It feels like forever that we’ve been working to keep Cally quiet and steady to the fences, reminding her not to make a bid or gallop the 5 in 3. So as we’ve moved up this year, it’s come as a real surprise that I’ve now got to keep my leg on to fences, and especially down the lines. It’s not that the step is a problem, it’s just that I’ve gotten so used to trying for the Quiet that I’ve got to relearn how to sit chilly and let it flow. Because it turns out that now I can do that, and when I do, we end up going around really well.
Our lesson yesterday started off with a little light warmup, and moved on to some good striding exercises with ground poles, first a few at the trot just to get us straight and steady, then a row of three “bounces” to canter through. Cally struggled a little with this concept the first few times through, and kept trying to break to a trot and trot through them. I can’t remember the last time we cantered a sequence of ground poles (we go over one at a time here and there, all the time). I was told to just keep my leg on out of the corner, and let her figure it out. It took a few times through, and then we had a nice, springy canter through the poles like it was no big deal. When we reversed and came the other direction, we had a longer straight approach, and no problems at all hitting our nice bouncy stride in to the poles. After few good times through, we took a bit of a walk break while Holly adjusted a few fences for us. Since we’d gotten sticky through the two stride in-and-out over the weekend, that was On The Agenda.
The over fences warmup started through with a nice easy bending line in six, from a little lattice gate to a natural rail vertical, which seemed to perk Cally right up, and made me sit up and think of keeping my position so I could keep an opening hand in the air, and make the turn we needed to make. We did that about 3 times, and Cally nailed it every time, seeming to wake right up and be very happy to be jumping, and starting right off with something fun. And Holly has already figured out that Cally likes exercises that are a little difficult, and make her think, so we had a lesson of that in store for us!
The first big challenge was the two stride, which was set at about 2’9, and naturally, I under-rode and did in a sort of chippy 3. So, yeah, leg ON out of the corner, and ta-DA, like magic, the two. It also helped that we were jumping in over an oxer, which I didn’t even think about because it happens a lot in eventing SJ courses, but you don’t see much in hunters. We then added the long approach to a rolltop on the diagonal, where I had to find the right balance of not pick-pick-picking to the chip, but also not letting Cally build up too much steam and leave out a step. Again, sit up, leg on, and steady, with a little half-halt out of the corner as we locked on to the fence, but not too close to the fence. That went much better than our first time through the two.
Then Holly reversed the way the fences in the two stride line, we we were going proper vertical to oxer, and put them up a bit. Actually, I think she put up all the fences a bit, so they were closer to 3′, and gave me a course. Two stride, long approach to the natural rails, now with a plank added to them, roll back to the long approach to the rolltop, then all the way back around the ring to a skinny stone wall set directly across the ring. And other than chipping to the rolltop, Cally was totally on the whole way around, I was sitting up, and it felt amazing. Like the more we ask of her, the happier she is, and while she was keen and forward, she also was totally rideable and eager to tackle what we were challenging her with. We pulled up to walk and I could feel that bit of cocky swing to her step, and you could tell she was having fun. I think Holly’s right, and she’s totally going to be an awesome adult eq horse for me, because both of us are having a blast with these courses.
Which makes me very excited that the entry forms are up for the Mid-Atlantic Equitation Festival! We qualified for the Adult Championships based on our Ariat win on Saturday, and I’m looking at what else to do there. It’s a big investment in both time (the entire weekend, and two days off work for me!) and in money (classes are $$$ and we have to get a stall, despite it being 20 minutes down the road from our barn), but I think it’ll be worth the splurge. Cally is so totally keen on the eq type courses we’ve been doing that unless I muck something up majorly, I think we stand a pretty good chance at a ribbon or two. I’m just going to cry a little as I write the check, and relegate myself to eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch for a while.