Wow – it’s really been three weeks since my last report! That’s because nothing noteworthy has happened and it’s hard to make “nothing” sound interesting, as you will discover from reading today’s post! I have discovered the pattern to my progress, however and did make some gains over fences this past week!
The pattern: Every time I learn something, and think I have it down pat, I attempt to apply it to the next level. But every time I take a step forward I discover there is yet another learning curve waiting for me to endure as I refine my new skill to the slightly new situation – aagh!
As an example – I’ve gotten the trotting fences thing down pat. I feel confident that I can trot up to just about any size fence you can take from a trot and keep Cotton calm, keep myself calm, keep us both in balance – the whole nine yards (whatever that means). BUT, cantering to a small one footer is a whole other ball game! So it’s deja vu all over again!
Cotton’s flat work still needs quite a bit of attention. Last week I was supposed to have a jumping lesson but we ended up doing flat work the entire time. Cotton’s deeply ingrained habit of throwing his weight on his right shoulder requires my constant attention. I’ve learned that I can’t put him on cruise control even for a singlestride! I have to ride this horse correctly every single step of the way in order to keep him balanced, otherwise he falls on his shoulder, loses his balance and goes faster to try to catch himself – which is why he throws himself at jumps.
So, that brings me to the progress I made this past week: After about a ½ hour flat work session out in the field – which included lots of cantering – we moved to the ring and warmed up over a little cross rail. That went fine because we were just trotting.
Then we did it at the canter… The little jumps we did going to the left were just great but approaching on the right lead were all up for grabs. I got almost every type of jump imaginable! He jumped too close, he jumped huge, he leaped from way too far away – he didn’t refuse and he didn’t pop me out of the tack (thankfully) but after about a handful of buzzers I decided it was time to regroup. “Lord what is going on?! Help me figure this out!”
We went back to canter flat work and refined our half-halts. I had been focusing on using the half-halts to keep him slow – like I do when approaching on the left lead – but he’s a completely different horse when he changes leads! My half-halts to the left are extremely effective but to the right they really hadn’t been doing anything except slowing him down – and, as I realized, dumping him on his forehand!
After just two trips around the ring working on half-halts to the right I finally had the bouncy, balanced canter I needed! I had to use a lot more leg, sit up straighter and release my half-halt well – it was actually a little tiring - physically and mentally! We kept going, however, took a perfect little hop and called it a day! Yay!!!
For one of the first weeks in a long time I was going to be able to make it out to ride 5 days! With my refined half-halt skill I was ready to nail this cantering jumps thing! Not to be. Cotton pulled a shoe (48 hours after he had just been shod, btw) and was nearly dead lame the next day… I was able to ride him at the walk today and I’m really hoping we can make it to our dressage show on the 17th.