After a month with no lessons, I’ve had a weekend lesson two weeks in a row, and I have another lesson tonight! I do like schooling on my own, but a little consistency with lessons is good. I also got my new tall boots in last week, and after wearing them around the apartment for two days, they went to the barn so I could hack in them and start getting them to break in more. My Tattinis really spoiled me with their 0 break in time–I bought them at a show from a vendor, and showed in them the next day with no blisters! But since I wanted a stiffer leather for the look for shows, I’m going to have to go through some bandaids.
I opted to try the Deniro Ottaviano Aurora tall boots, and I think I love them. At first they wouldn’t zip all the way up over my breeches and a thick cotton sock, but I switched to a nylon sock and with some wiggling, they zipped almost all the way to the top. Though in pictures they look like they are super supple and soft, they don’t start that way. That being said though, I can tell that with some wear they’ll get there and be really comfortable. They just aren’t there yet.
When we got to the barn Saturday I pulled out the heel lifts I keep in my trunk for anyone who is breaking in boots (Seriously, best $3 I’ve ever spent!! They really help your boots break in without dropping too much, and save the backs of your knees.) and then once they were installed wore my boots around to tack up my horse. When I zipped them to the top to get on I could only mostly feel by toes, and I couldn’t bend my knee much, but I pushed through.
I actually had to drop my stirrups an extra half hole to accommodate the fact that I couldn’t really sink in my heels, but as I rode the boots got better. I hacked and hacked until I was pretty sure my lower legs would need to be amputated, and fortunately Val decided to be wonderful on Saturday. Despite my less than solid leg and seat, he cantered up into the bridle nicely and stayed generally relaxed and low at the trot.
To help stretch the ankles, I stood up like a jockey at the canter for a lot of our work, and Val put himself right into a lovely frame that I could then use my seat to simply lift, rather than having to use my seat just to get him into the bridle.
Sunday I wanted to give Val a nice long and slow warm up, so I got on an extra 15 minutes early for the lesson. This gave us a good 20-25 minutes just to flat and stretch his topline so that I had him going nicely before we started jumping, and I think it made a big difference.
Even though last week the new jumps totally frazzled Val, on Sunday he was peeky but brave and nicely forward without being so tight or tense. I worked really hard to find that perfect balance between not picking to a tight and tense canter, and not flying around the course. The first course was icky because I never really found the right canter until the last two jumps, but then on our last two courses things really came together and we hit everything really nicely.
The hay bales were gone, so we’ll have to find a way to bring those back, but otherwise all of the derby type jumps were still in the ring and we started with the jumps on the small side and did the same course from the last week, but then changed it up and did courses that worked for both myself and the other jumper in the lesson, and the two hunters who occasionally do trickier things in a handy course.
For the last course, my trainer put several of the jumps up for us since we were lessoning with a group that usually jumps 2’6-2’9. There was probably still nothing about 3′ but it was still nice to have things that were slightly more than speed bumps. We rocked and rolled around the new course, and my favorite part was when we landed from a jump, wrapped right around the next jump and then hit a perfect spot out of a really tight and tidy turn.
We haven’t practiced really handy turns like that in quite a while, and I was so proud of how well Val compressed and used his hind and to turn, even though it was late in the course and we had jumped the rolly jump from a pretty open canter.
In general, Val was so much more relaxed than last week and I felt like I was riding really well and giving him his best chance for success. He was also really jumping great even though the jumps were small and was his normal super fun self.
Tonight we’re doing a grid exercise called The Winkler that is really hard and almost made me eat dirt last time we did it, but my horse is 100x more rideable and braver than when we last did it, so I’m really excited. While I’m in VA he’s also going to get a couple of training rides to keep improving on his flatwork and building that really good topline we’ve been working on. Then when I get back we have 2 1/2 weeks to get ourselves ready for the Ragan Roberts clinic where we are entered in the 3’6 section. I’m pretty confident that we’ll be fine, but I’m definitely planning to school a little bigger those last couple of weeks. I’m so excited to see what he thinks of our progress, because I feel like we’ve definitely made a lot of improvement since August.
And just to see how our progress since our dressage lesson is coming along, I’ve been taking confirmation pictures every two weeks. Obviously the sun wasn’t out and he was pretty tired for the first picture so he isn’t standing great, but even still, I think he’s making huge progress in his muscling for only four weeks into our new program! Consistency in our flatwork has really been paying off I think, and so has the serious elbow grease I’ve been putting into our grooming to get him shedded out. Man, my horse is shiny.
Tomorrow I fly to VA, but there will still be content for you guys. The next post will be all of the gorgeous jumpers from Pin Oak, so keep your eyes peeled!
What do you guys think? Is he looking as great as I think, or am I just biased?