Well Mother Nature has done it again: after luring us into a false sense of complacency a few days ago with temperatures in the 50s, the temperatures have turned positively arctic, so that it was 15ºF when Robin and I went to jump this morning!! Ack!! My previous four years in California didn't remotely prepare me for this!! Needless to say, as I warmed up I thought back on 'frigid' 30º winter mornings at the Red Barn with more than a little nostalgia.
As a follow up from our lesson with Jane Hamlin last weekend, Robin and I chose to skip the actual gymnastics this week in favor of a set up of lines and singles that we could play around with.
(Our playground for the day)
My main goal was to be more relaxed and forward, and consciously let go. I even wore a neck strap, and though I never ended up using it (it's a habit I need to get into), I think it set the right mental tone right from the get go.
And I was successful! Right from the first line, the change was evident: I rode down the four stride line very quietly and got to the out on a verrrrrry long distance. My natural mentality would be to freeze up at that moment, choke up on the reins, lean forward, and take my leg off. Because you know, that's the CLASSIC recipe for success (eye roll). But instead I sat up, kept my leg on, and let Ky decide what he wanted to do. He opted to lob over the out super long, and I stayed upright and slipped the reins. It wasn't pretty, but it was a massive change for the better in terms of my mental approach. I gave Ky a big pat for taking care of me and being so clever, gathered my reins up, and continued on. No big deal, no need to worry. It felt great!
After feeling how that mistake worked out, I felt much more confident going forward in sticking to my "leg on, hands forward"approach. And the change was huge! After that first awkward distance, we didn't have a single awkward jump for the entire rest of the ride.
There were a couple times when I really dared myself to ride forward to the fence at a pace that my inner control-freak thought was "WAY TOO FAST AND OUT OF CONTROL" and trust Ky to work out the distance himself. To the single oxer, especially, I really tried to dare myself to ride boldly, and not do any major adjustments except for sitting up and making sure my hands were steady and in front of my face (the classic refrain from my Dually days that I used to remind myself to keep my hands as the forward-most part of my body, and not get into the classic 'fetal ball' position that I love so much). Ky proved himself the total genius that he is, and handled the higher pace beautifully, backing himself off and finding a great distance every time. Good man!
We kept the jumps small (2'6"-3' in the lines and 3'+ at the oxer) but I finished feeling really positive. I just need to bottle up the way I rode today and keep it handy for the rest of the season!
(Beautiful, but arctic. New England, you are a cruel mistress)