I took my second lesson with Jeff today. I rode Currituck (aka Sporty) who is a retired show horse. I liked Sporty better than Billy because he was more comfortable and was much easier to get into a frame.
Sporty was a bit girthy so we spent a few extra minutes at the start of the lesson walking around and slowly tightening his girth. Once the girth was tight and we had walked around a few times, Jeff had us pick up a working trot.
We trotted several figure eights -working on both sides of the eight being even and round while he had me stretch up tall and lean back. As we went around the arena Jeff also had me focus on how high I was posting and try to control it so I did not go so high out of the saddle.
Then, he had me drop my stirrups and work in a smaller circle (30m) at the sitting trot. I must be honest -I have not ridden with out my stirrups for months and after about twice around the circle I was dying.
As I tried my hardest to stay on, Jeff continued to talk to me about pulling my shoulders back so that they were even with my hips, and once again imagining that there was a string attached to my head and that some one was pulling straight up on it – so that I stretched taller. I tried very hard to do this, with my legs complaining bitterly the whole time about how they did not want to work that hard to stay on.
Finally Jeff, realizing that I was dying, let me walk down to the other end of the ring, where we then trekked right at the sitting trot without our stirrups. I think I lasted a little bit longer this direction, but I was still very happy to get my stirrups back. I got the homework assignment to ride Troy everyday without my stirrups for 10 minutes.
Jeff then placed a pole on the ground and we picked up the canter and cantered on the left lead over the poles several times. I saw most of my distances to the pole, but we took a few really long so Jeff had me collect Sporty’s stride so that I would have more options at the pole than just to leave long.
We then repeated the exercise to the right. We had better distances this way.
Jeff then had us trot back and forth over a small cross rail. Jeff warned me that Sporty might be a little “lookey” at the fence, and to be prepared. We trotted back and forth over it several times. Sporty was more than willing to go over the fence. Almost every time, however, I felt like I got “pulled back” in the air – I didn’t really feel like I was being left, but more like I was having whiplash or something once we were over the middle of the jump – it felt as though he was some how jerking me back. I asked Jeff why this was and what I could do to correct it.
He said that a great deal of it was that Sporty had so much jump and jumped so well, that it would feel like that – he also told me that I should have a little more energy coming to the fence. The added energy helped a ton.
We then moved on to a line. A cross rail to a vertical. The first time we were to trot in and canter out in 6 strides (it cantered in a 5). Sporty and I trotted right up to the first fence and cleared it, he then began racing towards the second fence. One, two, three strides flew by and we were much closer to the vertical than I thought we would be, I began half halting him, to make it in six. Considering my options I thought about just taking it in five.
But then I thought that would look bad, so I decided that come hell or high water we were going to get our six strides, I half halted again, right in front of the fence and Sporty slammed on the brakes and very politely put his head down so I summer-salted over his head, hitting the rail with my hard hat and landing on the other side of the fence.
I stood up immediately – worried that Sporty would take off back to the barn. He instead just looked at me like “Well, you jumped it in six, I just chose not too.”
I got back on and we trotted over just the vertical and then went around and did the whole line again. This time we did it in five. Jeff said to me “You need to get tougher with him – if he races down that line – sit him on his butt after wards – don’t let him think that he is in control after the fence – make him think that you are in 100% control of the situation at all times. Make him confident that you are in control and if he doesn’t like it that is just tough.”
With those words echoing in my head – we trotted around to the vertical again. Upon landing I sat him down and shortened his stride tremendously, even enough so that I let him go a bit at the last stride. We did our six and then once again I halted him immediately after the fence and backed him up.
We came around again and did the same thing, and again, we got our six. Only then did we “earn” the right to canter down it in 5. We did this once and then, since we were running out of time and other lessons were waiting, we called it a day.