Monday, June 1, 2020

Why Is This So Hard?

Tuesday morning I woke up with a throbbing, pounding head. By Friday evening it was still present and I debated canceling my lesson. I didn't though and instead took too many NSAIDs to be healthy, downed a bunch of caffeine and pointed my car to the barn. 

I had made the mistake of mentioning to MD in my first lesson that the canter is my worst gait. I sit too heavily on my butt rendering my legs ineffective. I tend to get discombobulated and this leads to lack of steering which then makes jumping more difficult. MD took this to heart and the focus for my 3rd lesson was to be the canter. 

It was a beautiful evening that was thankfully dry. The rain had started Monday and didn't quit until Friday afternoon. 


After a blissfully brief warm up, we got to the exercise at hand: a basic hunter course. She had set an outside line, diagonal, outside line, diagonal course with the first three lines set to 4 strides and the final diagonal at a tight 3. 

Before I could jump anything I had to canter the entire course, sans jumps, maintaining an even rhythm with a 12' canter stride, and make a simple lead change both directions. It sounded super easy. I may be a wimp and a little wet behind the ears still, but I have done some course work.

Holy crap but this was hard!!! Like, why so hard??!?! 

We have been going on hikes every other weekend. Its a bit tricky with Waggy as she can't tolerate much but loves going out. 


The first time around I had a complete brain fart. I cantered up the first line beside the jumps on the left lead, made the left turn still on the left lead then freaked inside my head that I needed to change leads, trotted and then realized my error and went back to start again. Ooops.

The second time through, Fenix had a lovely canter with a 10' stride. This is apparently his more natural preference and while nice would have made making the strides difficult. I went again. The third time around he did some amazing auto changes and I let him continue along and while MD said that was perfectly fine, she really wanted me to force the simple change so that I get to work on my transitions and doing them much quicker than I do. So we got to go around again. Finally, this time I got the green light to add in the jumps.

If you are wondering why she does this, I did too and so I asked her. In her opinion, it is very important to be able to do this if you want to jump well. Being able to simply canter the entire course without changing pace, losing the line, or missing a lead then allows you to add in the jumps without issue. It makes the jumps secondary to what you are doing out there. Again, that is her opinion and yours may vary.

I took Fluffzilla for his first grooming appointment. I got back a rat. A well groomed rat. I'm still not over it. 


Anyway...we got to jumping. I did the first half of the course the first time and botched the first line because I let Fenix stay in his 10' canter instead of moving his striding up which meant that we got 4.5 strides and a chip in the line. We also broke to trot before the diagonal because I stuffed him around the turn. We came again and the second time went better through the first line but again we broke to trot around the turn. 

Third times the charm and we nailed it. She then had me do the entire course and folks, I nailed it. It felt amazing!!!! I got him moving towards the first fence and finally remembered the feeling I had when I just cantered it without the jumps. Instead of my brain focusing on the jumps and going "lalalalalalala" between fences, it actually kicked into gear and said "nope half halt we are going too fast" and "move him up you'll miss your distance" and "do not stuff  him into that corner, go wider".

It was so so  so so so amazing. We hit every striding and put in a nice little hunter round. My grin was nearly painful it was so big. 


I drove home feeling really good and for whatever reason my headache was finally gone and as of writing this Monday morning, has yet to return. I'm not sure what nerve was pinched or muscle knotted but the ride stretched me out and fixed me. Horses for the win every single time. Also, this week is a big party. Wyatt is going to take a lesson before me and then my friend B is riding with me and bringing wine along with her. Sicne Friday is also Eeyore's first follow up US, I very well may need that wine. 

13 comments:

  1. What a perfect feeling! And the party lesson sounds like it will be a BLAST.

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    1. I'm more excited about the wine than the ride to be honest

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  2. dude, why is it so hard tho haha. but... for real. love the idea of cantering the course pattern first without the jumps. honestly, the theory is that the best style of jumping is essentially good flatwork where the jumps are almost sorta incidentally there. i had a sort of epiphany this past winter (pre quarantine) that one of my biggest issues with cantering was that, when i'm jumping i ride the canter differently than when i am just flatting. i'm working harder at the canter for jumping bc it's so so important, but then when i'm flatting (ie practicing) i'm more lax about it. turns out.... maybe i should always be riding the canter like maybe there's a jump around the next corner. anyway, lots of words there haha, but so awesome that it was such a great lesson and that this trainer has so many strategies for connecting the words with the right feelings!

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    1. I don't tend to poo poo anything in a lesson but I was for real like "huh..this is going to be easy" and then it certainly wasn't. HA! MD told me that she has had prelim level riders come in who cant do this exercise for the life of them. When I did the course though I saw what she meant. If I rode the canter and forgot the jumps it went smooth as silk. When I start focusing on the jumps adn go brain dead between then issues arise

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  3. Woohoo!!! So glad that was such an awesome lesson! I love love love that idea tho of cantering the pace first. I'll for sure need to add that into my bank for when I start riding/lessoning again. And sounds like such a fun after party! Horses always seem to take away my headaches too haha!

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    1. It was hard! It reminded me a bit of posts I've read where people ride a track aiming to get 350 mpm (or whatever pace needed for their level) to get the feel for the pace they need on course.

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  4. Your friday headache caught me on Saturday. But I'm not the bad ass that you are. :) It sounds like a really good lesson. It will pay off for your work on Eyore for sure.

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    1. After 4 straight days of pain, I figured it couldn't hurt to ride through it. It wasn't going to get much worse.

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  5. We call it "shadowing the jumps" it's really great practice and I often do it myself on Dante.

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    1. Oh cool. Glad a hunter rider has heard of this and it wasn't something made up. It was a neat exercise that really had am impact on the way I rode the course once the jumps were involved. Once Eeyore is allowed to canter again and before we are allowed t jump, I plan to set up some courses and do this

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  6. This post makes me want to go set up poles in my arena and practice cantering a course! 99% of jumping is flat work and what better way to improve jumping than working over poles? I know Denny Emerson is a BIG believer in pole work to help improve jumping and he'll talk about it on his Tamarack Farm page every so often.

    It really sounds like MD is a great trainer and I hope you keep finding success with her! Plus barn party lesson with wine?!??!!? OMG so jealous!!!!!!

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    1. She has a lot of great ideas for training and has a really cool background in horses though I don't think she rides anymore. I wish I could spend a year following her around to soak it all up.

      I plan to ask the vet Friday if Eeyore can do pole work since hopefully we can start trotting. It would make the work more interesting and give me a lot to focus on.

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  7. This is definitely a cool exercise! As a hunter rider, I've done stride exercises without jumps (just in certain places in the ring), but never in the places where the jumps are. This is definitely a cool exercise! I can't wait until I'm at the point where I can worry about stride length! LOL

    I'm happy you're learning a lot and having fun.

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