Skipping work

Every Tuesday should be like this Tuesday, spent riding! Henry would disagree though, and he did when I went to catch him and he ran away from me. Luckily he's not very committed to running away and his desire to eat the carrot I had quickly over came his desire to make my life hard!

Just as well to because we had places to be, we were going to a clinic at the pony club. The clinic was with our coach but a newish environment and more people would be a great way to test Henry's training. Our first lesson was flatwork and it was a good one! I was sharing my lesson with 2 other riders and it was such a good experience for Henry.
An unrelated picture of Henry at the PC grounds

The focus was what we have been doing recently in lessons, looking for self carriage and improving Henry's posture. We started out testing the response to the indirect rein in walk and trot, and Henry shifted his shoulders quietly, staying in self carriage. We came onto a 20m circle and checked if the horses were straight on a circle, correcting the shoulders if they fell in or out. We then moved to a figure 8, checking if they maintained self carriage through a change of rein. Henry nailed all this, and I was just have to make very minor adjustments to him, almost automatically right before Bec had to tell me.

We did a 3 loop serpentine exercise, looking to maintain flexion, bend, and self carriage throughout the changes of rein and ensure we made good circles. After running through that a few times, we incorporated 10m circles into the serpentine to teach the horses to sit up a bit more. This was definitely harder for us, but even so a small half halt and Bec telling me to sit up and put my inside shoulder back was enough to stop Henry splatting onto the forehand.
Jeepers, we have come a long way in a short time!

We did a similar exercise in canter, but without the serpentine. I though the 10m circle would be something Henry struggled with but he sat up and rocked back beautifully and made it feel like we could do it all day.

Other than a few time of Henry getting distracted by the people watching and another horse outside of the arena, he stayed focused on me and worked so hard. At the end I was over the moon and so was Bec. All our lessons have payed off and now we can start making things harder, and getting fussier about how the horse holds himself etc. The people watching kept saying how grown up he is and how much he has changed, they hadn't seen him since he was a baby (and probably throwing a tanty!).

Onto jumping and Henry came out feeling fresh and reactive after a break. He worked ok in a bigger group of 5 of us until we all cantered and it got a bit much. I pulled him to the side and went though the first few exercises on my own after the group had done them.

First up we all trotted though a line of poles, checking for straightness and self carriage. Henry was perfect, so we did it in canter and again everything was fine. we quickly moved on to trotting an upright to warm up, then added in a related line and a third fence on it's own all set at about 70cm.

Henry was really reactive and distracted and as we came to the third fence he wasn't quiet paying enough attention and spooked at it and refused it. I backed him up and trotted over it, and he jumped it fine. I was already feeling nervous at this point so Henry stopping didn't help, and I started over riding.

We came around the did the jumps again and got it right the second time, and then we built up a course. Because I was nervous, I was throwing us at jumps, causing Henry to rush the take off and jump flat. It also caused him to start running, and we had a little bit of difficulty in the course as a result. I was definitely nervous about an oxer, and rather than supporting Henry as I would do normally I pushed him at it and he took the rail and ran off on landing. We repeated the jump a few times, Bec telling me to sit up and sit quiet and on the third time over Henry came in quietly and jumped it well.

It was interesting that jumping in a new place and in a group changed how I rode and made me nervous. Nothing we did was big, with all the jumps set to 70-80cm, and the exercises were not different to what we usually do in a lesson, but for some reason I was a bundle of nerves and not being very effective as a result. we finished on a longer course which Henry and I got right and I managed to keep us together and ride effectively enough to get us around. Henry got a long spot to a second oxer, but didn't accelerate so we finished there. I really need to remember to sit up taller and make adjustments with my body first before using my hands. Henry is so sensitive he will come back if I use my body!

I think that focusing on flatwork has been hugely beneficial as Henry is obedient and can maintain self carriage well, but it has meant that I don't feel as confident jumping now.  Henry hasn't rushed at fences before, and I think it was me being nervous that created that situation. I really need to put more trust in Henry now, he isn't the green baby horse any more, oh no. That horse is way more trained now. He can take the pressure and he can step up to expectations, I need to change how I approach these things.

I have already identified I need to jump more, so I will stick with that plan. I also need to put aside my fears and anxiety and stay in the moment. I know that we can do it so I need to just do it!

I came out of the lesson feeling a bit disappointed we didn't do better. People in my lesson were telling me how awesome Henry is, but I didn't feel like we did as well as we could have because of the mistake I made. In the past I would have been overjoyed at how well we did do, and in reality we did well. We made mistakes and we fixed them. I rode my horse through him being nervous and had a productive lesson where he settled and worked hard. He hasn't done a lesson like that before and he found it challenging. Lessons aren't there for us to be perfect in, they are there for us to make mistakes.
This is perfect though!

All in all it was a very productive day. Henry gave me such a great feeling on the flat, and I really feel like he can step up and produce the goods now. My position is so much better and things are starting to get so easy now. With jumping I need to stay in the moment more and be committed to jumping without panicking and throwing us at the jumps. I need to relax and support Henry and let him make mistakes. It was a great experience for Henry and he behaved impeccably in a place that historically he has been completely overwhelmed at. It was a really good test and we got some very valuable lessons too. 


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