You guys, my lesson last night ‘sploded my little brain. I knew we were in for trouble when my trainer asked me to put the jumping saddle on Louie. We had a co-lesson, of sorts, with another rider at the barn. I hadn’t met her before but her palomino western convert is super charming. Louie was displeased to see me and pinned his ears multiple times while I was tacking him up- so uncharacteristic of him! I guess he was mad I took off his blankie.
I wore spurs for only the second time ever (at my trainer’s suggestion) and I think they probably helped more than I thought they would. It’s been a vicious cycle for the last few lessons I’ve had on Louie. He can be lazy, which was making me naggy with my leg, which was, of course, only making him more dull. Wearing the spurs made me more deliberate with my leg aids. I nagged less (out of worry, but, whatever works) and obviously my leg aids were more effective.
I have ridden in this saddle before and it fits me quite well but I am unaccustomed to riding with my stirrups shorter so I feel like I have a tough time finding my center of balance. We warmed up and my trainer asked us to canter a little in both directions to get things moving. She asked that I try to stand lightly in my stirrups on the second half of the circle while cantering. This was an epic fail- every time I adjusted my position in the saddle, I lost the canter. I threw the rhythm off? I just feel so unconnected when my butt isn’t in the saddle- how the heck do you influence anything in a half seat?! And how do you use your legs independently when you are standing on them?! I fully realize these questions make it sound like this is my first rodeo, but I am a fish out of water if my butt is out of the saddle.
We trotted some ground poles with pretty good success, although I chose to post the trot over the poles rather than display my ineffective two-point.
Next she added a little height to the poles. I don’t know if this set-up has a name (please feel free to help out so I don’t sound like such an idiot) but she raised the poles slightly on one side, alternating.
I watched my lesson mate go through this first and her horse clunked into every pole and knocked a couple down. I immediately yelled out that I didn’t want to do it anymore, to which my trainer replied…”your turn!”
I get no sympathy…
We also made a mess of this exercise the first time through and then decided to “better respect the obstacles” the next time around. I posted through this thing as well, though I tried to stay out of the way when I could feel Louie lifting his back over the poles. I was proud of myself for two things last night: I did a pretty good job of looking ahead and not looking down at the poles; and even though we didn’t do it perfectly and I’m sure it wasn’t pretty-we got it done, every time! I’ve had very frustrating lessons in the past where my trainer’s heart-to-heart chat was “even if it doesn’t look or feel perfect, you have got to get it done.” This was some tough love I needed at the time and something I’ve tried to follow through on ever since.
We finished up the lesson cantering over poles with one stride in between. “Not a bounce” my trainer said (like I know what THAT means…) and that went ok, Louie broke from the canter in the middle of the grid in both directions, but I did do a few things right. I was happy he didn’t break on the turn to approach the grid and I did a good job standing up a bit in my stirrups over the first two poles and then I screwed up the rhythm, the saddle slapped my ass, I sat up, and then he broke into the trot. oh well, much was learned.
I’m glad Louie knew what to do. My lesson mate had the opposite issue- she looked like she knew what she was doing but the palomino had never done it before. I’ve always only had private lessons at this barn but I have to say I enjoyed being able to watch someone else do the same exercise I was working on. For stuff like this that I’ve never done before, it’s great getting the explanation from my trainer, seeing it ridden (whether perfectly or not) and then giving it a go myself.
I survived a non-dressage lesson!