The stadium session with Deb was late in the afternoon, so Paddy got to hang out on the trailer with Taran in the interim, eating hay and generally annoying each other. When it got close to time for our session, we tacked and headed over to the outdoor. Once again, we did the zoomy trot warmup – I’m pretty sure we terrified some of the other folks as we careened around the arena, but I kept his nose between his shoulders and just let him do his thing. After about 5 minutes, he let me know he was done with the zoomies, so I pushed him to keep trotting for another minute or two, did some serpentines and circles, and took a walk break. We did some squares at the walk and trot to get his shoulders under control (and off my left leg/rein), and then we got going with the jumping.
We started out with a grid of 6 ground poles. The goal was to canter in and out without getting unbalanced or rushy in the middle. I had my work cut out for me to get him to canter in soft and balanced, and then make corrections in the middle as needed. Last time we tried this in November, he ducked out left and I almost ate a standard, but this time we were straight as an arrow. Eventually the ground poles became 3 Xs with spacer poles in between, and we managed to have some lovely straight, cadenced runs through. SO exciting when your work pays off!
After that, we moved on the Circle of Death exercise. Four poles on the ground in a circle, four canter strides between each pole. You have to be balanced and have really strong outside aids to make this work, and you have to be REALLY determined and looking ahead. We nailed it the first time through at a trot, and then nailed it a few more times when the poles went up to Xs. We were not able to keep the canter in between each jump because a) we don’t have the leads yet, b) he’s not that balanced, and c) I’m not that good, but I focused on turning his shoulder (with my outside leg forward) and that helped a lot. We never missed a jump even though we had a couple of ugly twisty-turny approaches.
New jumps must be cleared with plenty of space, just in case of lava or alligators.
Once again, there were a couple of big takeaways:
- Do NOT come in to a fence in a canter if he’s unbalanced/leaning/strong. We are at a level that it’s OK to come back to trot and trot every single fence.
- Do NOT make a move over the jump like I’m jumping 4’ (haha, like I’ve never heard that before!). Think about not letting my helmet move.
- When in doubt, don’t worry about pretty. GET IT DONE. MAKE IT HAPPEN. I heard this over and over again, directed at every rider. This is a little different from what I hear in my H/J lessons… not that I don’t need to get it done, but it’s OK to make a circle or whatever so that I can be balanced and rhythmic. Even though coming in balanced and rhythmic is super important, I also think it’s important to KNOW, deep down, that even if you’re not coming in perfectly, you can still make it happen if you ride hard and are determined. Sh!t happens out on XC, and every fence isn’t going to ride like you’re in a hunter round. You have to know you can make it work.
We finished up with a small course – a line where I trotted both fences, a vertical across the center of the arena, an oxer, and then the grid of Xs. He was a super good boy and even though we trotted everything with some cantering after each fence, I felt like we stayed straight and mostly balanced.
Unfortunately, my lesson with with a big group, so each individual rider didn’t get to jump that many times. But again, clinics are tough on everyone – the clinician doesn’t know everyone’s skill level, so it can be hard to arrange the groups so they work well. Hopefully if we do this again, we’ll be able to get a little more jumping in!