Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Entertaining start to the year's lessons...

Fun lesson this am :)

So let's preface by saying Athena and I have not been getting along entirely well since the move.  With both of us highly stressed by it all, it's been a not-so-good combination.   To put in perspective - last week we never made it out of the trot.  And even then it was never particularly brilliant.  

And we've been at the new place for a month now.   So I was starting to say goodbye to my show plans and trying to accept *another* sideline season.

But this week all the rides have gone well; still a disturbingly long way from show quality, but significantly better than they have been.   She's almost seeming rideable.  Sweet.

But then I was too busy to ride yesterday, so began to have doubts as to the likely success of this week's lesson.  Nonetheless, I gamely texted my coach for instructions as to what to build (thereby suggesting that I thought not ONLY would we get past the trot, but far enough past to actually *jump*  AND jump something worth building).   *Might* be pushing it a little, but hey - you're not new here.  Type A, remember?

Alright so 8am lesson.  Intend to be on by 7:30 and have a nice long warm-up/tire-out period before the lesson starts.   Good plan right?   Did we miss the part about me not being a morning person?  And living an hour from the barn?  And having 16 horses to feed before I can even consider riding?  Suffice to say 7:30 was not entirely realistic.  7:30 is *never* entirely realistic.   Usually it's about 7:59:55 that I get on.   Today I *was* better than that though and got in about 20 mins before my coach arrived.   Sweet.  

Did not venture into the canter in those 20 mins though.  Hahaha baby steps.

Coach shows up and drills us a little on last week's lesson.   "You've been practicing"  Ummmm you think?   hahaha since we weren't even CLOSE to being successful the week before and now it's reasonably consistent...   Generally pretty good about doing my homework -- especially when things aren't working AND there's no good galloping options available *g*

But since we now have something that vaguely resembles a balanced trot it was time to move into the canter...  Drum roll please...

And all that drama for nothing.   She was awesome.  No kicking, bolting, motorcycling, nothing...  And I'll tell ya - she's capable of all three at the same time.  Tons o fun there.   But no, this was a totally sane, normal canter.   At times it was even balanced.  Who knew?

Alright then -- time to jump.  Can count on one hand the number of times I've jumped since we moved in.   So starting to feel rather deprived.   So instructions said oxer at B or E with verticals two strides on either side and a variety of ground/placing poles.   All good except I ran out of poles, so some of the ground poles got left out.   We start with the oxer as a tiny vert with placing poles on either side.   This is  a pretty standard exercise for us -- as in *almost* every time we jump we start with that.  Tends to chill us both out. And each time we jump back and forth it gets bigger - ending around 3'6 or so.    She was noticeably stronger off the left rein than the right, but other than that pretty good and listening reasonably well.  Sweet.

So jump gets shrunk back down to a baby square oxer.  Except I'm not new here - as soon as he started building it I was thinking hmmmm if that gets as high as the vert did it's going to be a very big fence for Athena on a tight distance.   But we shall see...   At least it was starting out baby sized.   So trotted back and forth over the oxer a couple times.  First time she misjudged entirely -- started to jump it like a vert and realized about the second rail in the air.   Defied some laws of physics there to stretch out and clear it.   Second time she knew what it was all about :)  

Then it came time to add in the verticals on either side.   An easy 2 strides -- meant for a trot approach from either side, so the landing one after the oxer rides tight both directions.  So first attempt...  Trot in, register extra fences, panic, nose dive, throw self over fence, squish in two strides, leap oxer like a deer, halt, trot, stumble over vertical.   hmmmm ok less than brilliant.   Halt at the end of the line, turn around to try again.

Well we're not making *that* mistake again.   On the return trip, one stride out of the vert, grab bit in teeth, bolt, stride and a half, stumble over oxer, ONE stride, vertical.

Well, *slightly* better.  *sigh*   Turn around and try again.   Oh, and while we're turning around, the oxer grows.  "She needs to respect it."   Since I actually agree with that, was all good - but just sort of amused me that when things were going horribly wrong we fix it with making things harder.  Sheesh.

So on this trip she sees the slightly bigger oxer and completely demolishes the vert.  Like doesn't even attempt to pick up her feet.   Grrrr.   Less than acceptable.   Coach resets fence and we try the same direction again.  

Well she rarely makes the same mistake twice.   Flying LEAP over the vert, one stride, handstand, mini conversation: horse - "we can't possibly jump from here"  rider - "don't care, do it anyways"  horse - "if you're sure...", cat-leap over the oxer.   Land with zero impulsion.  horse - "and I'm done."  Rider - "no you're not."  Trot out over the vert.  That one was a ride and a half.   I got bonus points for determination there *g*   Prob not so much for eq >;-P

Oh boy.   Ok turn around and try again.  Trot approach with impulsion but control.  Sweet.  Vertical  perfect.  Sweet.  Even two strides to the oxer.  Still sweet.  Then, somehow, for some reason, in  Athena's world, the oxer suddenly doubled in width.   Hmmmm tricky.  Esp on a tight distance.   Yup.   Did it in one. Cleared the vert and cantered away - a little on the forehand but not out of control.   Actually would've looked beautiful if you didn't know enough to realize what we were *supposed* to be doing >;-P

Turn around -- and get the two to the two.  Finally.  Turn back.  Two to one.  *sigh*   Try that one a few more times till we get a messy two to two (not sure why we need to way over jump the oxer only in one direction, but sobeit).  Then a slightly less messy two to a two.   I think by this point my coach had given up hope of anything resembling "good" happening this direction so when we got to "passable" we left it.

Then went back to the slightly easier direction and bigger fences.  And the pieces all came together.  We finally had a good approach, in balance, with impulsion but not speed.   A lovely two to the oxer, which we jump with the bascule in just the right place, and easy two out and a balanced, no-fight halt within about 3 strides.  Ok.  Much better.

"I'm sorry what?  Again?"   Apparently there was some thought this might have been a fluke.  hahaha although I suspect not too much because if he *really* thought it was a fluke, we would've ended on it.   I've taught enough of those lessons to know all about the quit while you're ahead theory.

Yes we were able to repeat it.   And land balanced.  And pick any gait I wanted for departure.

And THAT is when you know you've finally accomplished something.

So yeah, it might've been one of those "break a few eggs to make a cake" type rides, but I was quite happy that A - we made it past the trot! and B - things eventually got good :)

And we had the *best* cool-out trot ever.  Round. Through. Floaty. No need to call out chiro - apparently all you have to do is bury your horse in a 3' square oxer so they crack their back jumping out of it and you're good to go.  Sweet.   ummmm that advice is worth exactly the amount as the paper it's written on.   Keep that in mind :)

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