Arrived at N's, totally clear skies. She was ready to go, and after dressing H, we were off to the arena. Harley's mind was somewhere else for a while in the warm-up - horses playing in distant pastures, Oreo the cow wandering around. Dogs barking far off. Anything but working. Warm-up consistent nearly entirely of working on the bend. Heading left, I need to exaggerate the left bend. More inside rein, and inside calf pressure. The left rein ends up floppy loose too often, and my hands are entirely too busy in the ride. Wiggle Wiggle. One way to quiet the hands is to shorten the reins. Heading right, I need to work on the energy. His bend is nice, quite nice in fact. Since he's bending well, the energy falls apart pretty easily.
After the warm-up ride to work on loosening us both up and the instructions on bending and keeping his attention on me and not on the distractions, we headed to some ground poles. Some stretched out far apart, some closer together with every other side propped up. Walked over them, then trotted over them. Other than some lazy feet not lifting over the elevated poles, he did very well. No pause, and happily he rode them like he does at home. We rode in and out of the dressage arena to get to the trot poles, which was neat. Slight hills in and out of it, and definite changes in footing. Harley didn't even hesitate. Pretty cool, considering we don't have those things at home.
Then it was down to business. Trot poles set up on the gymnastic line... Hop Hop Hop Hop .. No problem, Harley says. Last pole in the line elevated to a crossrail---low low. After two trips, this was elevated to a good size X. Hop. No problem - in fact, I was cantering away a good 4-5 strides without him slowing down. Whee...
Somewhere around when the second X was added, Harley did exactly the same as at home - paused at the first X, jumped hard over it (floppy and loose), cantered a big stride, jumped hard over the second one, threw his head up in the air, and went off pretty fast on the landing. I did the same as home - I freaked. I grabbed his face, I pulled back, I tried to slow him down with only my hands. N explained "Let him do it the first time. It's anxious "ooh it's new. hurry up get in and out and get it over with. Allow him the first time he does it - give him the benefit of the doubt. He does it the second time? Halt hard, as soon as possible. But not over the jumps. Keep the reins loose through the gymnastic, and as soon as his back feet land, halt firmly."
After this, I did a good job of setting my fingers on his mane, wrapping up a finger or two in it, and keeping the reins loose. Somewhere around when the 3rd X was added, I fell forward over jump 2, but somehow in the two strides to the 3rd, I "got my ducks in a row", and was upright again over the 3rd. Don't ask how.. I have no clue how I did it.
Positives in the lesson:
- Hands are getting better at not whacking his face, and staying out of his way.
- Upper body mostly stays where it's at. I can add a neck strap if I want, but other than the one forward-position, I'm doing well naturally at staying over the motion without being behind or forward.
- I make good progress at home - -- Yeah, I hope so. I try not to schedule the lesson until I have "new material to bring to the game". The compliments were nice & appreciated. N notices I am improving, and that's awesome.
- Legs. In. Front. I need to practice keeping my legs forward from where they naturally rest. When I put them where they belong, they feel "in front of me", but this is apparently something I'll get used to. When they were "good", they definitely felt way out in front. It'll just take some practice and LOTS of repetition to get comfortable there. N explained that "with my feet in line with my upper body, it's much harder to fall off, and if he does something silly, I'll be a lot more secure than if my legs are behind me where I've been keeping them."
- Jump line distances -- Things at home have never felt like they do there. At N's, he feels smooth, fluid, and calm. Other than that one line that he rushed, he was steady, slow, quiet, and honestly a LOT easier to ride than he's been here. I figured out why.
- Ground pole, 7.5' to the first X; 14' to the next X; 23' to the final X. I got out my tape measure and measured it off after the lesson to be sure. That's about a 7' stride instead of the 9' I have set here at home. That right there explains why it feels like he has to reach and probably why he's rushed it more at home. My next trip to the arena I will be adjusting what's out there.
- Bending Bending. Do not accept the left "bend" I've been getting. I got some circles with a nice left-bend, so I know what it's supposed to feel like.
- Endurance - I need a LOT more canter time away from the gymnastic. I need to ride those jumps, be confident through and over, and continue the canter through the turn. Keep Up The Energy.
A fantastic hour & half lesson, like always. As I remember more, I'll probably blog those details, but I can say that like always, every lesson is an amazing abundance of information. I gain so much in every single ride up there. :)
2014 has ONE goal and I can't wait to share it with everyone. I told N yesterday, and she thinks it's totally achievable. I can't wait!!
Late yesterday evening, with heat packs wrapped around my knees, I know I have some fitness to work on. I sure am glad I'm on some medicine now, will share with my doctor that while I can ride more than previous, my knees still aren't what they used to be. Maybe that's just age. I know I still owe everyone in my readership an explanation on what's going on. It's hard to explain, there's still some uncertainty from the doctor. Regardless, the medication is working - I can walk on a regular day, I can bend and move around, and I'm nearly back to riding like I was. I am not up to 2-a-day on weekends, but at least I can ride 1 up to 5 days a week. Before the medicine, I had maybe 2 or 3 rides a week, and I was nearly crying a few hours after the ride.
I still can't wait to share the 2014 goal! :)