Anyway, we had the blessing of having Trainer around all last week, which is a miracle in and of itself considering his very busy European show schedule. When he's around, shit gets done. I'm continuously amazed - though I suppose I probably shouldn't be at this point - how much ALL of us learn and improve in just one week of having him here. Literally this man took my riding from "blah, I seriously suck and keep going back to ALL MY OLD HABITS I WILL NEVER GET ABOVE 90CM AGAIN" to feeling confident about walking in the 1.10m ring this past week but... more on that later.
I had a private lesson on Friday morning. Trainer decided that his goal was to teach me to stop freaking out if something wasn't perfect and galloping to a jump. When we started with him last autumn, my reaction was to pull to the base of every jump and put in a million unnecessary strides and then cause my horse extreme grief when jumping. Now it's gone the opposite direction and I kick and leave out strides that really shouldn't be left out. So he is all, you need to learn patience and go back to the rhythm and just let it happen. I think I'm starting to understand this fairly well; it's made the MOST enormous difference, let me tell you.
I warmed up well over a vertical, then he had me jump a six stride line (vertical to oxer) twice, set around 3ft. No problems, felt great. Then we faced the dread in and out, also set around 3ft. As you may recall my issues at Big Fancy Horse Show involved riding like a dumbass and having two stops in a vertical to oxer in and out, so obviously that was on the list of things that needed to be addressed. Naturally, when we faced it the first time I came through the (short) turn and turned into a racing cowboy yeehaw and practically made the thing into a bounce.
Trainer is all, "sooooooooooooo why don't you come here and we'll talk about zat. What happen?"
Me: "Um. I don't... know. I guess... I saw... the long one........"
Trainer: "Ya you did. And you did zat stupid hunter gap ting which I love." <smirk>
Trainer: "When you do this galloping at the jump it make your 'orse nervous. You fell down at ze 'orse show because ze rhythm was not good. Ze rhythm is also not good when you do this ting, this galloping at ze jomp. Your 'orse, 'e has a lot of step, if you are patient and come in wizzout a gallop you just add some legs if it is a little slow you are fine. You just cannot crawl in because zen it becomes a one and a half." <shrug>
Trainer: "Get your good rhythm zen keep it, zen you come to ze jump and adjust a leetle, not kick ze crap out of him."
To make a long story short, I think I jumped through that stupid in and out at least twenty times, and by the end of it had my spurs taken away (lol) and were adding in a line to a vertical after in either six or seven strides. And by the end.... it was actually pretty damn beautiful and I was remaining calm and riding well. And then I went home and sniffled a little because I suck at riding and caused my horse to be nervous. Can't win with myself.
I had another lesson Saturday, this time with a friend of mine who usually shows in the same divisions. We practiced patience, I got to keep my spurs, and Trainer was rather pleased with the whole exercise. We jumped through a number of courses and toward the end we started racing around through the middle of the course, but I was happy with myself that I caught it, brought it back, and practiced patience through the back half. Trainer was also happy and told me "zis Rome, it was not built in a day, and zis horse, ugh he change so much it is difficult, he not always zere for you."
So we finished feeling fairly prepared, I would say.
Sunday, it was 9999999999999 degrees, and I thought that making Riley do much hard work was rather unfair, so I decided we would go hacking. Which is of course Riley's favorite activity ever. (That was sarcasm, by the way.) It used to be my least favorite activity ever but I guess at some point over this summer I've grown a set of lady balls, at least when it comes to hacking, and now think his antics are quite amusing. This is not to say I don't still take him out with a grab strap because you know, he does have a wicked spin.
I hacked him out toward the grass ring, which is where most of the decent hacking trails loop out. The grass ring itself is probably a 12-15 minute walk from the back of the barn and you have the option of either taking the road or a lovely wide trail that winds through the woods. I usually take the wooded trail because it's shady and nice, but there is also the possibility of meeting Killer Squirrels, who for some inexplicable reason forever seem to be carrying around giant pine cones. Anyway we met one of those on the way up but Riley didn't have his usual reaction of "OH MY GOD TERRIFYING." and just trucked right along on a loose rein.
This was all very well and good until we marched back toward the entrance to the trails (which go forever and ever on acres and acres of land; our barn has a lot of land which backs up on to a conservation area that has a ton of hacking trails - you can get lost back there for hours. It's fantastic.) I was like, woohoo hacking!!! And Riley was like "ummmmmmmmmmmmmm this seems very dubious mom.... I don't know.... I think I'm going to politely turn around now." Which he did and then I attempted to tell him that no, we really DID need to go that direction, and then we got into a little fight about it. This resulted in walking back up the trail, then turning around and getting a good swat with the stick and marching forward. Well, to make another long story short, we did this dance for about fifteen minutes, and I finally gave up after I got him some thirty steps down the path, told him to halt and STAND and wait, and then quietly turn around and go back. Next time, hopefully we'll make it a little further, but it was obviously not happening on Sunday. So I hacked him around the grass ring instead - which he also put up a hissy about but received a sharp swat for his troubles, and we ended up having a fine time indeed. And I made him take the long way home around the big field where they keep the retired horses (which he hates and always spooks at) and around the pond and up through the back, so at least we got some real hacking in with a minimum of continuing hissy fits.
Entrance (hard to see, but it's there!) to the hacking trails. We spent a lot of time whirling around in circles here. Heehee.
Grumpy horse is grumpy. But at least he got an apple out of the deal.
But cute horse is cute. And he clearly got to eat some grass so life is not all that bad.