Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introduction to Grid Work

Yesterday Satin and I had a solo lesson (as my loyal readers know I usually lesson with my friend L and her fabulous mare and Satin's best friend Lexie). Anyway, L and I usually only lesson every other week and starting with this week Satin and I will be taking private lessons on the off weeks. R and I discussed it and I thought this was a great idea. It gives me a chance to work on improving my English riding as Satin and I are both still learning in that department and a weekly lesson will speed along the process. It also gives me more continuous reinforcement of the things R is teaching me. Plus, it will give me a chance to get back to some western lessons too. :)

We started with some basic warm-up flat work. R had a grid set up that she had been working with one of her other horses on. She suggested we work with that. I was a little intimidated by this set of four jumps right in a row. L was never a fan of them and while I had seen her and several others (including R the day before) do them, I had never done any myself. R was her usual wonderful, reassuring self and told me we would take it slow, set it for Satin's striding, and slowly build it up as we went along.

We started with the first jump set as a cross rail, with three trot poles leading up to it. The last of the jumps was set as a small vertical gate. First, I trotted the gate on its own a few times to warm us both up. We had lengthened my stirrups this lesson and I felt a bit off balance at first by that, as well as, the fact Satin was popping the small gate like a deer. Anyway, then we started through the grid which R added canter poles to each time we went through. At first we had to work on pushing her trot forward so she did not suck back through the grid, as Satin hates doing a forward trot. After a few times and several canter poles R put jump number 2 into a very small vertical, basically a raised cavaletti. Satin was apparently shocked by this change and stopped for a hard look, so I trotted it solo and she was fine. After a time or two of this she added the third jump, a small plain vertical, then finally raised the second jump into another vertical of about the same height. It was basically a one stride from jump 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 then a two stride to the final jump. After we completed this successfully a few times, R made the first jump from a small cross rail to a small vertical. I did not think Satin would stop at this, as it was not a major change to the grid, but apparently it was enough for her. I thought she was going and went into my two point and she hit the breaks hard. I was thrown forward (probably mostly due to my not yet completely steady balance in an english saddle) onto her neck. Luckily my feet stayed in the stirrups and my mare remained still as my whole body was on her neck with my feet still in the stirrups. In R's words "a very nice save".

Anyway, R's main focus for us with the grid was to keep Satin slow and calm and work on her striding with the jumps and for me to work on my position and releasing. The first few times were a bit rough for both of us. But, with R's patience and guidance we got some very nice trips through the grid. Satin was going through very nicely, at a calm steady pace (though she did get a bit quick the first few times we went through after all 4 jumps were up, but settled nicely). I, again thanks to R, got some very nice two points. I found my comfort spot to stay in through the grid and bent forward in perfect time, keeping my hands forward and releasing. R was very happy with us both. We ended by cantering over the straw jump a few times to practice the position I had just worked on with a canter jump and again R and I were both pleased with the results.

In the end R asked if I was still intimidated by the grid or if I now agreed with her that they were fun. I did end up really liking the grid work. It was fun and not as intimidating as it looked from the ground. It also really helped me with working on my position because I felt like I had more chances with the four jumps in a row rather then a two jump line. The slower pace helped too, as did the fact that R was standing beside the grid coaching me through it since she was adding and raising every trip or two. All in all, it was another successful English lesson and the grid ended up being very good for both Satin and I.

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