This weeks lesson report is getting split into two parts… mainly because I have a lot of pictures and some video to share, and also because there was just A LOT of info coming at me and I don’t want this to turn into a crazy long post.
It’s been two weeks since my last lesson, which was my first lesson with my new trainer. Unfortunately last weekend it rained so we missed our lesson day. In those two weeks I’ve been trying really hard to work on the main points from lesson one, particularly SITTING UP. Honestly, this has been the focus of my entire 22 year riding career – I am Quasimodo by nature. And if someone isn’t always telling me to sit up, hell if I ever remember. The struggle is real.
I hopped on for my lesson, walked around for a few minutes (sitting up!), then started trotting. I got very few comments during my trot work, which I have figured out is a good thing because nothing gets by this guy. I still have to constantly remind myself to sit up and look up and put my thumbs on top. Eq rider, I am not. Henry felt better though too… we’ve got a slower tempo but with a bigger step, and he was actually bending his body around my leg. We did lots of changes of direction, some sitting trot and a few leg yields.
After a quick walk break we moved on to the canter. If I didn’t get a lot of comments during the trot work, it’s because I got All The Comments during the canter work. I’ll summarize and say that they’re mainly about finding exactly the right rhythm, slowing the tempo but increasing the stride, and keeping him more connected. That’s a lot of work, especially to the right. He tends to carry his hind end too far to the inside in the right lead, which makes everything a little wonky and almost sideways sometimes. More leg, straight shoulders (I tend to be a little crooked too) and just very steady hands and still upper body. That’s really easy to say but not really easy to do. Honestly it’s exhausting. Still, we did manage to get some good canter work in there.
Then we focused on the lead changes.
Henry does pretty easy changes, but he does want to speed up a little bit and get heavy in my hand for a couple strides afterward. Trainer wants seamless changes so that the corners are smoother and they don’t interrupt our rhythm or make tight turns difficult. Off we went on a figure eight exercise. The first couple times were kind of a fail… apparently I like to just lean my upper body all over the place like a drunken monkey (Trainer was too polite to use those exact words but that’s basically what he meant). Henry got all the changes but he also got a bit quicker and pulled. Sooo we talked about it.
And then off I went to try a little harder at doing a lot less. This is a difficult concept for me and always has been a constant struggle in my riding. Sitting there and letting things happen does not come naturally to my personality. So I tried my figure eight exercise again, this time just sitting up perfectly square and being very still and doing absolutely nothing but changing the bend of his body with my legs and a softly supporting outside rein. Much better this time. 3 out of 4 perfect smooth easy changes with no change of tempo. Sometimes it’s so simple that it’s incredibly difficult.
I wanted a trainer with a whole lot of attention to detail and I certainly got one. It’s hard, it’s challenging, and I’m loving every minute of it. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 – the jumping!