Lessons From A Lesson

Jumping Diary


I haven’t yet established Jumping Friday posts. I’ve gotten as far as Falcon Hill Fridays. At least I’m going to the place that has the jumps. Turtle steps.

More Canter
I’ve forgotten how to canter fast. Saddlebreds go in a slow, collected, teacup canter. Sam has an excellent one. If they don’t canter this way, they are supposed to. Slow is the goal. The last time I cantered at a decent pace was probably when Roberto and I ran around the show ring at ProAm.

Saddle seat judges expect a horse to execute a contained, dynamic canter, not to gallop flat out as if making up time during the run-in after the last jump on cross-country. [Show Report]

In the FHF lesson, we cantered several times (go me!). It was too slow. Coach Molly said Milton looked as if he was about drop back into the trot. Milton is a Work Smarter, Not Harder kind of horse. If I don’t specify, he will gravitate to the lowest use of energy. I didn’t need to do anything more complicated that just plain let him go faster.

I asked him to canter on. No problem.

More Hand
Didn’t do as well here.

I have a bad habit of floating the reins at the horse, especially if I am trying achieve acceleration. Drop the reins, kick hard, and say Go Horsie! All this does is allow the horse to flop around on the forehand. If you want the horse to use his ass end, you have to pick up the snoot and request that he do so.

I know this. I can’t feel this. Instead, I feel that if I put the slightest pressure on the reins, the horse will dump even the tiny amount of momentum we have collected.

After several uninspired run-thoughs (runs-though?) of my dressage patterns, my ground crew suggested that I actually shorten my reins and take hold of Milton’s mouth. I knew it wouldn’t work. Determined to prove them wrong, I did this thing. Milton didn’t grind to a halt. Surprise.

Instead, Milton stuck his nose up in the air and said, ‘Ooooooh, that sounds like work.’ I made the mistake of getting frustrated because now it wasn’t working in a different way. Every so often, the nose would come down and he’d say okay and we would get a step or two of something that resembled a correct horse. Then we’d turn a corner and lose it again. Half a dozen good strides in a 2-3 minute dressage test. That’s not a bad place to start.

What did I expect from a green horse? One who is also a drama queen?

More Horsemanship
I need to dial my expectations way down so that I am rewarding every small effort Milton makes.

I need to dial up my belief in what I am asking. If the horse does not do X correctly and immediately, that does not automatically mean that you, the rider, asked for the wrong thing. Maybe he’s learning. Maybe it will take him a minute. Maybe I need to smile and wait for my horse to sort it out.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

5 thoughts on “Lessons From A Lesson

  1. I’ve been working on two things all winter. Well, maybe three. Not constantly, but sprinkled in there and there during most of my rides. None are making a lot of progress, or that’s how it seems sometimes. (We are our own worst critic) However, if/when he does manage to produce any of the three things to my liking, I pretty much hop off and end my ride right there. I literally get off, back away and just let him stand there and process and breathe for a few minutes before leaving the arena. Sometimes it happens twenty minutes into the ride, other times it’s happened ten minutes in. My gelding turns seven next month. He was getting ridden (Read as: cowboy-ed) since he was two or three. (Not by me) I have zero expectation of him being able to carry me with balance and finesse and I’ve been riding him 5-6 days a week for almost a year. He’s made lots of improvements in many areas, but not always the areas I’m focused on right now. I guess that’s my definition of a work in progress: Sometimes we get it, other times we don’t. But in the mean time there’s lots of stuff we get and get it consistently. Oh, and sometimes I make a point of getting on and just riding the damn horse. No “have-to,” just point and shoot. Those are often some of our best rides. I bet if he could talk he would agree.

    1. Maybe consider scheduling a ride where you don’t have any specific goals? That’s not to say you’re not still imparting wisdom from the saddle, but maybe try thinking back to what it felt like when you just had “fun” riding as a kid? No big “have-tos” or “musts” No internal or mental evaluating. Just ride and have fun. I dunno. I find sometimes the harder I try the more I get in my own way. Just a thought.

      1. Good thought. It’s too easy to overthink. Sometimes when I got too hung up on goals, I’d ride Priney out on the trails (which no longer exist) and just think about the trees, the butterflys, the doe browsing a matter of yards from us…Priney said if she’s gonna eat, so am it, and we just stayed like that till the doe wandered off.

  2. I have trouble doing anything that lacks specific goals. Everything must to be productive. Go! Make something of yourself. Achieve! Be! Do! Life is short. etc. etc. Of course, I sit around & play video games & watch TV, but I castigate myself while doing so. The ToDo list grows as I sit on my ass. I know I would feel better if I … did some work … washed a load of dishes … read an informative book … um … I have a small problem accepting recovery time.

    Sometimes, I can just ride, but not these two, not right now. Too much drama. I used to have lovely strolls with Mathilda. But then, strolling with her was productive in terms of getting her out & getting her exercised.

    My internal activity meter got set on a NYC pace at an early age.The message of high-achievement was consistent across family, school, & environment. You’d think a religious school would have put more emphasis on living a good/Godly life, but not so much. Achievement equals success equals love, admiration, a place by the fire, and a larger share of the mammoth. By definition this attitude resists recalibration. To yield is to be weak, to fail. I’m not saying this is correct or good or healthy, just what one of the squirrels in my head believes. A loud little bastard.

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