I heart Julie Zapapas! I wish I could get over to Aiken to ride with her more often. I had a good ride with her today. Fleck and I got up early and hauled to Aiken and lucked out with the weather. It stormed all weekend long but we were able to ride with only the briefest and lightest of mistings of rain. yay!
I was frazzled and rushed as usual. My morning wasn't cooperating with gas and potty breaks and such. So I got on and despite Julie telling me she had plenty of time, I got busy. I was buzzing in my head and going at mach ten. Julie stopped me and basically told me to "Stop and breathe"! I needed it. I don't know if she caught on to the buzzing in my brain about life and such, or was just catching on to my monkeying around on Fleck's back, but she told me that I needed to quiet it down. That I owed it to Fleck and myself, to relax and allow MYSELF this 45 minutes each ride. To get all of the other thoughts and stuff out of my head and focus on me and the ride. I was crooked and creating so much static for Fleck that he was tuning me out. And rightfully so. She told me to stop, breathe, and pay attention to my body - turn my wrist so my blasted left hand wasn't cocked, sit up straight so I wasn't collapsing on the left side, even out my shoulder blades, sit evenly on both seat bones, lay my calves (not my spur) against Fleck's sides and hold them there, and ride with even hands, giving (or rowing almost) with the reins. And to count! And it worked. Fleck became soft and supple and even and fancy! Phew... It was also fantastic for me. It's what I needed to hear. I'm too busy. In life in general, but too busy in my brain. I owe it to both of us to let go of all that crap and ride. Especially at shows, when I've put so much time, energy, money, etc into them.
So we warmed up and he was lovely. Then instead of taking a walk break, we went straight to jumping. Julie said that why take a break and lose what we just achieved?! Makes sense. We took a breather after a few jumps. :)
So yeah... Fleck stopped at the simple drop into the water! What?!?! Argh. I eventually got him sorted out but I think I was being almost too quiet. Julie had me focus on those same things and ride him straight, without using my spurs. She wanted me in a sitting two point up to the fences and to just canter until we ran out of room and then jump the jump. (I kept jumping ahead). We figured out as the jumps went on that I was being a bit too quiet. Which was great, because then I could whisper and he heard me and responded. But I did have to tell him something sometimes. I couldn't just abandon him. So, while I wasn't picking or flailing, I was sitting up and balancing him when he needed it, and supporting him. I think I needed to close my leg a bit more over most of them as we kinda lurched over some of them. But that was us getting used to being quieter. We also needed a bigger gallop. Fair enough. I was settling in my brain, which I needed to do. Now I know to do that but also add more leg. And Fleck will go. The other thing she picked up on is that I'm suddenly holding Fleck's mouth to the combination type fences. Not pulling back. But holding. Almost like I'm clenching the reins between my fingers - squeezing the poo out of them. I realized it when Julie kept saying soften your fingers and as we went up the bank with no impulsion I found that I was hanging on his mouth. Eeeks. SO then I softened my fingers and he went forward again! No more putzing at the base of the jumps or ditches or banks. I don't know why I was clenching. But again, once I softened, I had to let him know I was still there.
So once I did that.. it was fantastic!! We had some bobbles here and there, but... because we could talk to each other and I was more balanced, I was able to go with him. I wasn't flopping around up top like a crazed monkey. And even with the bobbles, Fleck could hear me and do what I was asking because I wasn't hindering him. :)
Yay!!! Good confidence boost for us both I think. And I'm really glad we did some skinny work, bank work, and apparently the water work. That was out of the blue.. though maybe I was clenching.
So feeling much better for next weekend. I'm hoping to get one more quick little jump school at Ashland before then. Just to pop him in and out of the water and maybe do another bank or something. So... we'll see. If it goes well, we'll continue on the P3D plan. If not, then... we'll abandon ship and come up with another plan.