Since Jen and Luc had such great success at last week’s clinic, I decided that this week it was my turn to put the big grey beast through his paces and show off a little. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly show off the way I wanted to. More like showcased how much work I still have to do.
After a brief warmup, I got started on the exact same exercise Jen and Luc did last week. Ambitious much? She and Luc have been together for years. Not to mention the fact that she rides five days a week and did not take a decade-long break from riding. Oh well, go big or go home right?
I tried, and failed, at cantering Luc around the pole pattern setup. Jen made it look so easy and smooth! For me, it was more of a bumpy ride with Luc doing his best to get the job done. After several attempts in each direction, we did finally figure it out, but it’s something I’ll have to work on as Luc routinely breaks to a trot if we don’t nail the distance.
Then it was on to grid work. Yes, that’s right. Instead of sticking to the poles, I decided (with some encouragement from the ground crew – aka Jen) to do a little jumping. We cantered into the warmup x-rail beautifully, and nailed the distance thanks to the help of the pole in front, set to a nice easy bounce. Then it was time to add a second little x-rail a mere one stride away. Again, things were going well. When we raised the second fence to a vertical, and then a higher vertical, my confidence began to soar. Luc was jumping great, I was working on my position, and we made for a very nice looking pair.
Too bad you can’t soar forever. When we added in the third and final fence, another small vertical to create our bounce pole to a one-stride to a one-stride, things rapidly began to go downhill – starting with my position. Chicken arms came out, I wasn’t holding my position steady, and I started doing this really weird thing with my legs where I turned them out at a 90 degree angle. That last one was mostly due to the fact that I really had to put a lot of effort into getting Luc to make the striding, even though it was set short. As it turns out, I’ve developed an incredibly bad case of duck feet to compensate for my complete lack of leg strength.
After a few more unremarkable attempts we decided it was time to turn the last little vertical into a 2’6” oxer. Bad idea. The first trip down the line resulted in Luc practically tripping over the oxer (guess I needed a lot more than duck feet to get the job done!), and me coming completely unseated. As in I only had one foot in the stirrups and was draped pretty precariously over his neck. Lucky for me he likes to stop pretty much as soon as he’s done landing, so I was able to scramble back into the saddle.
Now this is the first time I’ve done more than a single three stride line since I started back riding, the first oxer I’ve jumped in years, and the first time I’ve jumped more than about two feet. So instead of doing the smart thing – which would have been putting it back to a vertical or even a pole – I came down the line again. This time I clucked and squeezed and prayed with all my might. And we survived! Luc picked up his feet and we both made it safely to the other side. He did jump me out of the tack a bit, but I recovered before landing. Our third and final attempt of the day was thankfully our best. He jumped well, I stayed with him, and my feet were only turned out 45 degrees instead of 90.
The entire ride was a sharp wakeup call that I need to slow things back down and really focus on my position. To be honest, I knew that already, but sometimes even when you’re supposed to be an intelligent adult, you still let that inner voice get the better of you. My inner voice was convinced nothing had changed in the past decade and that I would still be able to soar down the line with ease, and with perfect position.
So much for that! It will be back to basics for me, with a strong emphasis on spending time in two-point NOT going over fences and reminding myself that I am not a duck. Maybe I should get my sister to yell ‘quack’ every time she sees me turn my toes out!