Friday, August 28, 2009

Blind faith

Last weekend due to rain we had to do our lesson in the indoor. Alicia and I had dinner on Saturday night and she said she felt like Tucker could use some gymnastic work, so it actually worked out just fine.
Tucker used to have such trouble with gymnastics. He would hurry through them, never really sit back and use his hind end, which meant he would have a lot of trouble collecting his stride and end up kind of nose-diving by the last fence. I am happy to say he was much improved this time. This was the gymnastic by the end of the lesson:

We started with just the first vertical, set around 2'3", and the second fence was just a vertical, not an oxer yet, and no ground poles. First time through, he wasn't making much effort and just crawled over it the first couple of times. So Alicia added the 9' trot rail out in front of the first fence and that helped. Once he started paying attention a little, Alicia made the second fence an oxer, set at 2'9" with a 2'6" spread. He was doing pretty well; I was having a little trouble not jumping over my hand.

Then Alicia came up with one of her typical strokes of genius -- these are the reason we'll never train with anyone else -- and she made me close my eyes. I don't think I've done this in years, but I remember having to jump through gymnastics like this when I was younger. It was pretty amazing. With my eyes closed, I had no choice but to follow his movement and as a result I had to be soft and following with my hands. And like magic, Tucker slowed down, thought about the gymnastic, and as a result started jumping better. We added the ground line between the first and second fence and I could feel him negotiating it. But of course, I had my eyes closed, so I couldn't interfere. Blind faith. (How lucky am I, seriously? I have a 1200 lb. seeing-eye-dog.)

Then we added the third fence, which was a 3' oxer with a 3' spread. He jumped it awesome. Just rocked back on his hind end and jumped up really round and soft and slow. The next time through we added a ground rail between fences two and three, and I could feel him jump the second fence a little slower, land, canter one slow stride and then he jumped the last oxer even better. So cool. Only thing I didn't like was that he was drifting right! For years we've struggled with a left drift, and now he's going the other way. My theory is that because my eyes were closed and I was following so well with my hands, he was missing the left rein that he usually leans on (due to my bad habit of holding too much on my left rein), and as a result he went right. We'll sort that out though. The important thing is that he handled the gymnastic well this time. He thought about it, he took his time, and he jumped really well.

We're doing the gymnastic again tomorrow, and this time going to focus on my position over top of the fence. I could feel my lower leg falling back, which meant my center of gravity got pitched forward, and when he made that big effort and used that powerful hind end of his over the last oxer, I ended up having to peel myself off his neck on landing. So that was a little frustrating. Tomorrow, we are going to tie my stirrups to my girth. Another old trick I haven't tried in years, but it will really help I think. I also am going to punch a few extra holes in my stirrup leathers so I can get a little leverage. Definitely can't move up to showing at 3' until I learn to stay with him, so this is definitely something we need to nail down.

I feel like I owe it to him to figure out how to stay with him when he gives me that much of an effort. Basically, my goal is just to learn to ride well enough to keep up with all the natural talent he has. It's a funny thing, I think I get so impressed with him in the moment that I stop riding. I'm in the air over top of the fence I'm thinking "Wow, he's jumping great" instead of concentrating on what I'm supposed to be doing, and then nano-seconds later I realize I've totally lost my position and we're landing in a heap. But there are certainly worse problems to have than being a little starstruck by your own horse.

When I turned around after taking a few pictures of the gymnastic, Tucker was standing right where I left him. I realize he looks like a total giraffe in this shot, but he looked so cute just watching me walk around taking pictures, I had to take one of him. Part athlete, part goof. And I love every hair on his big old head.

I'll let you know how gymnastics part II goes tomorrow. . . hopefully more good things to post!

1 comment:

  1. He looks wonderful - not like a giraffe at all! What a wonderful lesson - you're right, your trainer seems to be quite excellent at figuring out what you both need, and setting it up so it can happen - you're very lucky!


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