After fighting a sleep deprivation headache for the majority of Wednesday afternoon and dragging myself to change into my riding clothes, I drove to my lesson considering canceling, stuffing my horse with carrots, and retreating to my bed at home. Hearing Ax happily nickering to me to bring him in gave my some hope…and then finding him covered in a layer of mud quickly made me want to not ride again. Twenty minutes later I was
dragging my feet walking my still-dirty horse down to the indoor ten minutes past when my lesson was supposed to start.
The first step in a better direction was finding out that my semi-private lesson would be a private. Of course, I love riding and lessoning with other people (it takes the focus off of me for a little bit and makes it more fun) but I had been meaning to schedule an occasional private as we got closer to show season and this one just set itself up. I hopped on and used some time to explain how great Ax was going in the new bit we were trying out, saying that he had been consistently in the contact and keeping an even pace—then he made me a liar.
Basically our lesson.
Our flatwork consisted of lots of trotting, trying to keep his attention inside the ring, and attempting to stay on the kite that was underneath me. There was no contact, no attention, no relaxation, and a lot of “ughs” mutter under my breath. The indoor at the barn has three big garage doors that are often open on nice days to let in some light and warmth. Having been here for a few months now, we have ridden with the doors open more than enough times to not be distracted by what lies outside the indoor’s walls. Apparently Ax disagrees.
Before putting up a fence we did some trot and canter pole work. I have a habit of using too much inside rein and over-bending the horse to the inside (which stems from back when Ax had difficulty doing anything that wasn’t a line), so we focused on staying straight with even pace through the poles. As expected, the canter poles riled him up a bit and he threw me a decent buck after a particularly expressive lead change, so I think it is safe to assume that Spring Ax has arrived.
Spring Ax, Exhibit A
I honestly had a little pit in my stomach when we got to jumping. Not because of the fences themselves (they were all pretty small), but because Ax was feeling a little feisty and I had been working so hard on not pulling that I was afraid I’d ruin it while trying to deal with his silliness. Once again, he proved me wrong by cantering with a nice pace up to the tiny vertical, popping over it, and cantering away like the perfect horse that he is. (Of course, I have no media of it.)
The focus for over fences was, again, straightness over the jump and through lead changes. When I broke my pinky a few years ago I got into the habit of protecting my right hand by planting it on the neck and letting the other float around like a rogue butterfly and apparently that has started to make an appearance again. Keeping your hands together is harder than you think.
In what was probably the most jumping we have done since the summer, we bopped around a little course of tiny jumps a few times and called it quits when W and I ran out of words to say about how good Ax was being.
One of my favorite things about new instructors is the way that each one has a different way of explaining how to accomplish, tackle, or look at something. Wednesday’s phrase that stuck with me was, “Let the jump belong to him. Ride your flatwork to it, but the jump is his.” For someone who has a horse who knows his job 90% of the time and who just gets in her horse’s way, that couldn’t have been worded better. I often tell myself to let go when jumping, but that might need to be rephrased to “get out of the way.”