Fleck had Monday off because of the near 20 miles we did in the last two days. ;) Plus I was at Dr. Browns all day. And then Tuesday we went riding with Kelli. I did a little dressage with Fleck, of which he was super! We are really getting that proper neck bulge in the right lead canter! Yay! Then we went for a nice trail ride.
Wednesday we had a lesson with Julie Zapapas. I always forget how much I like riding with her. I don't know why I forget. I always get so inspired when I ride with her. And it's so simple, it's just not easy. ;) But it always helps me so much. I was debating whether to do a flat lesson or a jump lesson with her. I know I need help with both and it's been awhile since I was able to do any lessons with anyone because of timing. I pulled into Karens and was thinking I would flat. And then it dawned on me that it wasn't at Karens place! Doh. Luckily, it was at a farm just down the road. I still made it in time. And that farm is gorgeous!! She had a beautiful dressage ring but also a big jump field with lots of fun looking jumps. Oh... we have to jump Flecky! He agreed!
We warmed up in the ring a bit and Fleck was being a goof. Julie laughed and worked around it. He was very freaked out about a gray horse in the pasture. So every time we came around that side of the circle he would invert and hollow. Goof! Julie was like "I didn't know you were riding a 4 year old". hee hee. But he was good.
Basically Julie had me work on myself. I get so crooked and twisted! It's amazing how once I straighten myself out, Fleck can straighten out. And really, I'm over doing things and asking him to be crooked and throw out his shoulder. So I was focusing on sitting tall and even, with both seat bones in the saddle. My hands needed to be even and like bicycle handlebars. For some reason I want to drop my left hand and lift my right. Nope.. even!! Even hands! Also, when tracking to the left, I need to bring my left seatbone forward and my right shoulder forward some. And this confused me just a bit... I was thinking that I needed to get my butt how I wanted his butt and my shoulders how I wanted his shoulders... Which wouldn't that mean that my left/inside shoulder and hip should be slightly back? But... I'm wondering if by thinking that I was lifting my left heel and pinching in the knee and collapsing on the left and twisting all up. Which is apparently what I was doing, and thus causing Fleck to collapse, fall in, and be all sorts of wrong. So by bringing my left/inside shoulder forward and up... that straightened me up. So... I need to verify with Julie if that's just a correction for me thing, or if I really do need to be slightly ahead once I get back to more normal. Regardless, it made such a difference!!! However, I also need to remember that going left, Fleck likes to throw his shoulders to the outside (probably because I've been asking him to do that this whole time), so to correct that I ride his withers to the inside with my knee and thigh. Not pinching... but guiding. Ohhhhhh!!!! Man that made a difference. I was trying to hold him with the outside rein which resulting in me just hanging. But by using my outside leg to stop him from flying out, my inside leg pushing him into that outside leg, then I could soften and half halt on the outside rein. And when I sat up and straight and closed both legs and rode with my calves not my hands.... fleck was straight!!! Four legs under the table. And wow!! He could carry himself and relax over his topline. It was marvelous!! When tracking right it was similar but different. I needed an opening inside rein, a half-halting outside rein, and my right shoulder and seat bone slightly forward. I need to allow him some slack in the outside rein so that he can bend and reach and keep pushing him into my outside rein with my inside LEG, not my inside heel. I need to really sink into that right heel and seatbone and almost push my inside leg a little foreward to guide him around it. (It almost feels like how I feel like I ride when I ask for the flying change in the jump ring... almost kick that inside leg forward, but not really).
Sooooo much better! And Fleck was a snorting breathing happy man. :)
Phew.... so then we went into the jump ring.
We started off getting that same trot. She reminded me of the mane visual. Imagine his neck as a dressage arena. His mane should be laying on the right quarterline when tracking right and the left quarterline when tracking left. And I needed to think about leg yielding him into the outside rein, but blocking bulging and leaving to the outside with my outside leg. Ride the rhythm and ride the stride with my calves, not my heels. ooooh!!!! I get it, I get it!
So then we trotted a small vertical on a circle, keeping the bend over the fence while keeping that trot. I needed to stay in sitting two point and not jump way up his neck or throw myself out of the saddle. It was nice. Then we added it at the canter and same thing. Leg yielding him into the lines was really helpful. And it's baby leg yields.. not true leg yields... just pushing him into the connection. We then added in some lines and the jumps went from small verticals to suddenly big prelim sized fences on tight lines! And when I focused on keeping myself in line and even and symmetrical and counting the rhythm and keeping it forward... wow!!! He was able to ping over those fences, even when the take off spot was tight or long. We came into a triple one stride on a slightly crooked approach but because I was yielding him into the line, I knew it would be fine. And it was! He was able to ping out quite nicely. And by focusing on me and keeping my butt closer to him, I was able to stay with him and not throw him off balance.
It was a wonderful lesson!!!! I really am feeling quite ready to tackle prelim again and feeling confident that we can do it!! And I'm excited to take my newfound/refound sense of me into riding Dan. I really need to make sure I'm straight so he can learn straight.
And to add to my confidence... I asked Julie about showing and what I should do next before our lesson. She said that she had two thoughts but couldn't decide which one she thought until after she really saw us go. She said that she thought I looked loose and perched and that Fleck wasn't really rocking back and jumping well. Either it was me not asking or it was him saying he was done and ready to be a novice/training horse. After my ride, she told me that she really thought that I was the impediment to him going prelim. And she "meant that in a good way". She said that the way I rode him today was so much better and that we looked like we could do it. And that she didn't think his hocks were bothering him one bit. :) And I know Beth has been telling me that it's my riding and Fleck is fine, but it felt good to have a new perspective tell me that. :)
So yep.. for whatever reason, Julie always gets me so inspired and feeling good. It's not that she coddles me either, but she just brings out some really good rides for us. So I'm going to make an effort to get to her once a month I think and see what happens. I realize that Fleck may have just been having a really good day that day. But we've probably got limited times of mostly really good days, so I need to work effectively and if we want to get back out and prove we really are a prelim team (Because obviously he can be a prelim horse, I just need to be a prelim rider), I'd like to do it and then back off and let him just have fun. :)