Oh, C. Why must you be so sneaky?
Yesterday was another helpful lesson with N– my first time jumping in a month and 8th time total with C (yep, you read that right, discounting the occasional single crossrail I’ve only jumped C 8 times since I bought him). Needless to say, it took a couple crossrails to get me feeling like I had any knowledge whatsoever of jumping.
We did a lot of trot in – canter out crossrails and a couple verticals, and a 2′ oxer (whee!). Most importantly, we nailed down how C’s been evading trotwork with ninja kicks. He strikes out sideways with his hind legs, effectively swinging his butt across to the side, and I didn’t quite realize what an impact it was having. Thank the lord for attentive trainers; N noticed right away that what C was doing was displacing me, pitching me forward with his booty bumps and erasing any collection or contact I had prior, reverting us back to long and flat and horrible. So N gave me a couple ideas to keep me in position when he’s gearing up to kick out– get stronger and taller through my core, keep my elbows flexing but at my sides, and maintain the aids so he can’t effectively blast through them.
And it worked! Obviously, Rome wasn’t built in a day and C won’t stop booty bumping me out of the contact in one lesson, but it’s good to know what I can do to get more genuine work out of him for our flatwork days, and push through the evasions.
Once we had that figured out, it was only some of my more pressing flaws. I have a bad tendency to keep my ankles, elbows, and wrists pretty stiff. My elbows and wrists should be flexing and ‘giving’ with C’s movement, while I should be sinking into my heels and letting my ankles flex, too. N repeated this mantra (very patiently) over most of the fences and by the end of it I felt like my heels were ten times better than the start. I’ve always had problems with my elbows in riding, so it was good to get another set of eyes on it again and start re-encouraging me to flex them, but not to give completely to C getting heavy in my hands (remember ZAS? Yeah, that). The last topic we broached was my release, or lack thereof, but all that took was a reminder to grab a bit of mane and it pretty much stuck (mostly because the difference was astounding immediately, so I think the importance of it kinda pressed on me).
C’s job for this lesson was trotting in at an even tempo (assisted, of course, with my posting), staying in front of my leg, and putting in an ounce or two of effort over the jumps. He did pretty well overall! N put down a pole in front of the trotted jumps to give a guideline for finding the distance and staying organized instead of rushing. C was definitely excited to be jumping again and I did quite a few circles to remedy this, and ensure he wasn’t rewarded for taking off towards them. For the most part, we wanted to trot the jumps, but N told me the most important part was the rhythm. Either we had to approach at a bouncy, forward trot (tic, toc, tic, toc) or approach at a bouncy forward canter (one and two and one) but never rushing and never disorganized.
For the most part, I wanted to approach at the trot as it’s easier to regulate rhythm and remind C not to rush. After the lesson was nearly finished, though, N directed us to canter a vertical fence with fill and it went like a dream. C was more relaxed than at the start, responsive to my half-halts, and didn’t throw me out of the saddle; my ankles were flexed and my heels down, and my hands were forward and in his mane for the release. It felt monumentally better than the first couple sort-of awkward fences, and I couldn’t be happier with the lesson. I felt as though I learned so much in that one span– obviously it’s not permanently fixing everything N brought up, but it’s a good start.
Also, I’m a bad person and the sports psychology post isn’t finished. Also I have no new photos. Love me!