After an amazing weekend with Val, I am going to be on Cloud 9 for the rest of forever. Or at least for the rest of the week. If you follow me on Instagram or you’ve liked the blog’s Facebook page, you probably already know what I’m talking about, but too bad, you get to hear about it again because my horse is amazing and I’m going to tell anyone who will listen how incredible he is. I don’t know why it still surprises me when my horse gives me more, more, more.
Saturday, I laid around lazy in my pjs until I finally dragged myself to the barn around 11 or 12. I’m not sure why I always do that to myself, but 90 degrees at 12 was still better 98 at 5, so off to the barn I went. Val and I had a nice 45 minutes of flatting around and playing with some of our lateral aids again, while putting in some really good canter work again. I finally called it a day when I felt my horse suddenly realize his muscles were tired and I felt him droop. We went for a nice walk around the farm to cool out, and then I bathed him and parked him in front of the terrifying fan to cool out/get over his weird fear.
We’ve continued to regress in our cross-tying ability and have now reached the point where we can’t be connected to them in any capacity. I’ve got a game plan moving forward, but didn’t have a chance to work on it at all this weekend. It’s a good thing that he does so many other things well, because that is an obnoxious vice. It’s also fortunate that he stands politely if you just toss his lead rope over his neck. But still. Ugh.
I spent the rest of my afternoon doing some packing and just hanging around the apartment while J was off doing his Fantasy Football draft.
On Sunday, my lesson was at 7:30 (which meant a 5:40 am wake-up. Only for horses and airplanes do I wake up this early. Yuck) so I rolled into the barn just as the sun was coming up, and Val still nickered and walked away from his mostly empty feed-bucket to greet me in his pasture. I know it’s only for cookies, but it still makes me feel loved.
Earlier in the week I did a school on my own with a lot of canter work and a few jumps thrown in at my trainer’s suggestion. The idea was that since he’s gotten really good and mostly quiet about the flat work, we can help that mentality bleed over into our jumping by kind of melting the two together from time to time. Since we’d already done course work I told trainer that a grid lesson sounded fantastic.
Just like last time, the grid didn’t have any super tricky questions, but it was more of a challenge physically for the horses. There were four jumps, each a stride apart, with the third jump being set as a low, wide oxer to help get the horses jumping really round and across, followed by a tall, airy oxer to get them rocking back. I should add that oxer-oxer anything on this horse requires a ton of core and leg strength. Which I eventually ran out of. This is when I remember why I’m supposed to be working out. Oops.
Val was a star through the whole exercise, and all I had to do was keep a little leg through the line and across the first oxer, and he sailed through like a pro. We kept the 1st oxer at about 3′ and opted to only increase the height of the second oxer. As it went up and up, it started to look kind of tall at the end of a line of jumps that were 3′ and under, but I focused really hard on the same points as I did in our last grid lesson. Namely, sink down into my heels rather than jamming them down, keep my back flat, and stay down over the whole jump without falling back or sitting up too soon and bringing down the back rail of the oxer.
Val did his part perfectly, and while it did feel like he noticed the bigger jump, I never felt him hesitate or suck back, or even feel intimidated. At the end of our lesson, I did a crazy thing, and I asked my trainer to put the jump up just one more hole. We’d jumped the oxer at 4′ a couple of times, and Val was great. There was no reason from a training standpoint to put it up again. I just wanted to. And I realized that that’s ok. It’s ok to sometimes do things with my horse, just because I want to and because it’s fun. That’s one of the best parts of having your own horse I’m learning.
Riding up to that first trot fence, I kind of felt like I’d made a poor life choice, because 4’3 looks really big when the first jump is a cross-rail. But I just did the same things I’d been doing, and Val went through just like every time, and soared over the final oxer. I landed in a little bit of a heap, grinning from ear to ear and praising my horse. At which point he ran away with me, squealing and wheeling around the arena with me giggling like a loon on his back.
And that’s the story of how I jumped 1.30 meters for the first time ever in my riding career, on my 15.3 power house of a horse. For some people, I’m sure that height is no big deal, but for the girl who grew up riding sale horses and problem horses and ponies and literally anything she could get her hands on, because she could never afford that kind of talent in a horse of her own, it’s a dream come true. The craziest part is that I think there’s more in there. I’m going to have to get a little stronger before we test that though, because I’d rather land with my horse and not in the dirt next to him.