My trainer gives the lesson horses the month of February off, and between that and the atrocious weather (because really, the weather and footing were not good enough to really have a lesson anyway), it’d been early January since we’d done a lesson, or much jumping. Which is good, as the horses got some down time, and no one is miserable out in freezing temperatures. And I’ve been doing my best to concentrate on doing some flatwork where we can over the winter, and popping over a few fences as the footing has allowed. Nothing big mostly crossrails, and a few slightly bigger, 2’6-ish, things the other day.
So it was with great pleasure that I scheduled my first lesson of the spring on Leap Day, getting a jump on the start of the March lesson calendar and starting to get both me and Cally back into gear for the year. It was warmish, but windy, to the point that it was difficult to hear Holly (who is not a quiet person!) down one half of the ring. So that made doing flatwork to start off a little interesting, but we worked out a system, and started off doing leg yields at the walk down each long side, and progressing to asking for a shoulder-in down one long side and a haunches in down the next. Then we asked at the trot for a bit of lengthening and collecting, and Cally was complying quite nicely but you could tell she was not thrilled to be having what was looking like, in her mind, a dressage lesson. We cantered a bit, just working on me and my upper body and really using my core to sit up and keep my upper body still and back.
Then we woke Cally up, after a little walk break, by trotting into a little bounce, crossrail to a tiny vertial that was something of a Fail, as Cally seemed surprised by the second fence and sort of trantered through it while I sat on top of her laughing. Second time around was much nicer, and she was definitely prepared, and we went through the exercise a few times each way, and put the jump up a bit, so she was feeling keen and eager.
I’m really not sure there’s a better feeling as a rider than sitting on top of a horse that is happy and enjoying the job they’re being asked to do. Sure, we had a few exciting lead changes and a bit of a bounce into the canter a few times, but it wasn’t her acting up, it was her feeling so good and so happy and so eager that she was just exuberant. And it’s great to know that you’ve found a job for your horse that they enjoy that much, that they’re bouncing into the canter with delight at getting to Jump The Things.
Then we really made her day, by coming in to a more complicated grid. Cally locked right on as we came through the corner, and made the exercise feel easy right from the get-go.
This was obviously after we’d put the fences up a bit, as we started from an X to a tiny oxer to an X. We built the fences up a bit, used the guidepole at the end to keep me steering and straight on landing, and just let Cally get a feel for jumping again.
Then we flipped the exercise and came from the other direction. I’m not going to post the video of our first time through that way, because I thought she was going to spook and stop at the blowing flowers, and sort of ended up on her neck and missing a stirrup, but darned if the perfect horse didn’t just jump right through the grid anyway! She really is such a good egg, and totally earned her peppermints with that, if nothing else.
I put myself together again, and turned on my brain, and came around to the line again, vertical-Swedish-vertical, and actually remembered to ride to it, and it felt so great.
I think both Cally and I were feeling pretty happy with that! It was a great lesson to kick our year off with, and I feel like if THAT is our starting point, we’re starting from a great place and ought to have a really wonderful year ahead of us. I’m not really sure how we’ll top last year, which was just beyond my wildest dreams (I still can’t believe we won a ribbon at an Eq finals!!!) but as long as we keep doing our best and improving, I’m happy.