About two weeks ago I hauled Diva and Kat up to Pleasonton to ride with yet another new trainer.
It. was. amazing. (also I have no media so I'll keep this short and mostly for my own reference.) I forgot how lovely it is to ride with an eventing trainer. Yes, I can put the pieces together from my jumping lessons and from my dressage lessons, but having someone who ALSO puts the pieces together train me? It's a delightful thing.
I rode Kat first and she decided that the lake next to the arena was unacceptable, as were the other horses, and also the gate was WAY TOO SMALL TO WALK THROUGH. We had a brief discussion about, I dunno, moving forward, and then about four laps of the arena trembling at things. She knew better than to actually spook at anything, so she just spent some time pulling a llama and trembling.
We're gonna call this trainer Dumbledore because I think it's funny. Dumbledore comes down from the barn and makes a few jokes about how hot my mare is, and then we got to work. Okay: I got put to work and my mare sorta did her thing.
We worked on half-halting with my seat BEFORE my fingers, the goal being to get her to come back to me just off my seat. We worked on downward transitions and trying to get her to almost lengthen her neck in the downwards rather than curling under (spoiler alert: I cannot pull on the reins in order to accomplish this). We worked on using shoulder-in to help her balance and slowwww downnnn. And we worked on getting even bend both directions.
The jumping was a little hilarious because it was a one stride with placing poles before and after each jump, giving us three poles and two fences. Kat kept supermanning the last pole because why would you gather yourself properly to set all your feet down. I also got nailed for my habit of not sitting down on my horse after my last jump.
In the end, I had a horse who had completely filled the reins up in an honest way, her shoulders felt so free, and she was totally on my seat. I had to think really hard to prevent myself from A) throwing the reins away and B) pulling on the reins. That level of responsiveness from her requires me to really focus so I'm matching her correctly. But our canter, man. Un-bloodly-believable. I love those moments.
With Diva we did a lot of lengthening and shortening at the canter, and I was working super hard on my position and thinking about the same level of sensitivity I'd had with Kat (Diva wasn't listening that hard, but it was still good for me) and after several lengthen/shorten at the canter, then same at the trot, then back to the canter repetitions I felt myself start to seriously lose steam. I like to think I'm pretty riding fit, but these lessons nailed home that I need to step-up my fitness game in order to really ride these horses as well as I want to be able to ride them.
We did the same jumping exercise with Diva and Dumbledore put v-poles on the second jump, and Diva jumped me right out of the tack. She whipped her knees up and totally cracked her back over the jump. I'd honestly never felt her jump so well. Dumbledore explained that sometimes it makes them feel a bit claustrophobic so they whip their knees up to escape it, but also that it keeps them straighter so they jump better.
Makes sense to me!
We then moved on to a series of bending line exercises wherein I 100% forgot to, I dunno, half-halt, so we had some goofy moments, but Diva jumped everything I pointed her at and continued to be super game. I asked to end the lesson early when I felt her start to get too noodle-y and tired.
I'm going back tomorrow with Tango and Kat, so I'm super stoked to keep learning!