Sit up and leg on!
We have one last week working from home after an announcement that was made today. I am both happy and sad about this, sad because I love working from home and have been enjoying a quieter life with more time to appreciate the little things. However the easing of restrictions means that other things can start back up again and I am looking forward to more fun horse adventures.
In my recent theme of weekly lessons, Henry and I went for a jumping lesson with Bec on Friday morning. We had lots of lovely rain this week with some less lovely wind so Henry was only ridden once before my lessons and he was feeling fresh! He really has grown up though as he wasn't bothered when another horse left the arena and he was on his own and while he REALLY wanted to see when two other horses were doing running, squealing and bucking, he listened to me when I told him to get on with it.
Our lesson started with us cantering over two poles set 4 strides apart. Why is it that the simplest things reveal the biggest issues? Bec wanted us to start by getting 4 strides between the poles, then we were going to shorten and lengthen the canter. However I could not get 4, I was going way too slow and holding Henry back. It took me longer than I would care to admit to finally consistently get 4 strides and then have Henry relax over his back. We got 4 right away on the other rein, but he was even tenser over his back. We got it done eventually, then we added three more bounce poles. So I had to ask him to move forward over two poles then come back and shorten the canter.
It was a struggle, and Henry and I had to have a discussion about how he needs to move out when I say but then come back to me as well. We got the change in pace ok fairly quickly but then Henry also had to work out what to do with his legs over the three bounces. I really felt him use himself though and he learnt each time we came through.
Once we mastered that exercise on both reins we moved on to a 2 stride double. Henry was really looky at the second jump, and oxer and I had to ride. The first time through we almost didn't make it, I didn't have him forward enough and then didn't support him to the second fence. It was eye opening for me as to how much stronger my leg needs to be at the base of a jump. I feel like it's on but it's not enough. It took us a few goes to smooth it out before we came through over the oxer first.I found that much easier, but since it was off the right rein I was very aware to keep himout and to be really onto him falling in. It also finally clicked in my head how important it is to maintain the outside rein. I knew it was important but it hadn't really cemented in my head how and why until this lesson. I really needed to have him into the outside (left) rein, not just off the inside (right) rein. I think that was the most important take away for me.
The other things I needed to remember was to not throw myself at the jumps. It seems to be an ingrained habit and it's really not helpful. It's hard to break the habit but I certainly made some good inroads int he lesson. To finish we jumped the double off the left rein, jumped a third fence to change rein which was a good test to see if I could support Henry to a new fence without over riding (I nailed it) then came back over the double from the right rein. I had to repeat the double after the first go because I didn't have enough impulsion but once I did, it went very smoothly. Then we really tested Henrys go button by jumping a single fence in the middle of the puddle. He was quite concerned by it but went though I still needed more leg at the base. A few repetitions had him very confident and casual and we called it a day.
It was by no means a perfect lesson, but I feel like I made some really good progress. It was clear I need to practice sitting quietly before a fence, adjustability over poles and keeping Henry over the back over poles. I was happy to really feel why the outside rein was so influential and it feels a bit like a milestone in my training as a rider. All very interesting stuff if you ask me!