Lesson Time

As I mentioned the other day I went for a jump lesson last weekend.  When we arrived Prisoner was a bit up, but he hadn't trailered anywhere since the day after Thanksgiving so I couldn't complain.  I led him around the arena for a bit and then climbed on and worked to let him walk without grabbing the reins.  When your horse is wildly talented at high speed spooks it is easy to get addicted to rein contact.  I picked up the trot and thought it was decent, but the instructor wanted me to go slower and keep a more steady rein contact until Prisoner relaxed.  He mentioned not confusing softness with lack of connection.

Pretending it isn't so windy

Pretending it isn't so windy

We started jumping over just a single crossrail to see where we were.  I was kind of expecting Prisoner to be WILD, but he was perfect.  We trotted it a couple times and then cantered and then it went up to a vertical and he was still great.  No rushing, no zooming after, just simple jumps.  I was so happy after our first vertical that I forgot to steer, oops.

So chill I jumped ahead

So chill I jumped ahead

We talked about not dropping him at a gappy distance and also waiting for the jump and not trying to see a distance.  The pace and steering are my responsibility and the distance is Prisoner's responsibility.  Then it was time for a short break while my lesson mate did a course.  When our turn came I managed to do our classic under powered and just slightly crooked approach and Prisoner did his classic zoom to the fence.  We stopped and had a chat.  When I am making a turn to the left I need to keep a slight right bend which will keep the shoulders and hind end in a better alignment.  I also need to let him canter on.  While these are things that I know, the instructor really verbalized them well and gave me specific tools and exercises to fix it with.  It changed our issues from nebulous ideas to actual items I can cause or prevent.

Looking ahead and turning his shoulders

Looking ahead and turning his shoulders

So we started over and added the plan to circle after each jump, after the oxer I had to circle before a pole that was three strides away.  I thought that would be nearly impossible, but oh my goodness you guys.  Not only did the talking and tips help, my horse has matured so much, that combo made this the most controlled relaxed course ever.  I could have gone home right then and the lesson would have been worth the money.  One of the best parts of the day?  My friends that looked every bit as thrilled for me as I was.  In the effort of not actually looking 12 years old we refrained from actually high fiving, but there were a lot of huge grins.

Last jump on that course, see the smile?

Last jump on that course, see the smile?

Then we took another break.  When it was time to start again, I really needed to do some better prep work to make sure he was listening, but what is a lesson if not an opportunity to work on your skills.  Anyways, we came to our first jump on a left turn (our troubled direction) and Prisoner hopped sideways.  Frustrating yes, but I was glad the instructor got to see.  We talked more about keeping the counter bend and also going just slightly past my line.  Going past the line will help ensure that Prisoner isn't popping his shoulder to the outside as well as ensuring that he sees the jump and understands that we are going to it.

Working that counter bend

Working that counter bend

After we made it over that jump the rest of the course again rode really well.  Prisoner and I were downright confused, I kept waiting for him to rush and he kept waiting for me to do any of my bad habits.  One of the things that helped me wait for the jump was to keep my chin up, instead of eyes up or shoulders back, chin up is a mental image that really worked for me.  We came back and he did a faster sideways for less of a reason, but we made a big circle and really got forward and over the jump we went.  That beggining of the course started to get rushy and herky jerky, but we finished really well.

Love those knees

Love those knees

We wanted to do another ride around the course and we came in really well and he was a turd.  We tried again and he was a turd again, at which point it was time for him to realize that the jump would be easier so we galloped.  It was so fun!  After galloping we came to the jump and I could kick myself 1000 times for cutting my line and giving him the perfect opportunity to run out.  Instead of letting me beat myself up though we just came around again, this time he did it to be rude instead of because of bad riding, I just sat quiet though with my seat down and then trotted right to the fence from where we were.  The course rode great (even without circles) and we finished there.

Vroom!

Vroom!

Overall I was thrilled.  The instructor successfully helped remove emotion from the equation and gave me so many skills to work on.  He was complementary on my comfort with different seats.  I can't wait to go back this weekend and work on more things.  I will add two videos, one is long and has lots of the great discussion included, the other one is shorter and just includes all the jumping.