This post was originally written on 12/26/2014 on my personal blog.
I like doing write-ups after my weekly lessons. Originally I got the idea (and the term ‘lesson report’) from a friend of mine, and I found reading them really interesting. It’s fun and useful – you can read about other peoples’ issues and how they solved them. Now that I’m riding again, I’ve started doing lesson reports for myself. I find that it’s a great way for me to really intellectualise my ride, and think more critically about what we worked on that day. Lesson reports can get pretty lengthy, so I’ll be posting most of these underneath a cut.
Because the ring is still pretty wet from all of the rain earlier in the week we couldn’t do anything terribly complicated, and that means…. gymnastics. Today’s ride was really challenging but I’m really happy with what I got out of it.
The horse I rode today is named Scooby. He’s a big eight-year-old Clydesdale-something (I think), and I like him a lot. However – he is very green. He’s really only been in work since the summer, as far as I know, and so even though he’s not a baby, he rides more like a five or six year old. That said, he has a really fun personality, and I’m learning a lot riding him!
This is only my third time riding after almost two years off, so my muscles are still working on getting back into shape. I rode Scooby last week and new trainer told me I had done much better than she had expected on him, and since he’s her personal horse, it’s a really nice confidence boost that she lets me ride him, especially since she has only known me for a matter of weeks!
Anyway, today’s ride was a difficult one. I’ve been riding pretty much my whole life, but after a long break, my muscles are really just not there. I know what I need to be doing, but I don’t always have the strength to get it done. On a big, green horse like Scooby, that’s an even bigger disadvantage. He’s not yet quite sure how exactly he’s supposed to do his job, so he needs a lot of support and very clear direction to get it done. He’s also extremely wiggly, so a supportive leg is very important to help keep him straight (you can see in the video that we are… not quite there yet! xD)
We did a lot of trot work to warm up but no cantering (again, not the greatest footing). Scooby has a really lovely, smooth draft horse trot once you find the rhythm, and I can already tell that some of my strength and endurance is coming back – I was able to trot consistently for longer. I also did some sitting trot work, and even though I wasn’t able to hold that as long, it felt really nice and my calves felt stronger.
The jumping exercise is where we started having trouble. Trainer told me that Scooby has never done this type of exercise before, and I’m very out of practice, so obviously we were having some green horse/green rider problems!
We started with just poles on the ground, concentrating on getting an even rhythm with his trot. Scooby is not the most graceful horse around so keeping him forward and straight was really important: the more he wiggles the more he trips. After doing that a few times we put up the last two fences and did a trot-in, canter-out. This was a little more difficult, especially straightness-wise, but ultimately we did get the hang of it. It’s a bigger canter stride between the rainbow fence and the blue fence and I think Scooby was a little confused about cantering over the pole but ultimately, not terribly difficult. Originally there was a ground pole after the last fence and we did have a few problems actually getting over it – Scooby thought he was done after the last fence and would duck around it, but eventually, we got the idea!
Then we moved up to three fences. I asked new trainer to get some video:
As you can see straightness is really difficult. I honestly just don’t have the leg strength to push him in the direction I want to go, and he doesn’t have the experience to know that if I point him at jumps that means he should go over them in a straight line. However, we did manage to get it.
Then we raised the fences a little bit. At this point my legs were getting pretty tired and we started having some real trouble. I was ‘dying’ over the purple fence and just couldn’t keep the support, and Scooby took that to mean he was supposed to dive right and not go over the next fences at all (video of some runouts here). I was also having a lot of trouble riding the turn, especially with the slippery footing, and ended up throwing Scooby off balance. This happened a few times despite the fact that I was trying to make changes, and I was feeling pretty discouraged.
Thankfully, new trainer was able to diagnose the problem and offer a solution. She talked to me about correcting drift with my legs, instead of my hands, which affected Scooby’s balance. I needed to support him more with my legs. The bad turn and approach were also a problem. I don’t have the strength right now to turn effectively off outside aids. So she had me sit the trot through the turn, because “you have very good seatbones, and you can push him over more effectively using your seat rather than your legs.”
WOW. This made a really huge difference. I know I’m a ‘hips rider’ but it was still so much more than I was expecting. I was turning much more square and with more precision (especially important trying to avoid puddles) and this meant the whole exercise was straighter. No runout!
Now that we’d fixed the issues I took Scooby through two more times at the bigger height and he was wonderful. He even got his lead change the last time through! Trainer was really proud and told repeatedly how great it was. 😀
Even though this was a really tough day and a really tough lesson, and we experienced a lot of problems, I feel really happy about what we accomplished. This exercise was great for me and also great for Scooby, and I think we both learned something. I love riding this horse in particular because he’s really teaching me to think more critically about my riding, and to be more decisive. Instead of just pointing the horse in the right direction and assuming he knows what I want, with Scooby, I really have to tell him exactly what I want him to do and I think that’s a really valuable lesson for me. I’m learning to make the ride happen instead of just letting it happen.
I’m really happy to be riding again and I’m REALLY excited because I am definitely learning something every time I ride!