After all the shenanigans Amber pulled (my bank account does not thank her), I finally felt like I could do a lesson. So I had my first one of the year yesterday! A lot of the ride I had improved on, and a lot of the ride I needed to re-fix a few things – like my very wandering left hand. Half of the time I don’t know what it does. It just….does.
I was pretty excited when I got there – lots of colorful jumps in the arena! It looked challenging but fun, and I was definitely ready to get going with the lesson by the time I finished tacking up Liam.
The cavaletti oxer started out at their lowest point 9′ apart for a 2 stride trot through or a canter bounce. For the beginning of the lesson, we worked on warming Liam up while working on my timing trotting through the cavaletti. It was really good to reacquaint myself with his movements by Trainer G asking me how many trot strides were between the poles. I haven’t ridden Liam in a while, so it was a relearning curve familiarizing myself with his pace. It was also something new to start learning that Liam likes to go up and get behind, instead of powering over. So I had to time it right with my legs to push him over the cavaletti. He was very very lazy this lesson lol. It was also 70+ degrees, so poor guy was probably very hot. All the horses looked pretty lethargic.
After a couple trot passes we started working on suppling him with serpentines off of the rail. It was good for the both of us – me and my freaking hands wanting to cross the neck (thank you western for continuously making this difficult for me lol) and getting more assertive with Liam with my leg and body, and for him since he likes to be unbent and just going places lol. He has a bad left lean, and it took my brain a bit to reinstall the software if you will that “Uh Mandy this is NOT Amber and he does not just volunteer things with light touches; you have to assert to him that you will make it hard for him not to do it”. Which took up the majority of our serpentines but while not pretty we were eventually getting the job done.
Also because of his lean, I noticed that when I went into 2 point, my brain to leg circuits died and I’d try to correct with my rein and not my leg. So going over cavaletti, in 2 point, hands on either side of mane, correct with leg AND push to get the 2 strides was very difficult for me to do. I usually forgot something in there lol (spoiler: it was my hands). But after once or twice I got it pretty well, and we moved into cantering. I’d start with the bending serpentine again, then in the corner I’d ask for the canter, canter the bounce (I have to admit I remembered STRAIGHT to the fence much better this ride lol), then back to a trot, serpentine, rinse and repeat. Then the bounce became the oxer, and I was pleased I was doing much better with waiting, seeing a stride and supporting with leg. It was by no means perfect, but progress, right? We did that both directions and took a small walk break to let Liam catch his breath.
My biggest issue with jumping (so far) is my difficulty to place/keep my hands on the neck. I think in my effort to have independent hands and not catch Amber in the mouth (since if I do she thinks she’s in trouble) it’s really making my form worse. By not having a place to aim my hands, my body suffers, so I have to throw myself into place. All good things I need to really work on. Maybe on walk days Amber and I can do poles and I’ll do 2 point WITH MY HANDS ON HER NECK. Which may mean I fall forward or off since she carries her head so low HA.
Next we made a bending line between 2 jumps, and really made me plan, aim, and get it done. I had to trot the first jump up, canter and hit my curve. Going from the orange flowers to the purple was okay. I messed up on my line, and my trot in wasn’t great but holy hell it at least felt like less of shitfest than last lesson. We went the other direction, and suddenly from this side those purple flowers were menacing horse eating flowers! Liam practically stopped with a “oh hell no! not the flowers!” and I pulled a “oh hell no Liam! I supported you to this and we had it we are NOT stopping!” And it was super messy but we popped over it and got a slightly better bending line to the orange flowers. First time Liam has stopped with me, but I’d been warned before that he can very randomly be prone to doing so, so at least it wasn’t out of the blue for me.
It was nice to realize that I actually hadn’t lost my “nope we are doing this!” attitude, especially on a horse I don’t know well. With Amber and Whisper I’m so used to toning it down for them and only occasionally having to bring out the determination, and even then it’s light. I have been wondering if at some point I lost that attitude only riding one horse – especially one that over-gives. And while I definitely feel more comfortable on Liam than maybe another horse, it was still nice to know that my gumption is still there – alive and well.
Once we got a better trot approach and a good bending line, Trainer G gave us some fun things: a light rollback turn on a “course” of 4 jumps. It really gave me something to focus on, keeping up in between the jumps, and then continuously attempting to press my hands into Liam’s neck on a short crest release on the landing of the jump. So we cantered to the purple flowers, a bending line to the orange, a quick rollback to then have the challenge of sitting up and waiting for the brown, then heading to the skinny white vertical. It looked something like this:
If that’s confusing for you (it was for me even when I was the one drawing it lol), Trainer G was so great in being willing to film that one. It’s all I got of the ride, but still – media! Youtube was also being very sketch and not loading my video, so if anyone can’t see it please let me know! I’ll try to get it on youtube later.
Even if it was only that video, I am so glad I got it. I could see that I start to let my body fall back away from the horse on landing, so my brain attempting to keep the hands on the neck forced my body to realign itself. Especially on the jump closest to the camera, I can see that by me getting my hands back in front made my weight come forward, back where it should be so that my stability was again in my heels and I was moving with Liam’s motion. It was pretty eye-opening, and I’m more determined than ever now to really start trying to work on getting that better somehow.
By this point poor guy was getting a bit tired.
He was really balky on the next bending line going through, so we stopped, gave him a bit of an extra breather before trying it one last time. We cantered to the orange flowers and then the purple, and had our best bending line yet. I really got him to bend around my inside leg AND we got the lead change and made it very nicely over the purple. As we were making a rollback turn, I could feel that he still had a bit of power left, so I’d jump the white vertical but leave out the brown. I told him to come up to the jump, last one, and he very willingly said yes. Great end to the day! He received many pats and loves.
This ride I felt a little bit more comfortable playing around with Liam and his frame. Amber requires a ratio of 2:1 for leg:hand, and Liam was no different. I just had to figure out how much leg:hand I had to use. Once I got a little firmer in my fingers/arms and felt him resisting, then started to really put on the leg (there could’ve been seat in there – I can’t remember if I did that lol) I could feel that was the right way to go. After trying for a bit here and there every now and then, I started to get a better response from him – especially in the serpentines. And one thing I realized? I love and miss Amber’s buttons haha! Liam is still a good boy, but it really makes me eager to see how Amber would do with all of this.
As a super fun aside to the lesson, I received a generic email from Rob, the owner of Lund Saddlery yesterday. I had pledged to their December kickstarter – and partially kicked myself for buying the snaffle bridle early as they had some great combos for great prices. It ended up working out since I had to have the vet out so many times in January and I was charged in January. I am for sure in no hurry since I am not doing anything with Amber and therefore have plenty of time to try out the rubber reins I will get, but Rob had emailed that they were a little late in getting all the orders out. So, to make up for being late, and to sweeten the pot, Lund was offering up 5 different pieces of tack. I mean, FREE TACK. YES. They had their dressage reins, any type of H/J reins, their 3 pt breastplate, calfskin leathers and their 5 pt breastplate. I was very torn between the calfskin leathers and the 5 pt breastplate. I plan on trying the leathers once I get a dressage saddle, which now won’t be for a long while. I’ve wanted to try a 5 pt breastplate for a bit – I’m pretty sure it’s going to be too much hardware for Amber and I, but I’ve been intrigued with the design. I just really haven’t wanted to put out the money for something that I may or not try and may or may not like. And I’m trying to sell 2 pairs of leathers already, so I didn’t want another pair just sitting around. I’ve been wanting some more Lund strap goods (I think I’m hooked) and the 5 pt would be FREE. So I emailed Rob back, and voila – I have Lund rubber reins and the 5 pt breastplate coming to me. I’m pretty excited. YAY TACK. As I was looking in my room yesterday, I also sadly realized I’m going to need a bin to place all of the nice tack I have that I’m not using: the flash piece to my PS of Sweden bridle; the running attachment to my PS of Sweden breastplate and now the running attachment to the Lund one whenever that comes in; all of my western bridles and bits that are not being used…. I guess the main question is:
Am I now in Tack Ho territory? lol