After getting back from VA, my week was pretty crazy, and I only got to Val on Wednesday, so I made a plan to work hard Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Val didn’t agree with this plan, but we’ll get to that shortly. Wednesday’s flat was lack luster, and Val really wasn’t giving me much, but I didn’t worry too much, since horses are horses and just aren’t going to come out perfect every day, just like we don’t.
Friday, I was planning to just flat really well, but then realized that we’d have had 2 weeks between jump lessons, so figured we needed to at least jump a little. Val wanted to be a little stiff and lazy, so instead of cowboy kicking and getting him worked up, we did a lot of serpentines with square corners, and eventually he limbered up. We flatted around for a good 30-35 minutes and then worked on our single exercise stolen from the clinic.
The idea is to make very square, correct corners, and for the horse to back themselves off of the jump. It doesn’t take a huge canter, and on the back side you are supposed to halt, but depending on the horse I have, sometimes I make him circle until he gives me a nice round canter after. You are supposed to alternate left and right, and off of the right, you really are supposed to canter perpendicular to the fence, rather than making a big loop. This help practice truly taking the bend away to get really really straight and not fake the straightness or the bend.
Often I do this as warm up and just let it keep Val off of the jumps a little and quiet on the backside, but Friday, I used all the parts of the exercise. The first few times when it was a speed bump he didn’t pay much attention, but eventually as the jump went up he got better and better, though as he got a little tired, he got a little more sticky in the turn and I had to use a lot more outside leg and hand to bring him around and get straight instead of dropping his shoulder to the outside and holding the bend too long out of the corner. We ended on a pretty sizezable oxer, and I called it quits after about an hour of flatting and jumping.
Saturday I had to be at work by 10, and I wasn’t going to be able to ride in the afternoon, so I was up at 7 am to hack my horsey before going into work. I’ve ridden in my new spurs a lot lately, and opted not to use them Saturday/Sunday to see if there was a difference and give him a break. Since I would like to do a few adult medals, it occurred to me that we need to be able to pick up the counter canter on demand and hold it, so we did a lot of counter canter work. At first we did some serpentines and then changed direction across the diagonal without changing leads which he did really well, holding the counter canter all the way around the end of the arena and through 2-3 corners each way.
Once he felt really in tune to my counter canter aids, we picked it up from the walk and trot both directions, and even though Val clearly thought I had lost my mind, he was compliant and stayed very quiet rather than being frazzled by the new and hard question. We actually got our best canter work all day at the counter canter, because it required so much balance and focus. Our work on being really square and correct the day before really helped a ton with this, because I was able to get his body exactly where I wanted it. I was pleased as punch with my pony, and after a good 45 minutes flat, we cooled out and I booked it to work.
In hind sight, that much hind end work two days in a row was probably not the best lesson prep, and I really should have worn my spurs for the lesson just for extra oomph. Val was so tired that he was actually cranky and behind my leg, which did not result in our best lesson. Our first 3 courses or so were pretty OK, albeit a little slow to start. Our last couple of courses however, got ugly. I was tired and leaning to long spots, while Val was tired and behind my leg so instead of leaving the ground he was put his feet back down and then have to climb over the fence, which was hard and backed him off even more, and eventually resulted in a stop/almost crash through a coop. I’ve gotten so used to my horse carrying me down to the fences, that I’ve kind of forgotten how to ride cranky Val.
The jumps were all set around 3’6 and after we climbed over a couple more, we set the last course a bit more soft, and Val went around beautifully with a nice pace from the get go, that I insisted on rather than just asking nicely. We ended there, and even though it was frustrating to feel like I had let my horse down a little, and that he too had let me down, it was still a good lesson and we still worked on good things.
Either way you spin it, this weekend was really productive on the riding front, and was a lot of fun on the grown up front with a derby party on Saturday, plus Captain America in the evening, and looking at new places to live with J on Sunday.