One of the best things about my trainer is her enthusiasm for teaching and making us better equestrians. Lately, a way she has been giving us an opportunity to go the extra mile is hosting a two hour group lesson/fun workshop on some Saturdays. It’s free, and I showed up early to the barn on Saturday morning to walk Simon in hopes that I would be able to catch a ride on one of the school horses and participate in the workshop, and luckily I wasn’t disappointed.
She calls them a fun workshop, but immediately I realized that while the lesson was fun she was also stepping it up a notch. I ride in the Monday adult lesson, and we are way more casual than the other lessons. If we’re tired, we can take a break. We’re not forced into no stirrups, etc. When I’m riding Simon and in training mode, I push myself in these lessons and don’t take the easy way out… but lately on the random horses I admit that I’ve been coasting a bit. So on Saturday when I got tired of holding my two point and went back to posting, Kathy informed me over the microphone that if I didn’t keep my two point I had to get out of the clinic. Whoa! Ok, time to work then!
I rode Winston again, who I’ve been enjoying lately. He’s the same size as Elvis, which is both too small for me but also kind of nostalgic and not intimidating at all. Winston’s deal is that you have to a) keep him moving FORWARD, b) keep your hands incredibly quiet and your reins almost loopy, c) steer with your legs and an open hand. He’s incredibly green, and he was ridden very rough for years. The result is now he is a good minded green horse who is so scared of a rough hand that if you pick up the reins much he will violently toss his head and scoot forward. Fun times.
For the most part, Winston and I get along really well. On the flat we had one episode that gave me a huge confidence boost. There were 11 horses in the ring cantering, and even though I called a space a juvenile rider cut me off and shoved us into a standard. We didn’t hit the horse or the standard, but it was very close and Winston wasn’t pleased. His reaction was to take off violently bucking down the center of the ring… and I didn’t fall off. I didn’t even come close to falling off. This was a major, major success for me.
Later jumping I had both some good and bad moments. The exercise was to do a circle with a small vertical while the group judged our equitation. First at a trot, and then at a canter. To the left, Winston was very good. He wants to bulge on the outside of the turn but nothing I couldn’t handle, and his pace was very good and consistent. The first two canter fences I didn’t make a decision with distance and had some ugly spots, but then I shaved a bit off my turn into the jump and had a few really lovely fences. I felt good that I was able to fix the problem.
The second direction wasn’t the same story. Winston is worse to the right than the left, and I haven’t had extensive time riding him or really flatting him… which showed. After the trot fence he had the worst unbalanced canter and wouldn’t do a change. So when I tried to bring him down with a half halt, he started the violent head tossing. I tried again, but the canter was so bulgy and awful and I couldn’t use my hands at all which left us an out of control mess. I knew that this was a major problem that wasn’t going to be fixed today, so I brought him down to a balanced trot to do the vertical and end on a good note. He did, and we ended on that.
All in all, it was a really good lesson. I saw some problems and fixed them, and I had some good moments both on the flat and fences with Winston. The thing I’m really disappointed in is my leaning. I told myself ‘don’t lean don’t lean’ on the approach to every fence… but here’s the photographic proof. Lots of leaning. Sigh.