We had a somewhat rare opportunity to sit back, relax (ha, ha), and enjoy some riding lessons this past week - a nice (and somewhat unexpected) thing to do since the show season started.
My brand new Butet arrived Monday evening (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) so of course I had to go out to the barn on Tuesday and try it out. I hacked around for all of 15 minutes, since I felt bad for making Riley do anything, and the saddle felt pretty good. Wednesday I gave him a proper flat and made him work, and proceeded to fall in deep, deep love with my new saddle.
A short moment to fangirl all over this thing: IT IS THE BEST SADDLE IN WHICH I HAVE EVER, EVER RIDDEN. And I have ridden in my fair share. I've personally owned County, Delgrange, Crosby, and Pessoa, and ridden in/borrowed a number of CWD (which I also quite loved), Devoucoux, Antares, and various Butets (including one which won a Nations Cup. HA!), most recently living in a zero-frills (we're talking no knee pads here, people - not such a fan) Butet whilst awaiting on my new one to arrive. I've had a total of five rides in this new saddle, and I would possibly sell my soul to never let it out of my dirty little hands.
Anyway. Moving on.
Thursday, I had a lesson. I somehow managed to be the first lesson of the afternoon/evening, and prior to this Trainer decided to take a nap in the viewing room adjacent to the indoor arena.
Barn Manager: Oh just go wake him up whenever you're ready.
Me: Well. Okay.
Luckily I didn't end up having to do this, since apparently my mere presence in the indoor roused him from sweet slumber, and he strolled into the arena - obviously still half asleep - and we proceeded to have the stupidest conversation ever.
Trainer: Wair do you want to ride today. Down here or up in ze outdoor?
Me: (Trying to be all accommodating and whatnot) Oh it doesn't matter, I'm good with either. Whatever you want to do.
Trainer: (Gives me slightly dirty look.) Well it is up to you.
Me: (Realizing this may be a test....) Well... uh... do you feel like walking up there?
Trainer: (looking insulted) I will not walk, I will drive of course.
Me: OK, then the outdoor.
Trainer: See you up zair. <proceeds to scamper off>
Once we both finally made it up there, we discussed the horse show, what I thought went well and didn't, and what I wanted to work on. This was a fairly in depth discussion but I picked one thing that really stood out.
In my videos, I'd noticed that, on landing and particularly after oxers, I was falling on Riley's neck. This led to a lengthy dissection of what I was actually doing, which was sitting up too soon over the wider fences and shoving my feet forward, which resulted in my sitting back in the saddle and, when Riley landed, my saddle giving me a kick in the ass and throwing me forward on his neck. Basically being left behind to the max over the apex of the jump and riding very defensively, likely a result of a) previous horse who stopped, and b) the fact that Riley has no neck and unless you keep pretty reasonable balance on landing you will go flying off his front end.
So, to start, Trainer made a very, VERY teeny tiny X and told me to canter it, not even consider the distance and just think about what my feet were doing. After correcting my position - I guess I have a tendency to sit up and back from my horse two strides or so before takeoff - he moved the jump up to about a 2ft vertical and made me get into two point position and stay there. My only job was to *not* move my upper body, *not* find a distance and just *stand there*. A further tweak involved moving my leg back about two strides before the jump, ever so slightly. And apparently it worked.
Trainer: Yes! Zees iss eeeeeexcellont.
Me: It feels horrible.
Trainer: You are always saying zis when it is right! For you horreeble ees EXCELLONT!
Me: Ha. <jumps jump again, terrible distance, apparently body is in right place.>
Trainer: Heh heh, see, zat distance was tragic but ZAT WAS HORREEBLE WISS YOUR BODY.
Me: So... good?... what happens when it's *actually* horrible?
Trainer: Then it is bad. But right now it is excellont and horreeble! Heh heh heh.
Trainer: I better stop saying zis ting, you are going to be very confuse.
All in all one of the more fun/funnier/more "excellont" lessons I've had, I learned a lot and felt fantastic after.
Friday, a few of my friends and I did Trail Riding and Cocktail Hour, which was quite amusing. None of our horses are particularly wonderful hack horses - Riley would far rather be somewhere man-made, one of my friend's horses tends to stand on his hind legs for 50% of the ride, and the other literally levitates - but we all managed to survive and enjoyed some delicious martinis after.
Saturday, one of my cocktail hour friends joined me for a lesson. We spent some time warming up while observing the lesson prior to ours, then received some tips and suggestions about position and rhythm. Then we started to warm up over a little vertical. My friend got a serious position discussion while I explained what we'd been working on on Thursday to the assistant coach. I worked on the new position over our warm-up jump, then we began to jump some small courses. First, we jumped our warm-up vertical, then turned left over a small oxer and were meant to do a bending six strides to another small vertical. The jumps might have been 2'9" or 3'; I'm not really sure.
My first attempt didn't exactly go as planned - we'd had a beautiful warm-up, but on making the left turn to the oxer I saw the really, REALLY short one and basically reverted to old, nasty habits and pulled to the base of the jump. This gave us a short and quiet jump in to the line, and having not walked it and having seen my friend legging hard for the six, I decided to sit quietly and wait for the seven strides to come up. Well. Apparently it was a parking seven strides for us - which I noticed about three strides in, and really should have just done the six - and had to grapple to fix it. This led to a lecture about "MAKE A DECEEEEEEEESION!" and to not sit like a useless lump on landing into a line. Much shame, etc.
The next time through I (sigh.) came in with too much canter, which made our line five strides, but was more okay since at least I, you know, did something and didn't sit there like an idiot.
After this, Trainer added in a right turn and rollback to a slightly taller vertical (probably around 3'3") in the middle of the ring, then a blind turn (around his golf cart.....) to a 3'ish ramped oxer on a serious dog leg turn. My friend opted to go first, and started his canter about two seconds after Trainer explained the course, resulting in everyone slamming on the brakes and my friend receiving a lecture about planning his course in advance. Which was apparently well received since my friend rode it beautifully.
I? Also not bad. My first jump was a little long, which meant my horse decided it was time to play, but I got him back and turned to the line with a good canter, finally rode the stupid six stride line properly, then turned right for the rollback, hit the vertical on a quiet stride - which was my plan - stayed out for the turn and hit the oxer on a slightly forward stride. Smiles all around.
Upon repeating this exercise, Riley and I went to make the turn for the rollback after the line, and he decided the Scary Arena Corner had Horse-Eating Monsters within, threw his head in the air, grabbed the bit and took off. Some frantic steering and cajoling got us over the vertical, but he landed, yanked the reins out of my hands and took off flailing around, so we had to circle around and start over. He thought there still might be Horse Eating Monsters in the corner, but spooked somewhat less and with some strong-arming we made the vertical and the dog-leg turn okay.
All in all... not my finest lesson, and I'm not very amused to have ended on that slightly sour note, since Trainer departed about ten minutes after our lesson for the airport. Spruce Meadows, the Team, Nations Cups and WEG selection trials await him in Calgary, where he'll be for the following two weeks.
This week will be all about relaxation and good flat work, and I have every plan to KILL MYSELF by doing no stirrups and working out like crazy, since the 1.10m and I are going to become very good friends in two weeks. (I have decided it will be so.) It's crazy it's such a mental block, since we've been schooling higher than that for some time now, but more on that later. Next week we'll have some lessons with the Assistant and see how things go, then it's off to horse show land the following week.
Whadaya know, it's been all of seven days and I feel like I'm in *serious* horse show withdrawal. And unreasonably depressed I'm not at Spruce Meadows. WAHHHH. I guess I better start sorting out this WEF working student thing or I'll be sobbing and in complete, miserable withdrawal all winter.