Always better when it’s fun

Ever have those rides where you’re like, well damn, that’s the best that’s ever been? Where you can really look at it and see improvement, know you couldn’t have done that (or at least done it as well) amount of time ago?

That was this weekend’s lesson.

It. Was. Awesome.

We don’t often get to have courses set in our arena, due to the sharing of it we do with lots of other disciplines, but leading up to our CT next weekend (!!) we get one to school over. It was a total freakin’ blast too.

Was it perfect? Oh absolutely not. Among other things, I:

  • Forgot to rollback the first time through
  • Tried to make a turn to the first jump that the laws of physics do not allow on the second time
  • Completely lost all pace down the first line at one point… like, I think we were moving backwards?
  • Put 6 in the 5, like almost every damn time, even when the 5 was RIGHT THERE and SO PRETTY and DAMNIT HOLLY RIDE
  • Am physically incapable of keeping my leg forward

But, when I think about the fact that I’ve been riding this horse since mid-July and hadn’t jumped a course in 10 years until the last few months?

Feels pretty damn perfect.

This was fun

Nothing felt big or intimidating or scary, which is a fantastic feeling. I have so much trust in this horse, more so than I’ve ever had, except with Lucy, who is basically the exception to all rules ever.

Our first CT course back in August (at crossrails lolllzz) was a little bit of a hot mess – I leaned, he ignored me, we had no half-halt and we kind of just ran around on the forehand over small bumps. We had a rail. At 18″. Due to Doc being like, “Woman. This is THE DUMBEST. NO. I AM NOT PICKING UP MY FEET OVER THAT. It does not deserve my respect.” 4 faults… at crossrails.

It’s hard when your horse is like 11 feet long guys

We r gud eventers guyz.

But this… two months later (almost to the day actually) and things were so much better. I (sort of) remembered to sit up, we had a half-halt (!), we did not careen around anywhere, I was able to have input and it really felt like, whoa, damn, I’m doing the thing.

In case you like watching starter level courses for some reason?

A good start would be um, fix your freaking equitation!!!!

Takeaways?

  • Sit the eff up Holly. Collarbone. UP.
  • Leg. Underneath. Self. Forward.
  • Better collection/pace – get the horse underneath himself so he’s not just pulling himself over with the front. Fine at this level, but let’s fix it now.
  • If you see the freakin’ 5, get the freakin’ 5!
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Making adjustments

Last weekend’s dressage ride was one where we had multiple disagreements about things like, “Why can’t only 3/4 of the circle be round and the last 1/4 be a dive straight across?” and “I decided I’m done working so I am exiting the arena.” Super awesome.

I couldn’t. Doc couldn’t. Finally, I trotted a halfway nice 20m circle and called it a day. No point in staying on just to argue if we weren’t going to get anywhere.

Someone is super thrilled about wearing his BOT boots pre-ride

The next day, C took Doc camping with her family and some friends, meaning my next ride was my lesson last night. I was anticipating something better than the week before, but not entirely sure exactly what I was going to get. I probably should have ridden in dressage tack (God knows we need the help), but I also needed my 2ptober baseline beforehand, so jump tack it was.

Turns out, I did not need to be worried because apparently a few days in the woods (including a nice long booty workout the first day) had given me this very pleasant, fun to ride horse back. We did our warm-up and 2pt time out on the track (so much easier to 2pt when you don’t have to steer!) and then met C in the arena for our lesson. Doc was totally game to work, which was so fun. He just immediately settled into this great trot, really reaching and moving along so nicely. It was a huge relief, but also so much fun. I’m not sure we’ve had a ride yet where we didn’t have to work-work-work to get there, but just came out immediately there before last night.

After working on my own position for a bit (I’m seriously incapable of keeping my leg out far enough forward) and some solid flatwork figures, she set two ground poles for 4 strides. First time through, do it in four. Then five. Then three. Change direction. Repeat. Change direction. Five, three, four.

This should not be so difficult. For anyone who can feel a decent pace, it probably isn’t. Spoiler alert: that’s not me.

Getting four was manageable. The three we really had to push, but we got it. Five? Oh five.

Video shot not from last night

We’d get the right pace, then go to turn a corner to go down the line and we’d pull a lovely drop-the-inside-shoulder, dive on to the forehand and lose all pace move. Back to four. Not even a pretty four.

Finally, C had me think about keeping my body still – occupying a “smaller part of my saddle,” with my movement being more up/down than back/front, to get the stride compact, but lifted. That made a world of difference in getting it established (plus, you know, shorter reins, cause my life). For the corner, focusing on holding with my upper inside leg, keeping my hands up, and pushing him around that corner (making it almost a square corner) to prevent the dive-accelerate move. We finally got the five both ways a few times and called it a night.

I’ve definitely got some work to do on stride adjustment this winter. Doc doesn’t actually have a huge stride, but he’s really, really good at pulling you forward so he can accelerate off his forehand, and I’m already weak at holding myself up and prone to getting pulled forward. It’s definitely a weak spot for us right now, making sure I stay up and balanced, so I can adjust and hold better. I know we can get over all the jumps at this level, it’s getting everything right in between them that is the challenge.

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I cannot handle you, September

I love our track lots and lots and lots

Trainer has been on me about conditioning and let’s be real, I like any excuse to go gallop on our track and live all of my Thoroughbred series childhood dreams, so I’m not complaining. Our barn is a former racehorse training barn, so we have an amazing track to go work on. I like to do a lot of my warm-ups and cool downs there too, and Doc likes it because he’s far too good at sneaking bites of grass when I’m not paying attention. Like, dude, this is why you have to do so much conditioning work – ’cause you got a booty like some rap star’s girlfriend and you won’t stop eating.

Walk warm up, two laps of trot, lap of gallop, change direction, repeat

I’ve been using the app Terra Map to help track rides and speed (I am incapable of distinguishing between fast, really fast, kind of fast and too fast).  Mostly what I’m finding is that I’m the one in desperate need of conditioning here. Talk about some dead legs. Two point ‘tober, I am NOT ready for you. It doesn’t help that it’s 90+ degrees here and I’m very, very confused if I live in Indiana or South Carolina or what month it is. I’m trying not to complain because I’m downright terrified of winter, but also… I nearly killed the horse and myself on Friday.

Not actually Friday, but same facial expressions were made

We were doing this same ride routine, only it was 9am and somehow already Alabama-hot-and-humid and by the time I was done, I was pretty sure I was not going to live to see the next day. Not really that big of an issue (Go figure the fact that I lived down south for 7 years, I’m the world’s biggest baby about heat. And cold. Basically my body is horrible at regulating temperature)… except the barn’s water was turned off while they were repairing something. And my poor horse was drenched.

Twenty minutes of sponge/scrape with a glorious forgotten extra bucket of water, I felt comfortable enough to leave him standing under the fan (keep in mind, he could not have cared less this entire time and stood there eating breakfast, so I guess I’m just a paranoid helicopter mom) and downed like 94 gallons of water (jk the two water bottles in my car).

You win, Indiana September, you win.

We walked today. Nobody died. Tuesday accomplishments.

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