Today was an exciting day. I went to adjust horses at Silverthorn and Kelly was going to be there teaching so I asked if she could teach me too. Caroline let me toss Fleck out in a pasture while I was adjusting so that he could chill. He was happy enough in his gorgeous pasture and I was able to adjust the three ponies.
Afterwards I went to get him and there must have been something in the air. He was fine coming up to me but when I went to shut the gate behind me, I dropped the lead rope so he didn't tip his water bucket. Unfortunately, he decided to take off and went walking, and then trotting, down the lane. With his tail flipped up over his back. Sigh... I went after him but he stayed ahead a bit and riled up all the pasture horses. Luckily he was sniffing noses and let me catch him. But then he spent the walk back up on his tippytoes dancing and blowing. Goof!
He chilled out while I tacked him up and then we headed to the ring. As we started to get to the far side, Fleck suddenly became a very stiff giraffe! What the?? Oh.... goats! A whole herd of them. Granted, they were just laying down and being very quiet and still at the edge of the fence near the arena. But GOATS!!! Poor Fleck. His little heart was pounding. Sigh. I managed to get him to go past them sort of. We spent about 10 minutes trying to settle down and I finally gave up and just worked on relaxation in the other end of the arena. Of course, he also saw the goats in the far end of the other field so then he was convinced they were everywhere and was on high alert. Goober!
Kelly came in then and laughed at us. So we started off with some flat work in the safe end of the arena. Basically, it was my last lesson with her. Sigh... it sounded awfully familiar. And it was a little depressing that we were in the same spot as a year ago. But oh well. It was good to hear it again and Fleck was quite nice by the end of our flat warm up. The gist of it was...
- when tracking right, I needed to ride the inside to outside to push his shoulders out. He wants to lean in and instead of holding that outside rein to hold him up, I need to push him out, soften the outside rein to give him a place to go, and then ask for inside bend with the inside rein. Once he softens and drops, I need to then "wiggle" the outside rein to get him round on it. Amazingly it works. It's so hard mentally though to open the outside rein when I want to just hold him up.
- I need to keep a steady connection. My tensing and softenings should go from 7-10, not 0-10-0. And surprise, surprise, when I do keep a steady connection, Fleck stays steadier. Duh. But it is a bit of a heavier connection. I can't keep throwing him away.
- I should ride him in this frame, even if it's training level and not first or second, but focus on the relaxation. Then he keeps his rhythm and tempo and softness and his stride opens up, rather than getting tense and tight and in a fake frame.
So then we started jumping. We started with a grid and worked on keeping the connection and keeping the rhythm of the trot the same, regardless of what his head was doing or what the goats were doing. :) I managed to mostly get it. Kelly wanted us to focus on getting the same tempo, having my half halts go through and keeping my feet out in front of me over the jumps. We did that a few times and Fleck started to pay better attention to me and the jumps rather than the goats. So then we added some more fences. We did the same course multiple times so I could fix things and Fleck didn't have to worry too much about the goats. It started okay, got pretty darn good, and then fell apart again a bit. Basically we were doing okay when Fleck was up and high because of the goats, but then when the goats meandered off and Fleck was getting tired, he got behind my leg and I couldn't figure out how to ride. Sigh. It was a lot to work at all the same time. Especially when I had to focus on riding him and not just fixing myself.
So, for jumping....
- Keep the rhythm and tempo. Count, Sing, do whatever it takes. Because basically if I keep a good canter, the jumps come to me and by counting I can see the stride quicker. Therefore I can adjust quicker. And correct whatever needs correcting quicker.
- Keep my landing gear in front of me (ie.. kick my feet out in front of me and slide my hips back). And don't DUCK! No ducking! I need to stay more upright in my upper body and more back in my hips. That gives Fleck more time to come up to me and allows him to jump better.
- Keep a good connection. Don't throw him away.
- When Fleck loses his cool and gets spooky or freaks out, I need to use an indirect rein to help him settle. It works!! So, if he's spooking to the left and I want him to stay on the left rein but pushed out to the right, I need to turn my left hand so that my thumb is down (instead of up) and press it into his wither. I need to kick my inside leg forward and push him away from it. AND... the key to making this work, is to open my outside rein so he has a place to go. It's so hard not to pull that outside rein for some reason, but...I need to open it. And yet again, it actually works. Then I need to soften and get him round again and focused back on the job.
- When Fleck gets behind my leg, rather than holding and chipping in, with no leg and me leaning forward.... instead I need to kick him forward, WAIT until he leaves (not jump ahead or assume he's going to take the flyer), and keep a steady connection with my legs closed. I can't help him up with my heels, so I need to focus on keeping them in front of me.
So yep.. it started good and got a little icky in the middle, but we fixed it mostly. And she set up a pretty big oxer that we kept taking on a curve because of the scary goats. I kept my legs closed and managed to get the non-chip spots and it felt pretty amazing. Like we were flying over this huge massive jump, all olympic jumper style. Hee hee. And we landed beautifully on the turn and smoothly went to the liverpool.
Such a beautiful day for it too. So, hopefully we can fix it long term and make it pretty too. Sigh... I want pretty pictures!