Yesterday I took Fleck to Chatt Hills for a cross country school. Only our second ride of the year. ha!! But it's because I've been working all week. And man... last night sucked... It was like sleep torture. Yes, I am oh so grateful I get to lay down if nothing is going on, but Emma kept me up all day Friday and I knew I was schooling all day Saturday so I was really hoping for some quiet time. I got to lay down at around 1:15, but at 2 something came in. We finished around 3, so I went back to bed. But got woken up at 4 (if I ever fell asleep). Finished that one around 5, and went back to bed. Something came in at 6:15. Argh... So yep... But I was fine... until I got home. I thought I was going to fall asleep at dinner!! But anyways... I managed to chat on the phone there and back so I stayed awake while hauling. :)
We got there and met our friends and Beth and got tacked up and on. Fleck felt great! We warmed up and Beth pointed out that Fleck wasn't allowed to slow down at the base. Yes, I didn't need him lengthening, but if he wanted to adjust or look.. that was fine, as long as he kept his engine. So we worked on that. It was good. I also rode in Beth's saddle and felt like my position was great in it. So then after we did a few warm up jumps and then the first two fences on the prelim course, she had us do a fun combo. It was a little intimidating. It was two brush fences on an angle. The brush was short on one side and really high on the other so it was a skinny angled to a skinny. Jennifer and Oliver whizzed right through it, but I totally flubbed it. I just can't seem to get my line. Beth pointed out that I needed a better canter. He had to be BOUNCY, energized, "impulsed" hee hee, and sproingy. And straight!!! So I tried it again and it was better but I still couldn't get B. Then I remembered Nike's canter... Aha!!! I wrapped my legs around Fleck, rode him up in to the bridle, and even bounced my seat a little bit and darn if it didn't work! Fleck's canter became up and powerful and stayed the same. Then I made sure that I didn't tip too far forward on landing and he did the line great. Whoo hooo!! Go us. I just wish it didn't take us six times every time. I guess it was only 4 this time, so maybe we're making progress.
Then we went to the spot where the ditch and wall used to be. Luckily they took that down but they put a GIANT table over the ditch. Just a big table. It shouldn't have been that big of a deal. I should have just been able to gallop him over it. But I knew I wouldn't be able to. I knew that darn ditch was going to freak me out. Despite the fact that it wasn't even a ditch!! Honestly, it was a table covering the ditch. Sure there was a ditch on either side of it... but it was really no different than a table on solid ground as far as jumping it was concerned. Beth had me jump a slightly downhill skinny to the table as the table was on a slight downhill approach. I thought the skinny would help me get my canter. Well.... we had a stop at the table. I could tell he was stopping 6 strides back but I couldn't get him in front of my leg again. Argh... So I tried again... and again... and again! I felt like I was riding pretty correctly the 4th time or so. So then we tried a lead. Jennifer was going to take Oliver over it and have me follow. She mentioned that it looked like I was stopping my hips, and thus, telling Fleck to stop. Makes sense. I do that in the canter too. So I made sure to keep my hips moving and almost got in a light seat rather than sitting and driving (only I think I was sitting and stopping the motion/bracing instead of driving). So off we went. I think he might have gone... except Oliver was too slow for us and we were almost on top of him. So then I circled and tried again. And I really felt like he was going to go, but at the last second he stopped. He was sliding a bit, and this time, he grabbed his shoe and pulled it off. Sigh.... I was so frustrated. I knew he'd go over it if I wanted to, but it just.... I didn't want to. It was big... and scary... and I knew I didn't want to go over it.. I knew he would stop... I was afraid if he did finally go over it, he'd hurt himself and flip. Same thing as that stupid ditch and wall at pine top. I just... didn't want to do it. Only this table wasn't quite as intimidating and I felt like if it was in the open, we wouldn't have had a problem. So I was quite upset as I know that I'm the one doing this to us. Beth made me feel better... and I talked myself down a bit. It's not like we've had a stellar time so far, so it's natural to be a little freaked out about some of the bigger fences. Perhaps if we had been on course we could have just galloped over it. Or maybe if we had done a big table in the field and then come to it... maybe not have made it our fourth or so fence..... and even if I couldn't get him over some fences... well, we know prelim is hard for us both.. So we pick the easy prelims, do P/Ts, and have fun. But I'm still frustrated. What happened to me??? I'm such a wimp now!!
Well... I got back on and we continued on. Fleck didn't tear up his foot and actually kept his pad in! Since the footing was sooooo soft because of all the rain, we figured we could do some more jumping as long as he seemed fine. And he was. We jumped a good bit more stuff (mostly training level and minimal prelim stuff after that). And he was taking off with me and wanting to gallop, so I guess he felt good. The very next jump though was a little novice bending line. He came to it and I was kinda "whatever" about it, because... it was novice. And he slowed down and popped over it. Beth was like "NO!!!" He is not allowed to do that crap. So I rode stronger and he was good. Then it was the same thing going over the roll top to the drop into the water. He stuttered and heaved in. Nope.. not allowed anymore. You have to confidently go forward. Beth said that he had to help me out a little bit. Fine, maybe I'm not riding as positively to a fence or two, but he's got to take some initiative and help me out. So then I started riding more positively, maybe even more aggressively?? Only not really. I just closed my leg and pushed him into the nice canter and maintained it. And he jumped great after that. We had good rides in the water. And I may have figured out the banks too. I think I am holding myself up with the reins a bit, or not quite getting forward enough, because he makes a big effort up the bank, and then almost feels like he hits a wall and backs himself off a bit on top. I think that wall is me! I think I was so afraid of throwing myself too far forward and having another leg laceration type issue that I was not quite staying WITH him. So I thought I'd grab mane. Only I can't half halt and try to grab mane before the jump, so I had to try again. Hee hee. Take two! If I ride properly, half halt when needed, etc, and then AS he jumps up, grab mane... I go WITH HIM. Then when I land, I make sure to stay forward and light and lo and behold.. he feels great! I'm not tipping forward, just staying light and with him, which is essence, is in two point, but... in a good way. whoo hooo.
Then since we had some good positive rides and he was being "braver", Beth sent us over the big prelim table with the cut out. The one that looks so huge in the picture. Well, I knew we had already jumped it, so I was confident. And it was great!!! It was a good ride and Fleck soared over it. Then he galloped up the hill and was aiming for what I hope was an intermediate jump. It looked huge and I did NOT want to try it. But he was game. So we swerved around and then jumped the prelim roll top down the hill and all was fine. It was a good ending because we were both feeling confident and brave. Now to just ride like that over the scary stuff.
Oh, and the other thing that clicked today... When we first started off, I felt like I was water skiing and Fleck was inverted and running away with me and our jumps were icky. Beth said he was not even close to running away with me. So...I think I was so focused on the perfect canter that I forgot that we were supposed to be galloping. So when I let him go, but made him balance by half halts here and there (rather than fighting him every step) it was so much smoother. I think that might have been the difference between Jumping Branch and Full Gallop. I think at Jumping Branch I just let him go... never touched his face but balanced him with my body. And that's why it felt so phenomenal. I think at Full Gallop, I came out trying to package him too much because he was so "up" and I felt like I needed to control him more... and then he fought me and I fought him and wasn't with him and flailing all over the place. I wonder if I had just let him rip, would Full Gallop have felt smoother too?
So... a good ride. Frustrating... and also because now I have to get his shoe replaced. Argh... At least he was sorta planning on having a few days off anyways. I suppose I could have ridden today (sunday) because the footing is so soft and nice at Ashland, but I figured after all that jumping.... may be better to just let him rest. Then he'll get mon and Tues off because of work. Then Wednesday he goes to Dr. Brown... so hopefully Kip will come sometime before then and I can get it replaced before my lesson Thursday. Because now I'm missing two days of riding... Which means IF I get to ride Thursday... that will mean only 3 rides in 11 days! Eeeks... Not off to a good start this year. I know I'll make it up, but still.
So yep.. lots to work on. And I"m glad I'm running P/T at Full Gallop. I think I need to finesse some things and get some more bravery. But then hopefully we'll be rocking and rolling again soon.