Here there be dragons...

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

A lesson and a half...

So I had a lesson today that shortly after getting off my horse and cooling her out, my legs went "ok Laur, we've had enough, it's time to sit down now." hahaha It's really not too often that I end up tired after a ride, but it *does* happen once in a while. And pony? Yeah she was sleeping in the roundbale. This same lesson apparently left other people puzzling over how, precisely, this exercise would be approached :)

The short version: this lesson is the stuff Stephy's nightmares are made of.

For the loooooong version, read on:

Now some of you may be aware that the last few weeks have ranged from interesting to exciting to thoroughly frustrating -- sometimes all at the same time. So after last week's ride I spent this week simply chilling her out (some days that took longer than others!) We did one day of "real" (or as close as we get anyways :) dressage and a whole bunch of w/t/c around in relaxed hunter frame. And we walked and trotted over a ton of 2'6" fences. Over and over and over again mixed in with the shoulder in, transitions, bending, etc so there was never anything exciting about it. And yesterday, FINALLY, she was behaving herself like a school pony. Quiet, relaxed, willing. A little sticky still, but always accomplishing point A to point B on the first try. So this is good.

And because it was good, I was half expecting to be on psycho-mare today. But I got on her and she was the same horse I got off yesterday. Sweet! Picked her up into a bit more of a dressagy frame, perfect. Let her back down again. Trotted her over a couple tiny fences (in dr length stirrups, so less than pretty) and she stayed quiet. The world is good.

Coach shows up and watches for a few seconds. "She looks really good. Relaxed." So I explained a bit about our week and what's been good and what's not. And somewhere in there I mentioned that cantering a pole on a circle had created some tension -- that we worked through, but still... And left it at that. So I keep working my horse as he starts moving fences around while I continue warming up. "Wow, where's Lauren today?" hahaha took me a sec to translate that to he had watched our absolutely perfect canter transition (a fairly rare occurrence) and this was a good thing. "I left her at home and brought the one who knows how to ride." >;-P So then he was all annoyed at me for being too critical -- apparently that's his job *g*.

So he continues to move poles, giving the odd instruction every once in a while. Apparently the focus of today's lesson is not flat. hahaha as in usually he doesn't even look at a pole till both of us are thoroughly into the dressage-thing. And I happened to glance at what he was building -- at first it looked like our standard of pole in front of little jump. This is what we used to *teach* her to jump, and we return to it every once in a while. Except that the pole was on an angle. And given the angle of said pole I had a strong suspicion this wasn't an accident.

Gee thanks. I've spent the last two weeks jumping everything 100% perpendicular, and now my *first* fence is going to be a bending line? Just as well I trotted over a few before he got there *g*. But still all good. But then suddenly there was ANOTHER pole. Wait, canter poles on a curve? Definitely not kewl. We're not particularly good at that on a good day. We can bend (most days :), or we can navigate obstacles. But rarely do we do both at the same time! So I hadn't *quite* wrapped my brain around this being a good idea when he started to move standards over. Wait standards?!?!? That implies JUMPS. Which at that distance means bounces. On a circle.

Now one day last year we did A bounce on a circle. It was ummmm entertaining. She was greener then, but at the time far more confident. Since then I don't think we've tried to hold a curving line over anything. And exactly once have we done two bounces in a row -- again when she was happy and eager and into the whole gymnastics thing.

But no, he's not done building yet. Trot poles get placed parallel to the bounces, on the inside. And a random set of standards set up on the other side of the circle (think B and E if we had letters - circle slightly bigger than 20m). Ok so school the circle that goes through the single standards and over the trot poles. Keep horse in dressage frame, elevated/round/relaxed etc. Uh huh. hahaha first couple times I lost the shoulder entirely (but managed to keep the roundness and relaxation, just lost the bend a *little*). So eventually we get it right. Ok, trot over the other poles and over the jump, then ride the canter. So after a couple tries we were jumping our one fence well and having the canter rebalanced within a stride or two. Woohoo! Mission accomplished. This is HUGE after the last few weeks. Can we stop now? hahaha fortunately I kept that to my little self...

Alright so the second fence goes up. Trot in, stick to the inside, bounce it. Ok... Got through with a significant lack of bend on an off distance and land a *little* fast (like as in I was back at the fences again - going around them - before I had the canter reorganized). Repeat a few times. Eventually get a rideable canter. Ok keep rideable canter and jump the middle of the bounces. On the circle line. In rhythm. Rebalance canter on landing and repeat. So realistically it was do the bounces, go around once to fix the quality of the canter, do the bounces. But after the third or fourth attempt, as we skipped it on the second round, a THIRD fence went up. HEY! >;-P But she navigated her way through. So we did this a few times -- and each time we'd land, balance,e all good, then just after the empty standards there was a scary tarp, that would rattle in the wind and we'd shoot forward and have to start over again. Keep in mind - 25m circle. There's not a lot of room for scooting and running! Also changed it up so it’s big circle w/ jumps, little circle (10m) inside standards without jumps, and back and forth. And eventually we got it a couple times in a row w/o a meltdown or need for a little circle. And we get a decently long walk break. Pony’s tired. That’s a LOT of jumping for one day.

We’re done right?

Uh huh, how about the other direction. *sigh*

So in deference to the fact that she’s been less-than-confident lately, my coach took down the first two fences and let us start by trotting over the last one on its own, the same as we did the first way. We just progressed it a lot faster, moving on to the canter right away, putting the 2nd fence up after about 3 loops, and the third fence up after only one lap. The only concession to the tiredness factor was they were slightly lower. Going this way I had a real challenge holding the line; we had a pretty serious (and scary!) left drift going on, ending us w/ like a 4’ bounce. Hahaha but she started to figure it out and by the end, while still not bent as correctly as she should be for dressage, was much better than how we started. Much easier to keep her focused this direction because we’re not going towards the scary tarp *g*

Ok so do that well and take a break. Now we’re done right?

Yeah even I didn’t bother to mentally ask the question that time. Remember those empty standards? They got a jump put between them. Jump the vert, half a circle, jump the double bounce, half a circle jump the vert, keep going... No mini rebalancing circles allowed. BUT I got to pick which direction to go first hahaha Yeah me :)

Now I could feel Si was *actually* starting to get tired. Seriously. I think that’s the second time I’ve ever felt her tired; the first was during a dressage lesson w/ M some time ago. So we did it right for two consecutive circles and got to stop. For a minute.

Turn around and do it the other way. A really bad jump over the vert towards the scary tarp led to a slightly out of control run around the circle where I chose not to point her at the bounces, but control was regained, the vert jumped correctly and we made it to the bounces with some tension but not bad. The next round I got something that resembled relaxation (still very worried about the tarp each time – which was unfortunately immediately upon landing from the vert and about 4 strides before the bounces). But eventually she did it well a couple times in a row and then got to stop.

For real this time :)

I think I will have a very tired pony tomorrow, although when I checked on her on my way home from teaching tonight she was good and happy and alert, so all good :)


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