The Assistant's push over the past week has been to prepare us all for whatever rigors lie ahead with Trainer -- he returns from Spruce Meadows in order to teach us poor wretched souls at the beginning of next week. The Assistant seems to think he will kill us, which may happen.... (no-stirrup Puissance comes to mind.) At any rate, she seemed very concerned that we all jump Large Jumps today. I observed a friend, a very talented Adult Amateur Hunter rider, schooling a lovely 3'6" prior to my lesson. Her horse is a stunning fellow and jumps a 10 every single time. Really fun to watch.
My lesson was started with little fanfare. Assistant put up a vertical to around 2'9" and a little oxer to about the same size and told me to go ahead and enjoy myself warming up over them. Riley was in a moderately grouchy mood while flatting - he was irritable about moving off my leg, pissed about listening to my hand, tense in his jaw, and generally just a little scowly. He was doing everything I asked him to, but I could feel light waves of resentment wafting upward, as though saying "WHY ARE WE OUT HERE. I WANT TO GO HACKING. THIS SUCKS."
When we started jumping, his attitude shifted precipitously. This is a horse that *LOVES* his job. I think the only thing that makes him happier is standing in front of a fan with people brushing him while being fed unlimited treats. (Obviously... this has never happened... *ahem*)
Anyway, he settled in after we cantered the vertical a few times and the oxer a few times, and Assistant quickly put together a short course at around 3ft that we sailed through. Annnnnnd then the jumps started to go up....
First I coursed a soft 3'6", which felt really super. We threw in a few amusing turns at the height and both handled it well. My nerves hadn't started to kick in too much and I was having a fine time. Riley was feeling infinitely more cheerful, listening to my leg and hand and actually felt like a partner instead of a grumpy gills.
Since this went so well, the Assistant decided that the jumps could go up some more. Or a lot. You know. Whichever. The verticals ascended to heights somewhere between 1.15m and 1.20m, and the oxers to a stiff, square 1.10m. One of the girls setting the jumps cheerfully informed me an oxer I was about to jump was "400 meters tall."
But off we went. The first jump, a funny-looking red plank with cutouts, came up off the right lead. This jump looked really huge for some reason - maybe the cutouts - but we hit it perfectly and Riley pinged right over. Then a turn right and quick rollback to the left to jump our first enormous oxer. We hit it dead on and it felt huge on landing; I did one of those where I ended up somewhere in Riley's ears. After rebalancing, we continued left and jumped a jump with a "bowtie" filler on the side of the ring, then continued on in about a 9 stride dog leg to another single vertical on the end of the ring. From there, we turned left and came back up the ring to a huge oxer with a liverpool underneath - the one my friend so cheerfully said was "400 meters tall" and jumped it perfectly. Then it was a quick inside turn left to a one-stride vertical to vertical combination, which we hit dead on to finish.
Mind you, after the terror of the liverpool oxer, I had totally neglected to remember where I was going, so the turn left was inside and then more inside and then CRAP TURN RIGHT and then CRAP NO TURN LEFT and OH THERE'S THE ONE STRIDE IN THREE STRIDES HAHAHA OH WELL THERE'S MY DISTANCE YOLO. (This is, incidentally, interesting to me; even just a couple of months ago, there would be *no way* I would have done that at ANY height, much less 1.10m.) So, the Assistant made me re-do the last three jumps - the end of the ring, roll back up the ring to the oxer, then the inside turn to the one-stride. This went stunningly well.
To say I'm happy about this lesson would be the understatement of the year. We jumped big... for us... and did it really well! Riley felt confident, I felt confident, and best of all I faced my oxer nemesis and not only lived but rose to the occasion.
I feel like if I continue to keep riding like I am lately (and of course hopefully, you know, better too) that everything is possible. I'm so excited for the future and feel so unbelievably fortunate to have an amazing equine partner in Riley.