Originally we were scheduled to ride in a Sharon White clinic at our barn around the end of March – needless to say, that didn’t happen and it ended up being rescheduled to last weekend. I didn’t have nearly as many rides leading up to it as I would’ve preferred, but work got crazy and… alas, it is what it is.
We had a good dressage ride Thursday and went for a fun road hack on Friday, before our Saturday morning SJ lesson. The morning started with two ground poles, set at a longish 5 strides and just going over them. First at a trot, then cantering. First time, in 5, next time trying to get as few strides as possible, then as many, alternating which direction you were turning at the end and adding a circle if you needed to (ahem, spoiler alert: we always needed to). Sharon’s big on having intention – so have your intention be, “Go for it, get up there, stretch it out,” or “Come back to me, sit, shorten up your step,” and really maintaining it in your head the whole way. It sounds a little like a hippie yoga class, but it works. We managed to do 4 (hey, 4 in a long 5 is pretty good when you’re 14.1) and all the way up to 7 before she turned them into a crossrail and an oxer.
Once we started jumping it was trotting in, canter out, just keeping it nice and straight and even and getting the 5. Not because the “number” was important, she explained, but because it was just something to focus on – that pendulum in the middle. The idea being you have a pendulum of energy and it may swing too far one way and it’s too much, then it comes back and it’s too little, and then the next time it’s still too much, but it’s less than it was the time before – and soon, with repetition, it’s in the middle.
I have a bad habit of coming in weak to my first line and this Called. Me. Out. Trotting in and cantering out over a BN oxer is not a big deal, my horse is honest, I’m solid in the tack, but for whatever reason coming into that first crossrail, I have this moment of mental panic which physically results in taking my leg off and throwing my horse and hands at the line and saying, “Jesus take the wheel!”
Which is not really, like, helpful.
I didn’t fix my issue by the end, but it was better – all about having that intention from the beginning and maintaining it. It also helped when I remembered something Trainer C used to tell me – “soften your eye’s focus.” Not, look down or away, but I tend to get laser eyes where I’m staring at my point in front and burning holes into it (like, you can literally see my eyes narrow in videos). Just letting everything soften and my peripheral vision open up helps me to just relax and everything just gets… quieter? I have no idea how it works if I’m being honest, but I’m glad I remembered it today because it was great tool to have in my pocket.
We ended doing a course where we essentially added circles into the end of every line. We actually did a nearly identical exercise with her two years ago at Event Camp and I remember the course we had after without any circles was the most flowy, huntery course I’d ever had on Doc. We definitely needed our circles today.
Essentially we come off a line, I ask for a simple/skip change and Iggy goes, “FALSE LADY WHO U I ONLY LISTEN TO IGGY.” Fantastic. (Told you there was ponytude involved) When I insist and force the issue, I get all the head flings because OPINIONS. As Sharon put it – “it’s you, but it’s him, but it’s you” which is hilariously true. He chooses to blow through my quieter aids, so I go to my hand, which he protests loudly by flinging his head around. Needless to say, we have a lot of circles and downward transitions in our future… (He also doesn’t do this flatting – only when he’s excited because WE ARE JOMPING PEOPLE WE GO ZOOMIES)
The course was fairly lovely, minus the place he needed an extra circle and I got so focused that when I looked up, I… had no idea where I was going next. Fabulous. Got that fixed and off we went.
The day was a total blast and was the perfect lesson I needed going into XC the next day. He’s such a game little guy and definitely a different ride than Doc, but so much fun.