Arrived early at N's house, and it was POURING rain when I got there. Oh dear.. will I even be able to ride in this mess? I drove almost two hours, and it wasn't wet on the radar. I glanced at the map... a storm had brewed from nowhere, and looked to be small. Still, I saw a puddled arena, and I was worried... I unloaded Harley anyways, ready to go about the day. At the least, he'd walk around some.
N rode him to start. Things I remember from her observations:
* Light in the mouth
* Bends good off a quiet body, and more importantly quiet hands
* One solid tap of the whip and the leg, and he quit star-gazing
* Quiet , obedient , steady in trot
* My canter cue is quite unique - but Harley will canter off the vocal cue - "Canter!"
* He settled nicely for a new rider.
I was quite happy to see him behave. Also, I was delighted to see the arena handling the water so well. It wasn't slick, it wasn't sticky. It was just wet. How delightful! We traded places, and I rode w.t.c. for a warmup as well. In one of the trot circles, Harley reached forward, and started coughing a fit. I said to him, "Oh dear, you're going to die!" N replied, "Well, he can die, but he still has to bend", and with that, more inside leg to outside hand. A nice bend, and some quiet canter. And we were off.
But off where? To the gymnastic jump line that formed before my very eyes.
It started as four trot poles.
Then a ground pole, and a small X. Harley was lazy to hop, so it became a taller X.
Then, it was a ground pole, an X, and another ground pole.
Then, a ground pole, an X, a ground pole, and another X.
Then, a ground pole, an X, a ground pole, another X, an extra stride, and a ground pole.
Next, a ground pole, X, ground pole, X, stride, and an X.
Right there, Harley waited until ground pole #2 to see the final X. He tripped over the second X, stumbled through the ground pole, and stride, just to topple the final X. And I mean topple. Knocked the whole darn thing down. Scared himself, too. Startled me a little, and I was about ready to give up. A quick poke, and I was back to it, with a little quiet calm canter from H in the field. That was neat - he had just made a big train wreck, and out in a field full of large fences, he just cantered about like nothing happened. Okay, we CAN do this.
Ground pole, X, ground pole, X, stride, X.
His rides through it ranged from a lazy trot, stepping up over, to nice big jumps, and a steady canter. Entered each time at trot, and the bigger I made the trot, the better the quality of the jumps.
It was exhilarating. Down-right FUN, and I expressed that a few times. I didn't feel un-seated, and though a bit awkward a few times, I never got the "ohmygodI'mgonnadie" feeling in the approach to the line. Harley never felt like he sucked back or hesitated, though a few of the trot-overs were very unmotivated. No spurs, no whip, just me & my saddle. Oh, and my 33mouth D-ring myler bit. Yup, my dressage show bit, you've got that right. No extra tack to "tone him down", or "ramp him up". I was adding lots of cluck and some kiss to get him started at them, but once in it, I really only had two things on my mind..
At every start, I heard "eyes, heels down, legs forward". Turns out, all these dressage miles have settled my leg good for dressage, horrid for jumping. Homework? Shorten the stirrups even more (3 more holes drilled in my leathers), and ride a LOT of two-point in those holes. Super short, IMO, but probably where they need to be. When I had my legs "forward" (which really wasn't .. I could feel when they were behind me heading in, because those were the jumps that were terribly awkward), I felt a lot more secure.
Our next lesson will be more of the same. That's just some down-right good fun right there. I'm finally getting closer to crossing jump shows off the "bucket list". A totally delightful lesson.
And even better? I was able to actually walk today, like a normal person. Well, as normal as I can lately. Still a lot of mixed messages from the doctors, which I will update once I know more. Until then, you'll need to trust that some days are great, some days are terrible, and I'm working through finding that balance.