A Little Long

It’s not going to be perfect – it’s December – you want to make all the mistakes now to prepare yourself for show season.

A late tuesday lesson post.

My ponies are actually wonderful. They have been brave to the jumps and so trusting. They accept the mistakes for what they are, mistakes, and don’t hold them against me.

Today the bay and I were pushed a bit out of our comfort zones. Not only were the jumps raised (by “raised” I mean a whomping 2 foot, 6 inches) but the bending lines and short turnes were enough of a test. I had to keep him on pace and keep him straight to get a good distance to these jumps, especially the oxers. So of course our lesson didn’t run without a few glitches. Video coming soon.

My riding issue is that I let the mistakes start to stress me out and am disappointed when I can’t achieve perfection. This lesson I was able to let myself relax, eventually, and pull through for my horse.

My biggest anxiety on course was the bending line of the in of the outside line with a left bend to the diagonal oxer. I had the hardest time getting him straight to the oxer and he was drifting to the right while making his turn. At first I was worried about how we didn’t have the perfect distance to the oxer as a result of our straightness issue, and instead of kicking through it and getting over the jump anyways I would pull him up. So I pretty much had to stop doing that and just get over it! By turning my head sooner and looking for the track I succedded finally and completed the second bending line bending to the right much easier. He didn’t even hold it against me. Good boy. Looking forward to learning along with him this winter.

So the grey had her first lesson back also today!! All we expected of her was to go over a few small jumps, mostly at the trot, while keeping her calm and controlled. She was super and remembered everything from before! By the end she though trot jumps were dumb and she was fitting in a canter stride before every jump.


Happy Hour

Success is measured in progress, progress only comes with practice, and the best way to practice is to practice patience.


This Tuesday was a great lesson. Why was it so great? Because I let it be a great lesson.

Step one: I did my homework. I schooled my horse the day prior to my lesson. In our schooling we did work with transitions, moving off my leg, and straightness, thus producing engagement from my horse.

Step two: I arrived to the barn with plenty of time to tack up my horse and start warming him up before my scheduled lesson time.

Step three: I stepped into the ring with a positive attitude, and maintained this positive attitude throughout my entire ride.

Step four: When presented with a problem I stayed calm, identified a solution, and then changed something in the pattern. When that wasn’t enough I reevaluated, and went off again to try it differently. Maybe just a smaller tweak was necessary this time around.

Step five: I was able to accept and celebrate the accomplishments of the hour with my equine partner, thank my coach, and leave the ring knowing i had learned another lesson.

I had done all I could have in preparation to set my horse up for a sucessful lesson. The bay couldn’t have responded better to my efforts! He was everything I could have asked of him; he was brave, committed,  willing and accepting. He waited when I asked and jumped out of the deep to the best of his greeny abilities. He moved forward down the lines when I asked for the 12 foot canter pace. Most importantly my horse adapted to different situations and approaches to the jumps with trust that everything would be alright, he was just expected to get to the other side. He was a happy horse tonight.

As seen in the videos, the bay went down the lines and took whatever distance to the jump that we were presented with. After going up and down the lines we also moved onto a small course, which we cantered with simple lead changes! So proud today.

What do you do to help prepare you and your horse for your lesson?

Last Week’s Recap: Lots and Lots of Poles

Adjustability is not something the green horse comes across naturally – this element of the horse’s rideability to do with pace is achieved over time with lots of repetitive jumping and pole work exercises. For this week’s exercise, we worked on adjusting the distance between poles by changing the track we take, whilst keeping our green horses on the same steady pace.

My lesson schedule usually consists of bi-weekly lessons every Tuesday and Thursday; my blog posts on my lessons will therefore be published in two parts every week. While not every lesson will be executed perfectly, I can still gather up the wise words of my coach to reflect on. I can look at the good, where to improve, and the next step to then decide what I need to be working on in my flatting before my next lesson.

Let’s recap what went down last week.


Poles Set-Up

So I’m going to focus on the pole work exercises from last week and overlook the jumping portion all together. Step one of the exercise focused on poles 1 and 2 in the diagram. For the first track, the goal is to fit in as many strides as possible. To make this possible, we need to ride the longest track from point a to point b. By coming off the track to the first pole sooner we are aiming to ride straight towards the back wall before continuing the turn to the second pole. (see Track 1 – added strides diagram)


Track 1 – Added Strides


Track 2 – Eliminated Strides

The next step is to now go over the pair of poles in the fewest number of strides possible. This will be done by staying on the track for longer, and looking for a very direct line to the second pole in the sharp turn off the track. (see Track 2 – eliminated strides diagram)

Now, after practicing each of those tracks over poles 1 and 2 a few times on both reins, poles 3 and 4 can then be incorporated into the exercise.


Poles Exercise – Added Strides


Poles Exercise – Eliminated Strides

The entire exercise can be done with the maximum number of strides, or the minimum number of strides. This can be done by simply changing the track exactly how it was ridden with poles 1 and 2, only now pole 3 is added. The track between poles 3 and 4 is a straight line, and therefore the striding cannot be adjusted by changing the track, only by changing the pace.

Whilst this week focused on track, pace was also added into the end of the exercise. Strides can be added into the straight line between poles 3 and 4 by lengthening the horse’s stride, as can strides be eliminated between the poles by shortening the horse’s stride. Ideally this should be done only by changing the length of the horse’s stride, and the horse should not drastically slow down to add the strides, nor shoot through the line at top speed to take away any strides. This is where the repetitive pole work comes into play, because the adjustability of your horse’s stride and of the rider’s eye only comes from consistency. The important thing I have to constantly remind myself to do is to accept imperfection, and to always celebrate little improvements – or on other days celebrate any consistency you are accomplishing that you may have been struggling with a week prior.

So, how did the bay do last week?

I will start by boasting about how willing he has been to try any task I have been throwing at him. He is absorbing everything up like a sponge and is a pleasure to work with! Me, my coach, and his owner are thrilled with his progress.

We tackled this exercise with expected results from a green horse like him – keeping him straight on the different tracks I wanted to take took some practice, we were bulging out, sometimes we cut in – but the next time around I would always change something about how I was riding to deal with the different issues that we were experiencing.

In comparison to the ideal 12 foot canter for a horse, the bay is comfortably on about an 11 and a half foot canter (sometimes 10 and a half!) so the goal is to get him to reach out and forward in our warm up. He naturally has a more higher head carriage because of the proportions of his neck, and has a habit of falling behind your leg, hallowing his back, and curling his nose in towards his chest to evade your contact on his mouth and the bit. It is then a balancing act (by that I mean I need to stay balanced on his back, and not allow myself to tip forward and let my hands balance on his mouth!) to keep him moving forward off my leg and giving him the freedom to begin to reach his nose down and forward into the contact of the bit, and begin to carry himself. So to get that 12 foot hunter canter from him I need to constantly be thinking forward, balance, release, forward, balance, release. Easy enough right? This will be the baseline of our winter training.


Riley and I doing the trot poles at my barn’s Fun Day in November

What kind of things have you been working on in your lessons lately, and what do you usually like to work on in your winter flat work and schooling? (other than trying to stay warm, brr!)