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Since our entry went in for MDHT’s starter, I figured a lesson was in order.  So we did some nice dressage on Wednesday, then loaded up the trailer and headed down the road to Kelley’s place for a lesson, since she’s got a field of modestly sized XC fences, and Cally hasn’t been off the farm in a while.  Since I was missing out on the Halloween Lesson at our barn the next day, we sported pumpkin colors, orange Cally in her green saddle pad and me in an orange fleece and my black XC vest.  Cally was rather looky to start off, so while Kelley was finishing up some other things, I got on and warmed up in the outdoor.  There was a lot to look at, like farriers working, different jumps, horses being fed, lawn chairs she’s never seen before, etc.  Then once she was feeling pretty solid, I walked into the indoor to see how the brain was functioning. There was a moment of “whaaaaa?” then she sighed and we went on with our mosey around.  Ok, great, time to head out to the field now.

We started just trotting around a gentle hill, up and down, then over some poles.  She was quite good and pretty ho-hum about this, and we were very happy.  Then Kelley put it up to a crossrail, and she suddenly realized we were jumping things!!!! after the first time over it, going uphill.  Coming around again going downhill, we got a little frisky baby-buck on the landing side, but it was totally a “whoohooo, this is so fun!!” gesture, so I legged her forwards and on we went. After a few times around both ways, Kelley up it up to a vertical, maybe 2’6″.  Not big, but enough that I reverted back to leaning forward and laying up her neck; she went anyway.  I tried to sit up a little more coming back downhill to it, but she was ready for fun, and tried to run away a bit on landing; since the grass was a little slippery from the day before, I just sat and waited 50′ for the next gentle rise to slow her momentum and pulled up.  She was snorting and blowing and feeling totally cocky.  So Kelley had a little discussion about pulley rein, which I’d always been taught as a big old pull up and over to get them disengaged so they have to slow.  What she went over with me was a much more subtle maneuver, with just a quick lift straight up, almost like a half-halt.  We made a few circles trying that for practice, and Cally responded really well to it, much better than a basic half-halt.  New tool in the tool bag for when she tries to make executive decisions!

We then headed over to the bigger field with more fences, and I was given a little course to ride–a serpentine through 3 logs, then another curve around to a little house, followed by a big circle around to a coop with a log on top that I thought looked Novice sized, but Kelley insisted was no bigger than the vertical we’d just been jumping.  I’m still not entirely convinced, but I figured either way, Cally can jump it!  I was told that this was all about pacing and control, and if she was good, we could canter, if she was trying to run through my aids, to trot.  The first two fences felt good, but she just tried to run through me to the 3rd log, so we trotted on around, and pulled up for a brief discussion about my leg.  Apparently since my saddle has no massive blocks to hold me in place (apparently I’m ahead of the trend like that) I really need to think about closing my leg above my knee, and using my strength through there to be strong, as well as my core. Sort of the muscles you use when posting, but to hold.  We came around again, and the log felt great, and so did the canter, until about 4 strides out, when she decided to make the remaining 3 strides into 2.  Not by leaving long, mind, just by opening herself up. Yeah, no.  Around we came again, at the trot, being strong through my leg, and trotted the house nicely, and made a big trot circle around to the coop, which I totally underrode and then leaned up her neck.  Once again, she saved my butt and went anyway.  Obviously, that was going to have to be a do-over.  We came around again, with a much more allowing, forward trot from the house to the coop, in a bending line instead of a circle around, and it felt amazing!  My leg also feels a lot tighter and more stable when I’m thinking of closing my lower thigh.

Grinning like a loon, I was happy to end on that note, and we had a nice mosey back up to the trailer after I thanked Kelley profusely for the lesson and making me feel much more confident in our ability to do something without me re-injuring myself.

Then as I was untacking, I learned another valuable lesson.  Horse untacked, I’m peeling off vest, then helmet, and pulling my hair back up into a ponytail, when the hair elastic snaps.  They’ve been doing that a lot lately, I cannot find grippy ones that I don’t go through once a week. Well dammit, I can’t drive around with a mass of sweaty, gross, uncontained hair.  Then I remembered that while I might not have my garment bag with me (which has multiple versions of hair elastics) I do have my show grooming tote, which has my braiding yarn.  I cut off a bit of it, and french braid my own hair and tie it off with the braiding yarn.  A bit sloppy and not the best hold, but I made it home without hair in my face.

Now I’ve got to keep up the good work, and think about what we worked on as I await Loch Moy next weekend.  We got in, not waitlisted, so I’m very excited to have the opportunity to close out the year by getting out to one more event.

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