


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