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One of my goals for this year is to take advantage of the fact that Holly has nice horses available for lessons, and occasionally do a lesson on someone other than Cally, to keep me tuned up and keep my skills broad.  Since Cally had a fantastic weekend, we decided to let her have a light week this week, and I’d do a lesson on the lovely Sophie, who is Cally’s BFF, and fellow sidesaddle superstar.

Sophie is also a TB mare, and in some ways is quite similar to Cally–they’re both pretty sensitive and quite responsive, and figure out their riders quickly.  Sophie is a bit cattier in her turning ability, but a smoother ride, and is so easy to equitate on.  She’s also one that will try to evade by putting her head down behind the bit while Cally wants to giraffe up, and I found it much easier to put leg on and send Sophie forward into correct contact that wrangling with the giraffe.  Sophie also didn’t keep testing once she figured out I knew how to put leg on and send her forward, and went happily along after one rider check while warming up.

Other than the trial lesson with Holly on Gideon, I hadn’t done a full, proper lesson on another horse in a really long time, let alone jumped a course.  But I felt like Sophie and I got on well–she’s definitely my kind of ride!–and we figured each other out quickly and had a lot of fun.  We started easy, basic flatwork, then progressed to some canter poles to let me get an eye for distances on her, and it was pretty easy, because while she’s quite adjustable if you ask her to be, if you leave her to her own devices, she clocks right around like a metronome.  Twice through the poles and I had a pretty good feel, and we were nailing our spots after that.

So Holly had us start on some course work.  I’ll admit I was a little nervous jumping on a horse I hadn’t ridden before, but I knew Sophie was a seasoned competitor and teacher, and she was an honest ride who’d take care of me if I did mess something up.  We started with a simple trot-in, canter-out outside line from a crossrail to a little faux-fan, and what do you know, it felt pretty steady and easy.  We then added the other outside line, a bending vertical-to vertical that mainly challenged us by having the last fence be pointing at the newly painted gate panel jump on the outside of the fence that Sophie had been giving the hairy eyeball earlier in our ride.  But other than a bit of a skip-change behind in the bending line, it rode really nicely and I was feeling pretty confident.

I did find, that because she’s a bit flatter-sided than Cally, that I really had to think about keeping my leg steady in the air, because there wasn’t so much barrel to hold it steady. But she was keen and so much fun to jump, like a little sportscar. Holly told us we could jump the outside vertical and do a tight rollback to the plank if she went well, and I did a jumpoff-style tight rollback and felt her kick into gear, and Holly was like “I didn’t mean that tight” but Sophie was all in, totally wherever I wanted her to go, she was game.

It was a really fun lesson, and a bit of a confidence-booster too. Not that I really thought I needed one, but it felt good to be able to get on a “strange” horse and jump around quite well by the end of the lesson.  It’s definitely something I’d like to do more of, as being a good rider isn’t just being able to ride one horse well, it’s being able to ride well on whatever you get on.  And you only learn to do that by getting on a lot of different horses.  As a bonus, it was a lot of fun, too!

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