Another lesson, another day of intense heat. My lesson with Kelley was scheduled for just before the “heat advisory” window of noon–we rode at 11 up in the top ring. The heat reflecting off the sand of the upper ring felt sweltering, and the car said it was around 93 as I pulled in the driveway at 10:30.
I warmed Cally up very lightly, a lot of walk, a little bit of trot, just a few circles of canter and one hand gallop back down to circle at the end of the ring to get her moving. Even though I knew we’d be jumping, I didn’t put her usual Woof boots on her, because I figured the protective benefit on a horse that normally jumped cleanly and doesn’t interfere was outweighed for the day by the detriment of the heat of the neoprene. Kelley asked what I wanted to do, and after expressing a desire to do anything that didn’t involve heatstroke, I asked to work on coming into a line and staying steady and consistent in our pace. We’re getting pretty decent at a single fence, but that still tends to turn into a bit of a rush down a line, and often ends with dinging a rail.
We started off by trotting a little 2′ gate, halting, turning on the haunches, and repeating, maybe 3 or 4 times, until she was quiet and I was halting more with seat and less with hand, and keeping my upper body back on approach. We then added a right turn to a second fence, a little vertical which was actually the first fence in a 5 stride line, and had to halt before the second fence. That went pretty well, except for being very crooked in the halt, and popping out to the right. We came again and it was better, but she still wanted to bulge right.
When we went to doing the entire line, gate to vertical to vertical, I was supposed to halt after the line, and again we drifted right, but I tried to use the line on the railroad ties around the ring to figure out where “straight” would have been, and push her back over there. We almost got it, enough that Kelley felt the effort was good enough to proceed without repeating.
After a little walk break, Kelley put the fences up and we added a diagonal line across the middle–the same oxer to vertical line we had rushing issues in my lesson with Carol that I posted video from the other week–after the vertical line. This time the vertical line was rushy, so we halted after it again, much straighter than previously, then picked the canter back up, much more balanced, and it felt great coming into the oxer. But as happened the other week, while I half-halted in the line, I still got ahead with my shoulders, and we ended up leaving a little gappy to the last fence. She told me to ride to the line like we had all the time in the world to do it, because that’s when you actually ride, rather than just letting the course happen to you. We re-rode the entire exercise, gate to vertical line to oxer line, and it rode much better the second time, with the horse rebalancing very nicely in the turn around the end of the ring. That rebalancing was almost enough for us down the oxer line, but I didn’t steady quite enough. On a final ride down the oxer line, we came in perfectly, and I sat back almost too much in the line to the point of needing to keep a bit of leg on, but we came out perfectly.
That was enough for the horse on the day, in the heat. I am so, so happy with how well she’s going around. The canter has improved so much, and Kelley pointed out that every time you improve the canter, you improve the jump. I can definitely feel the improvement, and with a more balanced, responsive horse, I do actually feel like I can take my time riding the course and ride it, rather than get around it.