With Monsieur Trainer away doing Fancy Jump Rider things like WEG you may have noticed there haven't been a lot of lesson reports lately. Riley and I did, however, manage to squeeze one in with the Assistant last night, and so we shall begin there.
First of all, it was six trillion degrees out and humid. When I arrived, my poor sad pony greeted me sweating in his stall. WITH A FAN. Not made for this climate, either of us. I started sweating the instant I opened my car door and went from beautiful, icicle-shaped air to the tropics. But I digress.
After strategically placing my sweaty equid in front of one of the barn's monster fans and then toddling around and gathering my things, he dried up quite quickly and I decided to go ahead and tack up. Oddly enough, once I got outside, the breeze picked up nicely and the sun decided to go sulk behind a bank of clouds, which made things infinitely more tolerable. I didn't push the warm-up too much, and since the Assistant was nowhere to be seen at that point anyway, I spent most of my warmup at the walk (forward, back, sideways, shoulder-in, haunches in, stretching, circles) and trotted and cantered sparingly. I tend to find that if you spend some time having a really good walk warm-up that the rest comes SO much easier.
The Assistant appeared eventually, and we spent a quality half hour talking about WEG and Olympic training camps, which she's been a part of (as a manager) in the past. Fairly entertaining stuff. Then we started to jump.
For whatever reason, all the jumps in the ring were set to something like 2'3" or 2'6" - tiny, anyway - so she was all, go ahead and jump whatever you want to warm up. I had a lovely canter and hopped about half the jumps in the ring, making it up as I went. Riley felt really good, listening and coming forward from my leg nicely without turning into Freight Train Pony. I finished off this exercise by cantering down an oxer-vertical six stride line, which we both did easily.
From there, Assistant had us canter a bending line (I am not overly fond of bending lines), a vertical to an oxer, bending left. I first did this in a forward five strides, then had to repeat the exercise in six. I bungled it slightly the first time, thinking that since I had overshot my angle to the right pleasingly enough that all I had to do was kind of sit there and the six would be there. Turns out, not so much, and I had to do some work the last three strides to squeeze in the six. It wasn't my prettiest effort but it wasn't horrifying. I tried it once more and steadied on landing and fit in the six beautifully.
Assistant then put the jumps up a few holes, somewhere in the 3'3" area, and had us canter the oxer to the vertical, bending right, in six strides. We did this with no problem (easier to hold out in the bend in that direction!) and then had us do it in the five. We jumped in well and I went direct and picked up the pace a little bit to hit it dead on. Many pats for the perfect ponykins.
Assistant then had us jump through the in-and-out, coming off the right lead off a short corner, vertical to oxer. No problems there. Then we added in a bending (grrr) line to a vertical, which she told me to do in either six or seven, which was of course a test since it's a vertical and one should not be barreling down to a vertical. (Although, to be fair, I've jumped that line before in a six, and it was beautiful and not barrel-y at all. Harumpf.)
Anyway, the first time this was a do-some-work-son seven, then she had me do it again. I came in quiet to the combination and had to give a little kick and cluck to get out, which led to Riley being very forward and me choking him to death to get the seven. Definitely not pretty. We jumped through again, though, and I took a big half halt the stride after landing, which led to a very nice seven.
Assistant put the jumps up a little bit again, then had us repeat the exercise backward (vertical, seven strides to the oxer-vertical in and out.) The first time, I had a very quiet distance in; Riley had the rail down which caused him to spook and run away, but it kind of worked since we needed that boost to get the seven strides done! Thankfully his spook only lasted about four steps, and I was able to steady and bring him back for the in and out. We jumped through it once more (no spook this time) and it was beautiful and we called it a night!
Not the most insane lesson; more of a dusting off than anything. He felt like a star and I felt pretty good too.
Today I took Riley out for what turned out to be a really lengthy hack. I took him hacking pretty much every day last week - four out of five rides (hence the semi-retirement life!) and every time has involved a rodeo at the entrance path to the hacking trails, eventually culminating in me hopping off, leading him down the Path of Doom and re-mounting somewhere down the line. He has also been a complete jerk (to be fair, I think he honestly feels terrified) on most of the hacks, and will randomly decide to slam on the brakes, back up a zillion steps and then turn around and gallop away. This leads to yet more rodeos held out in the back 40.
Anyway, today was a shining day for Riley: after doing his usual "I DON'T want to walk down that path and YOU CAN'T MAKE ME" dance for ten or fifteen minutes, he finally just.... went. I have no idea why, but he did. He was absolutely petrified and I could feel him being really scared but trying so hard to be brave (as he snorted and glared at everything) and I spent about five minutes petting him effusively and telling him he was the best pony IN THE WHOLE WORLD and trying to build up his courage a little. Which seemed to work. We hit another debacle when I turned toward the wooded path, which involves a lot of wandering next to legitimate cliffs, and he decided to pitch a fit about it. I decided to leave that battle since having a wild equine backing up at the speed of light near a cliff is, as we have learned, a very poor idea indeed. However there are other options, and I took him through the prairies instead. He was very angry about this at first and we had a little battle, but he eventually went. The path eventually turns off into a lightly wooded area, thankfully with no cliffs in sight. He was extremely unamused by this and really dug in his heels and refused to pay any attention at all. At one point, he backed himself into a tree and got stuck, which was actually pretty funny. I finally got mad at him and gave him a good hard booting and he decided, at that point, that spurs kind of hurt and that maybe going forward wasn't such a bad idea after all.
After that? I have no clue what happened, or why, but he magically transformed from Snorting Blowing Terrified Firecracker Pegasus to I Do This All The Time, I Was Born To Hack western pony. I mean, I had him on the buckle and he was just strolling along, happy as a clam. We climbed all over hill and dale, through fields and forests (even a swamp) and he never batted an eye. It was absolutely fantastic and it was the perfect day for hacking - breezy, sunny, and about 70 degrees.
On the way back, I decided to push my luck and take him around the Retired Horses' giant grass field, since he had been such a cheerful little nugget. Turns out the magic only happens in the back 40 and we made it about 20% of the way around before I gave up and went another direction, through a hilly (and rather muddy) forest on the way back to the barn. We have to cross a very long wooden bridge on the way back and, despite having crossed this bridge and similar ones (they're all over the property) about a zillion times he *still* thinks they are going to eat him and gives them the evil eye and crazy ear.
But all in all? I am so proud of him! I'm also so happy he was able to *relax* and enjoy a hack, which is really the first time that's happened. :D