Typically, after shows, I either skip my lesson the following week or we do a dressage lesson. However, the combined test really wasn’t a lot of work for May (maybe an hour of riding TOTAL), annnnd a new jump course has been set. (And it is going to rain in KY for the foreseeable future… whatevs).
I’ve discussed this before, but one of the things I love about Mandy’s lesson program is how thoughtful it really is. She takes courses that she has done at shows and modifies them to fit in our arena. It means that the questions we face in lessons reflect those we would face if we were running higher levels in eventing. THUS we are a bit over prepared for SJ at the levels we ARE running. (Which really came in handy last weekend when I had to ride May a bit more given the footing, ring, etc.)
She then layers on top of that exercises that address the basics of SJ that help us ride better courses. This week? We had a modified Prelim course and a gymnastic exercise that required us to maintain rhythm and impulsion on a shorter step. WHEW!
Through the short side of the arena, we had two ground poles set up a standard 3 stride distance from one another. The warm up was simple. Canter over the poles in 3 strides and then come back and do it in 4. The short turns to the poles required you to ride forward on a good line through the turns to get straight before the first pole.
Honestly? We did this better than I thought. BUT it did highlight one key issue, when I know a distance is “standard” I want to run at it. Once I quelled that feeling and just kept the energy coming forward, the 3 worked out nicely and in balance. The 4s were fine as long as I didn’t let May get dead in the water and break to a trot vs. rocking back over them.
The exercise then moved to picking up a left lead, doing the 4 strides, turning left and circling around to a low, wide oxer. Then turning right, doing the 4 strides, turning right and coming back to the oxer. (Diagram below because WHEW). If you’re a video person, the video at the end has all our jumping in it.
Our first time through was FINE. But May didn’t land on the left lead and we got a bit dead in the water. The next time through, I asked if we could start off the right lead to work on landing on that left lead. And it was mostly good. Again, I had to fight the urge to CHASE her when I saw the long distance and to run her past her point of balance. AND May had to fight the urge to run through my half halts.
After that, we moved onto course work. WHEW!
So a quick breakdown of this course. Wide ramped oxer for the first fence, so if your impulsion is good, it should ride well (it did). A few straight strides then a 90 degree left hand turn to a skinny vertical at 2. A wide sweeping turn to 3, a square oxer offset from the rail. This jump required you to really stick to the rail until you saw your line.
After the oxer, you had 6 or 7 strides to the one stride, set on a standard stride. The key here was to plan your line so you could ride forward and balanced into the one. Gun it the last 2 strides? Enjoy taking a rail. Choke back the canter? Good luck getting your horse to stretch over those two verticals and avoid a nasty chip.
Then you had to turn right and kind of hug along the triple (not in the diagram) to get a good line to the pink before sweeping back left to square up the turn to the purple oxer (which is going slightly uphill in the ring and away from the barn/gate).
Sooooo many things tested in just 7 jumping efforts.
Our first round, the one stride was kept pretty low, but it was a pretty good round. The ride to the green was in balance, but my line wasn’t great. It rode fine, but a touch close. Since the balance was good, we landed on the left lead. I made a NICE turn to the pink and green, so that rode great. (and we got our lead again)
I turned a bit early to the teal oxer and ended up kind of rounding around over that jump. As a result, we landed a bit left of center, so I really bent the line to allow myself to ride forward in 7 strides to the one stride. It was the right call and the 1 stride rode great.
The long run to the pink and gray didn’t really work out in my favor. We got into an argument to the base of the jump, and May tapped the rail with a back foot. The ride of the purple and black was fiiiiiine. I should’ve half halted and counter bent her a bit more in the turn around the teal oxer, but again, fine.
When we discussed the pink and gray, Mandy reminded me to take a breath in those sweeping turns. She reminded me that I have time. Then we had the whole maintaining rhythm vs. picking a distance debate. Honestly, I am never going to hit every distance perfectly, and the more I mess with the rhythm and balance to hit the perfect distance, the more likely I am to screw the whole thing up. So, I’m a rhythm girl (maybe more on this later) and maintaining the rhythm became my new course goal.
So we came back to do it again. The yellow one stride went up to BN height and the purple and black oxer got a top rail. Remember that rhythm discussion? Right out the window. Jump 1 was great, but she landed on the wrong lead. Then, instead of closing my leg and seat and rotating her body around my inside leg in the counter canter, I just panicked and tried to pull her around the turn. It didn’t work and was ugly. UGH.
I rode on to the teal, but didn’t get a great line. I decided to pull up and regroup. She was now just running around with me instead of listening and maintaining. I got a quick pep talk on the importance of just closing my leg when she gets frantic on me. We regrouped, and did it again.
And you know what? It was pretty good. In the video at the bottom, you can see that it was all going SWIMMINGLY until the pink and gray. Hilariously, as we came around to the pink and gray, I halt halted with my outside (left) hand… and May locked onto the purple and black and went to make a bid for it (to jump it backwards). I corrected it, but we lost our rhythm and balance and everything.
I pulled up, asked for feedback (correct EARLIER then support the rhythm). We then modified the course. Just doing the pink and green the other way to get started before looping back to the pink and gray and then over the pruple and black. This time, I made a better correction earlier, and we had a great ride down to the pink and gray. Buuuut she kind of just EH’D over the oxer. I sent her on after it, came back, and had a much better ride.
We’re in this weird place where we are just trying to put polish on the whole thing. May is now out in front of my leg, we are covering the ground well, but we need to just… let it all simmer vs. boiling over in some places and freezing over in other. (think warm queso vs. the queso that will burn your mouth OR the queso that is now just cold cheese.) It’s going to take some work, but I am pretty excited about the direction everything is heading.