Monday, March 12, 2012

Another Wonderful Lesson

Last week we had yet another wonderful lesson. Miss Satin was in perfect hunter pony mode, which helps make for a great lesson. I had taken her on a trail ride the day before and getting a good run out of her system calms her down for the lesson.

She was a bit lazy at the trot to start, but after a few minutes she got into a good pace. Renee has me a do a lot of two point at both the trot and canter. She is on a mission to give me legs of steel. We also did some work on the walk, since at the show she did more of a prance than a walk in the flat class. Of course, because we were at home, which is much less exciting, she didn't do the prancing. We worked on some things to help anyway, like a change in seat position and the proper way to adjust the reins.

We started jumping with our usual green vertical warm up jump, which we did at the trot a few times. Renee wanted the focus of this lesson, other than two point, to be release. At the show I rode with basically no release, which Renee said was most likely due to nerves, so she decided to work on lots of release. After a few practice jumps, I had the release right where she wanted it and for the right amount of time.

Then we started working on some hunter courses. The first course started with this bending line that had been a problem for me in the past. Usually the problem is because the mare and I both have this weird thing about the second jump in the line so she sometimes stops. That wasn't the problem this time though. In our lesson in the indoor the week before we had a bending line as well and I had a hard time getting her over the second jump. Several times she cut out and if I went to the jump on its own she was fine, but for some reason I could not make the line work. I never had a problem with bending lines before, but apparently my bad luck in the indoor had carried over.

The same thing happened with this bending line. She cut out at the second jump, but when I went to it again on its own she went right over. It obviously was a mistake I was making, and we found out it was in my focus and sometimes my hands. At first I was moving the right hand too much, then I had my hands nice and still, but my focus wasn't steady enough. In the second course we did, the bending line was the last line of the course. We had the same issue our first time doing this course, but on the second time through the course I made a declaration to Renee that this was going to be the best and steadiest focus she had ever seen. Sure, enough when we came down to that final bending line she cantered right through it perfectly, without even a second thought! I was quite happy with myself as was Renee.

The rest of the courses went very nicely. She jumped everything gamely and at a nice calm and steady pace. After we had that perfect bending line, we did a third course and this time Renee made it a short course. We hadn't practice many of those and I think after my victory with the bending line, she figured that was a good point to end on with that line, so left it out of the short course. We had one or two long spots on this course and one line that was a bit quicker and ramblier which caused us to take a rail. I collected her up and our final attempt resulted in a just about perfect course, so Renee decided that was a good point to call it quits. I was quite happy with us both, as was Renee, so it was a quite a successful lesson.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Our "Big" English Debut

Well, big is a bit of an exaggeration. It was big for us in terms of it being our first English outing, but size wise the show was just the opposite.

Yesterday Satin and I attended what I knew would be a small schooling hunter jumper show at a local farm. I chose this because I figured it would the perfect situation / environment for our first time jumping off the property. I expected it would be quiet, not a lot of people, and low stress. I also wanted to get Satin jumping somewhere other than home or my trainer's farm before the hectic atmosphere of our local schooling series. I also figured she could get some energy out here, as she tends to be a bit hyper at the first show of the season.

I was right about all of these things. I did not predict just how low the numbers would actually be. Our partners in crime, Kayla and her horse Smokey, came to the show with us. They intended to compete in the Baby Green Hunters as well. According to the pre-entries posted the day before, there was to be 4 in the division including us. Perfect. Just what I was looking for. Well, one scratched and one didn't show up so it ended up being just the two of us. This was just fine with me though because it made it even quieter for us and gave us all the time in the world to school.

Both horses were a bit snorty, but their usual quiet reliable selves. Two of Kayla's school friends came along, as well as, my friend Rob and of course Daryl, the ultimate pony chauffeur / show assistant. This kept things light and fun. Achieving the big girl trot was no problem as I knew it wouldn't be. She trotted right out from the beginning. Her canter was perfect and she was overall her usual self.

The jumps were a bit scarier than your typical hunter jumps. They were all colorful for one, which was no big deal. One oxer had a dead Christmas tree underneath, another was narrow with trees tied to the standards, and another had the "liver pool" (which was really a blue tarp) under it from the jumpers. The liver pool was taken out at my request before the actual class started, but we did school over it anyway. She stopped at it the first time, mostly from my hesitation, but popped right over the second time. She stopped at both tree oxers on the first approach, most likely a combo of her and me, but popped right over both the second try and each consecutive attempt. I must say she was quite adorable on the first approach to the oxer with the tree beneath it. It was the second jump in a line that started with just a plain vertical. She jumped the vertical no problem and cantered on down to the oxer. Then she got sight of the tree and had "What the hell is that moment?" stopping dead in her tracks and giving it a good once over. But, she very gamely jumped on the second try without another thought. She is a very brave mare for the most part, luckily.

Anyway, we schooled over all the jumps a few times, until we were both comfortable and then the classes began. Overall, I was quite happy with her performance, especially for her first time jumping off property. She went over everything in the courses without hesitation. She did get a bit quick in some of the lines and we cut some corners in areas of the ring we should have used more of because of it. She also had a few long spots, but all in all she was a very good girl. Some of these issues could have been fixed with some better riding on my part, which I learned upon viewing the video and discussing it with my trainer. I brought back some of my old bad habits, such as not using enough hip angle or release, which Renee says is normal when people get nervous.

The other thing we need to work on is our entrance into the ring. As we entered for all three courses I attempted to start in a trot and pick up the canter as we had practiced with Renee. Satin had other ideas. She reverted to barrel horse and immediately took off upon entering the ring. I tried to pull up and start the canter over, but she was a bit too head strong. I was, however, able to bring the pace back a notch or two before we got to the first jump, luckily. When watching the tape with Renee, she said the hip angle issue we had already discussed would help with this, as would really riding her before I even entered the ring instead of waiting until we were already in to organize and prepare her.

As far as the flat goes, she was very good. Her trot was nice and her canter perfect. I could have had her a little rounder at the trot, or at least more consistently round, as she got distracted in certain parts of the ring and would spring her head up. We also had a difficult time with the walk. Difficult, as in, she preferred to jog. She often does this at home too. When I have her on a loose rein she will walk easily, but if I pick up the reins and begin to collect them and ask her to go on the bit, she anticipates being asked to trot or canter. This anticipation leads to her beginning to prance or jog. This is exactly what happened in the class, often during the walking portion she would break into a jog and I would have to bring her back. This also make her walk a bit stilted and short, when she is actually walking. Renee said she would work with us on this in the next lesson, as we had discussed it before but never addressed it.

Smokey is a more experienced hunter horse and has shown over fences before, as has Kayla. He was calm, cool, and consistent through all of the classes so it was no surprise that he brought home the blue ribbons. Satin and I can still say we were Reserve our first show though! LOL!

All in all, it was a successful day and we got what we wanted to get out of the experience. The jumps at our usual schooling series are all plain natural gates and poles, so if she could jump these scarier jumps, the other show will be no problem. I was very happy with her on her first outing as a hunter pony. Renee was very happy with both of us and now we have some things to work on for next time.

Kayla and I with our ribbons.