This week was a bit of an oddity. Instead of riding alone in the ring with no one but Jen, Luc’s owner and my sister, on the ground for support, I had the opportunity to actually ride with a friend—Ashley and her lovely six-year-old gelding Gideon. While it may not seem like that big of a deal, having someone else in the arena actually changes the way you ride. At least it does for me.
It instantly becomes more of a social activity, but in a good way. I found myself doing more than just riding around in circles. I actually worked on things like my position and Luc’s rhythm and suppleness. That’s not to say I don’t do those things when I’m in the ring along, I do, but it’s just a lot easier to fall into the trap of just riding around for the sake of riding around when you’re working solo.
Ashley and I also had the added benefit of having Jen on the ground as jump crew. That meant for the first time in around two months, I actually jumped. And boy oh boy was it fun! Jen built us a short two stride, so naturally coming around the first time with what I thought was an appropriate canter, Luc and I easily fit three. Oh oh, not a great start since we were going his easier direction—away from the scary end and toward home. Coming around the second time, I pushed Luc forward heading into the line, and we had to reach for that two. I swear he has the canter stride of a small pony when we’re inside!
Changing directions after Ashley and Gideon had jumped it a few times, I wasn’t so confident I wasn’t going to get the three again. Luc has the tendency to suck back heading toward the scary end, and since we were already having trouble with the distance (can I mention again it was already set short!) I rode him more forward to try and give ourselves at least a fighting chance of making the distance.
As it turns out, I didn’t need that extra momentum. Luc was far more forward heading away from home and we successfully made the distance in two. Switching from a vertical to vertical, Jen who likes to push my limits at times, decided to set the line as an oxer to a vertical in the direction I was having difficulty with. Sill only about 2’6 in height, I was fairly confident that Luc and I couldn’t get into too much trouble.
I urged Luc forward into his big boy canter and headed down toward the oxer. Turns out we didn’t have enough impulsion and put three strides in, again! This time Jen gave me a bit of advice. “Make him move forward down the long side to the point where you feel you’re just about out of control,” she said. “By the time you turn the corner he’ll lose some of that forwardness but still have enough to get you through the line.”
Turns out she was right! Luc and I felt like we were flying down the long side, but by the time that oxer was right in front of us, we easily had enough to carry us up and over it in beautiful form and then down the line in an easy two. Go team!
Changing directions since the oxer was set square, Luc and I had no trouble cantering down the line vertical to oxer in two. So up the rails went again. This time around the 3’ mark. Starting our more difficult direction, I pushed Luc hard down the long side and once again everything just clicked and fell into place. Well, everything but my lower leg. As it turns out, my right leg likes to swing like a pendulum when I jump. My left leg’s not quite as bad. Guess I need to go back and do a lot more groundwork and strength building exercises! We did the line in reverse easily and then it was up again once more.
Since we were nearing the end of our ride, Jen put the back rail of the oxer up about two holes, making a nice looking 3’3 oxer to a smaller vertical. And you know what—Luc and I nailed it! We hit our distance spot on and made the two strides down to the vertical easily.
I called it a day after that as Luc had been just such a good boy for me. Man am I lucky to have such a great horse to ride! And to have a great ground crew (thanks Jen!) and to have some really wonderful friends at the barn.