Talked to Robin Saturday at her garage sale - We've made tentative plans to attend a show in April, near Houston, with Romeo, walk/trot adult beginner on the flat, and over fences 18"-2'. Decided that Sunday's lesson would prove if Romeo could handle it. Chewie's shoulder, combined with the lost shoe, and my irregular confidence, it's just a better idea to take Romeo & have a good show over fences than to be paranoid something's going to go wrong the whole time.
Nevertheless, determined to have an over-fences lesson with Romeo, I caught him & got him groomed up. Did a little mane-trimming, a little ankle-hair trimming. Even snipped a little off the inside of his ears. I lunged him lightly, waiting on Robin to arrive. She came, we got my hunter saddle fit on him (no fancy-pads needed, which is NICE). Climbed on, no lunging warmup. Robin asked, "How are his brakes, anyways?" I gently said, under my breath, "whoa", and he stopped. Also demonstrated the air brakes, which aren't as perfect as Chewie's, but darn close. Worked on walk & trot on the flat, and it just seemed like Romeo wasn't 100%.
Robin asked, "Are you really planning on showing that horse in April?" I said, "Well, yeah, I think so." She responded, "Then how about riding the horse like you're going to a show?" I realized I wasn't "riding" Romeo - I was a passenger. I was riding Romeo like I always do, no posture, no core muscle movement, no actual effort, I was just perched up on his back, strolling around the hard. Elbows bent out like chickens, hands "pushing the shopping cart", I must have looked just horrid.
So I decided to "show up & ride for my lesson". Things immediately got better. Romeo quit throwing his head around, accepted the light bit contact, gave me a great posting trot, nice sitting trot, gentle transitions. We moved on to two-point, and then I started learning something...
I have to ride my two horses VERY differently. Chewie, with his big up & forward motion, I have to keep after him with leg pressure, but I also can expect him to really pick up each hoof & react to my requests for lightness. Romeo is flat. His trot is not going to be as big, and he's just going to get strung out if I ask for an uphill trot. He's covering plenty of ground, but he's still flat. Romeo is not going to have Chewie's trot... It gets worse. Romeo is NOT going to be able to carry himself if I lean over at two-point like I do on Chewie. Romeo needs me more upright from the waist up. I have to keep a leg on Romeo, like I do Chewie, but I can't lean over. My hands need to stay loose, and stay off contact over fences.
Ahh.. Romeo over fences. I pointed, I looked, he hit the pole, but didn't knock it over. Again, Robin reminded me, I have to tell Romeo with leg pressure, "yes, Sir, I want to go over that fence, so go over it, but don't stop right after it, either."
We jumped a bunch with the middle of the crossrail at 13", raised the ends, got the middle up to 15", and jumped some more. Romeo's last hop, he was aiming at the rail crooked, off the center. I tried to straighten him before the fence, but realized about two strides out, he wasn't going to "square up to the jump". I went up in two-point, gave him a little more rein, got up as tall as I could, and clucked to him. Rather than step over it, for the first time, I felt him lift both front feet, and jump deliberately over the fence. Robin cheered, and praised. She said I finally rode the horse rather than hesitated, and I let him jump-jump over a fence.
Total lesson.. around an hour, twenty.
We're planning to get back together tonight, Tues, and Wed, weather permitting, and do more work over crossrails and hopefully a 2' vertical. We're planning to add little baby-spurs to my aids, since I'm not coordinated enough to carry a crop. I believe Robin's plans include higher fences than 2', so by the time we get there, 2' isn't a scary effort. I was asked during a night when we're not going to work (probably part of Thursday day work) to lunge him over the flower box with and without flowers, plans to add that probably next weekend.
Chewie looked so lonesome in the pasture. He gets his shoe back today, and I hope to get at least a few days of lunging & rides on him as well. Weathermen call for rain tomorrow, so I'm hoping for light showers, or none at all.