Harley saddled, my legs still aching from Saturday and the just completed ride on Boss, I was hoping to go easy and stay light. A brief longe, and I decided to hop on and join the fun.
Walk, Trot, canter, all light on the bit. I asked for some collected trot, and he was amazing. I saw drool from his lips fall to the dirt on a corner. Amazing. Very Very nice. Up to canter, and I looked to the X rail again. Hey, he was good yesterday, why can't he be great today?
Jump! Straight over, but with some side to side hesitation. Hmm.. Don't like the feel of that. I kept him in canter, and aimed to the X again. Harley ducked aside of it at the last possible second, and my inexperience didn't quite know what to do. I stopped him pretty hard, made him back up a couple steps, followed by some side to side flexion, a stern word, and back to trot. Quickly, we were back to canter.
I kept my legs on now, and held light bit contact until the absolute last second I could release. Harley tried wobbling out to the side of the X the next three times, but by the fourth, must have realized the only way to get through it was to jump over peacefully. I rewarded that true jump with effort by a long walk break. . It was for he and I both, as by then, I was breathing pretty hard, tired from that effort.
Up to canter left, and I aimed for the fence. I realize horses have "two brains", and "teach the right still gotta teach the left", but Harley seems to remember from one side to the other. Either I was steadier in my seat and legs, or he just knew it wasn't going to be a game.
He wobbled a little, but never tried to outright refuse. Four solid jumps over the X, with no breaks in between from canter, and I relaxed us to a walk again. Fantastic! Like he's been doing it forever. Me? Eh, my legs were crying...
Determined to not quit dressage, or the benefits of the training, I sent him back out on collected trot. Asked for two sold long sides at canter both ways, shortening my reins. Got some absolutely fantastic canter with collection, as I felt his butt come up behind me for the first time ever under saddle in canter. Fantastic! More pats, more praise.
Ample cookies for the student today as well. He's picking up on the jumps so fast. I am eager to see what I can try next. Now, for the humor that most jump folks and dressage riders alike will probably howl aloud at.
I did all of it, in my dressage saddle. I *will* change my hunt seat gullet before we do it again. It is a good fit for him, and knowing it's fitted well to him, I decided the dressage saddle doesn't put me up in a tight 2 point, but it sure does keep Harley ultimately comfortable for his first experience. I will be happy when my leg isn't so long on the flat before the fence - make it easier to "stay with him" with leg contact before the jump. Furthermore, being up in a forward 2 point sure will make the release on the reins easier. :)
And, yes, I see you delightful "trail riding" folks with the comments. Competitive Trail? Uh, not my idea of a good "first experience" for the baby. I'm not that brave or confident.. I'm still hunting down clinics though, as well as a sturdy friend or two for a short ride in the park. Now, however, we're not just tackling dressage, but jumps, too! That oughta open up another universe in goal suggestions. :) Don't quit on me now...