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Smooth Sailing (Jumping and Lead Changes)

April 26, 2010

“Are you feeling okay?  You’re riding really well, today!”

“I feel fine, but I have been nervous the entire lesson!”

It was true, the butterflies in my stomach would not go away even though many of the things we’d been working on the past few months (shoulders up, collected steady canter, bending through a turn) were coming together and Carly was being extremely cooperative.

In my last lesson, we had had some ugly moments going up to a 2’9 oxer, which as our the top end of our ability right now.  Carly did not stop over the jump, but she did leave a stride out and then leapfrogged over it. Yikes! I knew we had taken off early and just tried to make a big release so I did not catch her in the mouth. But I didn’t keep my heels down and forward and so I flew up out of the tack and my chin was up at Carly’s ears.  I honestly don’t know how I stayed on, but thank goodness I have a horse that does mind when I lay on her neck for support and slows down instead of trying to buck me off when I get that unbalanced. This happened two more times until our trainer took down the second pole, leaving just the vertical in place. When Carly settled down with that jump, the oxer went back up and we smoothly sailed over.  Whew!

I had those horrible scary jumps in the back of my mind today, but Carly was on top of her game today and was actually listening to me. She sucked back before one jump and when I added some leg, she responded by surging forward and taking the long spot.  When she got too fast and I half halted, she added a stride.  This resulted in some funky distances to the jump, but she gracefully leapt over anyway.  When I asked for a lead change, we didn’t always get it right away, but more and more I am getting the feeling of half halting her to lift the front end and then using outside leg to get the change.  I need a lot more weight in my hand to get her to lift her front end that I would have expected, but I am getting the feeling.  Anyway, we got some lovely clean lead changes even though some were a bit late.  When Gina raised the jump in our line from a 2’6 oxer to a 2’9 oxer, I got a little nervous. My sweet girl didn’t miss a beat and we sailed right over.  I can’t be sure, but I felt liked I stayed with her well and had my legs solidly underneath me over that jump.

The only thing Gina asked me to correct in the course was to try to keep her straighter to fences and to get a better inside bend after our first jump and to keep the canter balanced as we went along the rail and up to the next jump.  I remembered our tight turn lesson from earlier in the week and muttered to myself the entire time “take the rein, give it back, now take the rein and give it back …” It worked!

I like to think that part of the reason we are doing well is because I have improved my hands by following her head at the canter and my taking an inside bend and then giving then rein back and Carly appreciates this. Either way, I am lucky to have such a trustworthy partner.

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