Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Horse Show Hangover

Usually, the horse show hangover phenomenon occurs on Mondays, but I didn't get that option yesterday, so I rolled it into Tuesday. A day resplendent with sitting in my oh-so-comfy, oh-so-welcoming bed with occasional forays into the kitchen for sustenance, followed by endless catnaps. One day I'll leave the comforts of this goosedown featherbed and these Egpytian cotton sheets and turn into a productive human being again, but that day won't be today.

For a somewhat brief recap, Riley and I returned to the 1.0m division on Saturday, and I proceeded to ride like someone who actually knew how to ride.  Our first class was double clear and in the ribbons, and our second class, the Power & Speed, was excellent until the final fence of the Speed phase where we pulled a rail.  Disappointing but not the end of the world.  Trainer managed to corner me after this and we had a very irritating conversation where he forced me to decide which division I would do Sunday. I decided on starting out in the 1.0m and if that went well we would try 1.10m.  As usual I doubt he was very impressed with my response but welcome to my world.

Sunday, our warmup was quite fantastic.  Our actual class was probably one of our smoother efforts, but I was annoyed by some small mistakes, and Riley was starting to feel fairly tired; additionally, he had been a little body sore after our classes on Saturday.  I had difficulty finding our rhythm in the class and felt like I was shoving him around the course - another symptom of his (and my) tiredness; when he's awake and alive, that rhythm is a lot easier to find and keep. Particularly based on his medical issues in the past, and the fact that he had worked really hard all week, I decided to hang up the spurs and scratch our last effort.  I was actually disappointed, because the 1.10m course was fairly forgiving and would have been a rather excellent course to ride, but it is what it is, and the horse's welfare must come first.  I don't think Trainer was impressed by this decision, but it's one of those things where I genuinely feel that I know this horse extremely well and it's really not worth pushing it for another class, particularly a move-up class.  I finished Sunday feeling rankled that I hadn't been able to pull it together enough to try the 1.10m again and seriously annoyed by the stupid mistakes I'd made.  If nothing else, I'm the Queen of turning what should have been a positive experience into a "wow, I really suck!" one.  However, this was followed by cocktails in the Grand Prix Pavilion while watching Trainer take the farm's young horse into her first Grand Prix and going double clear, finishing second, so of course it could be much worse.

Monday, Trainer had decided on giving lessons in the morning prior to packing up and toddling off to Spruce Meadows, and after some discussion about whether this would kill my horse or not I signed up for one.

I love lessons; they're probably my favorite part of the whole Riding At A Fancy Barn thing.  Every time I take a lesson with Trainer, I walk away with some mind-bogglingly simple new nugget of knowledge that makes total sense, makes me wonder wtf I've been doing to date, and changes my riding for the better.  I've had so many of these "lightbulb" lessons at this point that I'm starting to wonder if I knew how to ride AT ALL before.  On that note, Friday, the Head Boss Farm Owner and I were sitting together watching his horse do the Open Welcome, and he sort of casually mentioned that Trainer had bestowed the Most Improved Rider award on my person over the week, which is not actually a ~thing~ at my barn but was nevertheless an extremely nice thing to hear.

Anyway, our lesson Monday was another one of those stupid-simple ones.  It involved use of the seat and legs to move one's horse forward and bring it back.  Simply, one sits more deeply (use of driving, more dressage-y type seat) to move the horse forward, of course along with the leg, and lightens one's seat to slow one's horse.  When one has achieved the desired rhythm one may decide to sit or go into two-point depending on one's horse's preference.  This position change had been vaguely proposed to me earlier in the week, when I was busy panicking before my 1.10m class, but I hadn't really had the opportunity to practice much.  This was especially useful for me since I tend to sit down about three or four strides from the jump, no matter what I see, which can lead to driving my horse past my distance as he is fairly sensitive to these things - even if I'm not actively driving.  We practiced on a circle at the walk, trot, canter, and reverse and then practiced over a teeny tiny vertical by doing both driving seat and light seat.  This was hard; I had some amusing chips since my horse responded quite a lot better than I anticipated to the light seat, but Trainer was extremely positive about this and so was I.  It's a different riding style than I'm totally used to and I'm fine with making mistakes like that!  After a few practice jumps, he put the jumps to around 3ft and we practiced a line.  I had the option of picking six strides or seven strides and practicing different uses of the seat.  The object was this: get into good rhythm, come around the corner to the jump in full seat so as to keep the established rhythm (as horses tend to slow down naturally through the corners), then see whatever I see out of the corner and either lighten my seat and adjust or keep the full seat and come forward slightly.  I have to say, I totally nailed this part and Trainer was quite effusive about our efforts.  Naturally I was quite happy too; it was the ideal way to wrap up our last lesson before he leaves.

A quick note here just to talk about Riley and what a wonderful horse he is.  I genuinely don't think I could be any luckier than I am to have this horse -- he 100% tries his heart out for me, every single time, is forever cheerful and happy to see me, and loves his job more than any horse I've ever met.  He has personality plus and is sweet, adorable, and so much fun.  I am so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to ride him!

The next few weeks will be quiet ones for us.  I'm giving Riley (and myself!) a few days off to recover from the horse show hangover.  I'm pretty impressed with how sore *I* am - there are muscles on my body that are unrealistically painful and I don't have any idea why.  I'll start hacking him again on Thursday or Friday, then we'll move into lessons next week before Trainer flies back from Spruce to do a few days' worth of lessons in July.  After that, I'm not sure. I'm considering a horse show with the Assistant, since I'd like another under my belt before we leave for a fairly big CSI-W in July.  We have about four weeks before that one and I'm not feeling entirely enthusiastic about hacking around until then.  It would be nice if we could just ship in for a day or two and do some schooling classes, but that seems unlikely!  I guess I'll continue to mull it over and figure it out one of these days.

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