First of all, if you hadn't noticed, I recently added a new page to the top of my blog called 'Nostalgia' with lots of old pictures of my bigger, more badass competition days. Check it out if you haven't gotten a chance to!
Yesterday Robin and I went on a little adventure up to beautiful north shore horse country for a jumping lesson with Jane Hamlin. I hadn't had a jumping lesson since the last time Jane came down to Massachusetts back in November, so I was definitely very eager to see her again, especially since the start of the season seems to be getting closer and closer!
(This was the indoor - I almost died when we walked inside. So gorgeous! Seriously, as much as everyone touts Middleburg as horsey mecca, I don't think it holds a candle to the north shore... though I may be a *bit* biased)
After warming up, Jane had us work on getting different striding between two angled fences, first by riding the angle straight through them, then by riding the bending track. Ky felt AMAZING and we did the first couple of circuits with no problem at all, though Jane did have to remind me to keep riding forward out of the corners of the (somewhat small) arena.
We then moved on to a short two stride, and after popping through that a few times, Jane set us a little course. By this point in the lesson, I was somewhat surprised by how tired Ky felt: he was blowing pretty hard after each exercise, and sweating much more than usual (it was much warmer than it has been recently and the arena footing, while quite nice, was significantly deeper than the stuff at our indoor, which I think made a big difference). But I set off and at first everything went quite well. We jumped the first part of the course (a bending five stride line) the smoothest we done so far, and came around to the two stride, which Jane had put up to around 3'-3'3"ish. Coming out of the corner, we didn't feel very balanced, and Ky's canter felt flat and a little rushed. I couldn't see a distance, couldn't see a distance, locked up...
And we crashed. Well, not totally, since I didn't fall off, but we did reduce the oxer completely to kindling. D'oh! Sorry Ky! :( I was really disappointed with myself. I feel like I've gotten to the point in my jump riding again where I can ride positively and do everything right when things are going well, but freeze up hardcore whenever I get in a jam... and that's precisely the time when I need to be not freezing up!!
Jane did a great job, though, getting the lesson back on track, and I was really pleased to find that we ended on a quite positive note. We put the combination down a little and never put it back up the original crash height, but did put together a couple very positive courses before we called it for the day. Jane reminded me throughout to keep trying to give up a little control, sit up, and let my awesome pony just go.
This is definitely tough for me: I'm a nervous rider and I show my nerves by trying to micromanage every step of my ride. In dressage I can get away with that behavior, since it's actually encouraged! But in jumping, not so much. I have to be able to just sit back and trust my horse a little bit. I also find making mistakes to be more difficult to handle in jumping than I do in dressage. Because let's face it: I mess up a lot, regardless of the discipline I'm riding. But in dressage I'm rarely ever even remotely nervous, so it's easier for me to brush off mistakes and keep learning. In jumping, when I make a mistake like I did yesterday that results in a big miss, it's really hard for me to keep progressing because my nerves take over. When my nerves take over, I want to try to micromanage things more, and when I do that, I end up making more mistakes, and then... well, you can see where things go from there!
So I ended the lesson really pleased that I'd managed to break that negative cycle for the day (thanks to Jane's excellent coaching!), but definitely a little more realistic in what my goals should be with the Little Dude in the coming year than I had been going in. Ky is so fantastic and it's easy to dream BIG BIG BIG with him, but I have to remind myself that at this point in my life it's much more worthwhile to compete at a level where I'm feeling comfortable and having fun, instead of always pushing myself to the very limits of my nerves and sanity (which is my usual approach). I'm so happy to have this horse in my life and want to have as much fun with him as possible!!
Meanwhile, you may have noticed a conspicuous absence of Ringo from the blog recently. Never fear! Prowler is fine and well. He slipped on the snow while I was out hacking him two weeks or so ago and wrenched his back slightly (I know the feeling well and could definitely empathize), so he's had a pretty light schedule while I've been waiting for him to feel tip top again. He's finally feeling his old self again, and so I've signed him up for a Kim lesson this coming week. I took him to the indoor last night to tune up a bit and decided to wear my still-stiff new dress boots - mistake!!! The sores on the back of my knees, which had scabbed over, opened up again and were unbearably painful. In a moment of desperation, I kicked both boots off and rode barefoot (and without stirrups, in an attempt to at least gesture towards safe riding habits!).
(Also, I promise I'm not actually that chubby - silly 4 winter coats!)
It was surprisingly fun! I got a giggle out of every time I went to kick him and could feel my heel digging into his soft fatty belly. On the actual riding side I think we've had a small breakthrough in our trotwork, so I'm very excited to see if Kim agrees. We'll see!
(Also, I've recently acquired a new stall mucking buddy - usually Krazy Kat circulates the barn while I do chores (often yowling for no apparent reason, which appears to be one of his favorite activities), but recently he has taken to sitting in every stall with me while I muck out. Good kitteh.)