It’s safe to say that my lesson taking over the years has been pretty inconsistent. I started riding at a little lesson mill barn by taking weekly lessons with basically whatever instructor was teaching that day. From there we got Angel and moved to a dressage based barn where I continued taking a few lessons a month and participating in clinics. When that barn closed was when my lessons tapered off. We moved to a hunter/jumper barn that swapped to western riding/working cows about halfway through being there, so lessons were rare. Then we moved to a private boarding barn that didn’t have a trainer. By then I was in middle and high school on the schools’ equestrians teams having practice with the coaches which were sort of like weird, big group lessons. I took a few lessons with the coaches at the time outside of the team’s practice over those years and then graduated and was off to college. IHSA and college brought back some consistency since I had two lessons and one practice a week on top of riding classes each semester. But then I graduated. Since graduation I have had one lesson which was almost a year ago and some lesson-like help at horse shows.
I can’t say I haven’t had the opportunities to lesson, because I have, but I either haven’t had the finances to or haven’t had the time or it somehow just never happened. Because of that, a lot of Ax and I’s time together has been on our own which means all of my bad habits have created some bad habits for him. Lord knows I am not perfect, but we have made a lot of progress in our time together—but we have also had a lot of regression.
After almost two years of basically riding on my own, the need for lessons is apparent, so I finally scheduled one with an instructor, we’ll call her W, at the new barn. I’ve seen her at shows watched her teach a lesson the week before, so I had the chance to talk to her ahead of time and briefed her on Ax and I’s issues as well as my goals for the year.
Scheduled a lesson with one of the trainers at the new barn and I’m already nervous. 😅
— Terisé M. (@terisemcole) January 31, 2017
Thankfully my lesson was a semi-private because first lessons with someone new is nerve-wracking enough, let alone when all the attention is on you. We started out just getting a nice forward walk and trot at a consistent pace. W noted that Ax seems to be an “overachiever” and shoots off what I put my leg on, which I was surprised to hear since he used to be the exact opposite. She also pointed out that the right side of my body does its own thing (true) and that I over-ride him (very true) causing him to have an inconsistent pace and come behind the bit—all of which I definitely agree with. It is easy to recognize that these things are happening when you’re on your own but it is tough to actually act upon and fix them.
We trotted for what felt like forever (I’m so used to just walking when I get tired) and I thought I was dying, especially when we went to sitting trot and she noticed just how bouncy Ax is. From there we moved to canter where W said that I shorten my right rein too much, thus shortening his stride too much (very, very true). After about 90% of the lesson being flat work so she could get acquainted with us, we trotted over a small cross-rail a few times and moved onto a tiny four stride line. She told me that I ride very defensively after the fence, which I had never realized as most of our problems are before the fence. We focused on riding the line and slowing our pace in the middle with my voice as opposed to my hands and then riding with him, not against him, on the landing.
Afterwards, and after I dismounted on frozen toes and fell on my butt, we discussed that she would like Ax and I to get along better again (YAY!) and trust one another (doubly YAY!), that she liked Ax (triple YAY!), and that she thought my goals to stick to 2’6″ for the year were realistic as she would prefer Ax and I feel completely confident again and “feeling like we can rule the world” (quadruple YAY!) before moving up.