I had my fourth lesson with T3 last night.  Archives:  first, second and third.

Because it had been a few extra weeks (five, I think, instead of three), I couldn't remember what time I was supposed to leave work in order to get there with adequate time.  So I just left work a little early.  I got out to the town that I have to drive through to get to the barn and stopped at a grocery store to pick up some apples.  Archie loves apples.  Archie deserves apples.

I got there in plenty of time to warm up outside of the ring.  While I was walking him around, I watched a bit of the lesson prior.  T3 had created a grid in a chute and they were cantering through it.  On the last fence, both reins were to be in one hand and the free hand was supposed to be straight forward from the shoulder.  I think it was to bring attention to where their bodies were while also multitasking.  I swear, these kids!

When my lesson started, T3 and I caught up a bit about what we'd been working on.  I said that I wasn't excited about the canter transitions and that he wasn't consistently picking up the correct lead (but that I felt it was my fault) and was breaking.  I told her that we had cantered some baby fences, but hadn't spent a whole lot of time jumping.  I said that I also felt like tracking right was now our stronger direction.

She had me pick up the trot on a loose rein for a few laps and then change direction for a few laps.  Then it was picking up contact and positioning him to lift his core.  We had a few little issues. Tracking right, he wants to drop his right shoulder through the turns, so I actually need to lift the inside rein a couple inches and correct that.  (This flashes me back to riding Duke, with whom I would do the same thing over fences to cue the landing lead.)  Tracking left, I've completely forgotten about his left hip falling in (I need to consistently review my old lesson posts!), so I have to remember to bring my inside leg a few inches behind the girth, push the hip over, but not cross my left hand over the withers - because then I'm asking him to shift and it isn't correcting the hip.  She kept telling me that he looked so much better than he had when we started taking lessons.  He was using his hind end, balanced, swinging evenly in the back.  Just freaking awesome.

At the canter, she corrected my lead issue.  It's me.  It's my hands.  My hands want to do weird things and cross and pull in random directions.  I need to push him into a working walk (oh, yeah, we're ballers now - walk/canter transitions, FTW!) with contact, slightly increase the outside rein pressure and cue with the outside leg.  As many walk/canter transitions as we had last night, I only had an issue with the wrong lead the first time.

After we succeeded with the flat work, we had our first exercise.  T3 had set up two ground poles a canter stride apart.  She said that the goal was to treat the poles as jumps and not splice the front legs.  We were pretty much okay with that exercise, but she had to adjust the poles after the first trip.  I never knew this about Archie, because it's never been used, but he has a naturally large canter stride.  She pushed one pole out a little to make room for that stride and also told me to work on collecting it.  He would clear the first pole just fine, but wouldn't lift his hind legs over the second pole, knocking it.  This would jar me in the saddle and just felt like shit.  We did this exercise several times in both directions until it was smooth.  We had a few blips, but T3 complimented the snot out of my ability to recover.  She said it was good that we were exercising that ability over poles before we got to fences.  Oh, and he also tucks his neck when jumping, so I need to account for that with shorter reins and more forward hands.

She took the chute that the girls had been working with and turned it into two sets of trot poles.  Then we had a grand laugh at the Kid not picking up his feet over the poles.  "It's like he's doing it by Braille!"  Trotted through it twice and she made the second set a cross rail.  Trotted through that fine and she made the front a cross rail.

"Okay, canter it."

Wait, you mean trot in and maybe canter out right?

"No, canter in and canter out."


We did it and it was messy and scary.  And as soon as we were on the other side, I raised my hand like a school child.  "Can I just say?  That was the first line we've ever cantered."  (I mean, shit, we just cantered our first fence like a week ago.)  Her response:  that explains why you were in the fetal position.  Touché, T3.  Touché.

She then said that it was meant to be three strides, but he was taking it in two.  Did I want two or three?  I replied with something noncommittal before I got that she really wanted an answer. Could I tell her after we jumped it?  :)  No.  I said I had no idea, maybe two.  She answered the question for me, pushed the second fence out again and told me to take it in three.  We spent a lot of time with those two cross rails.  I nailed the approach every single time, but had to work on not curling over his body over the fence.  Also, I threw him away down the line and left him to fend for us both on the second fence.  But back to the approach:  seriously.  Picking up the canter from a walk, on the correct lead, and locking on the first fence and turning in to the line from the rail.  It was like we had been doing it every day for years.  We finally got decent at the over-fences part and she raised the second fence to a baby vertical.

Guys, it was fucking magical.

I cantered my horse down a line from a cross rail to a vertical on both leads with no issues.  I kept my boobs out, my head up, I didn't throw him away and it was all perfect.  She was so enthusiastic for us both.  I felt like we achieved something.

Baby vertical.
We talked about the show in November.  I told her that I was thinking about W/T cross rails and she told me that would be good.  Better to push or better to have a good experience?  Better to have a good experience.

After the ride, I did more miserable 2 point while walking him out on the trail.  Then it was brushing him down, letting him cool while I helped BM's kid take down the chute, feeding him, sheeting him and walking him out.  Fed him an apple and gave him kisses and just told him what an amazing horse he is.
My legs were jelly after the lesson and the 2 pt.  I slid out of the saddle and landed underneath Archie, who promptly tried to step on my toes.

That weird time of year when you need both the fly mask and the sheet.  Also, I fixed the gaping hole at his chest once I saw it was there.
To review:
  • Archie's left hip tracking left - push it over!
  • Don't let him get strung out and super long at the canter.  He will.  It will be messy.
  • Lift the right hand a couple inches when turning right to help him not to fall in.
  • Maintain pressure with the outside hand so he doesn't throw the shoulder that direction (particularly, coming in to the first fence tracking left, he would bulge the right shoulder - maintain a feel so he can't do that).
  • Whoa between fences.
  • Land in heels.
  • Shorten reins for fences so I can maintain contact when he starts to tuck.
  • Shoulders should be facing forward over fences, not towards the ground.  Don't curl over him.
  • STOP POSTING SO FREAKING HIGH!  (How many times have I heard that now?)
I think, though, that the thing that really struck me from all of this:  Archie protected me every single time.  He really, really put forth so much effort to keep us both safe when I was doing nothing to help him.  He carried me through all the exercises and saved my ass so many times.  I did not know my horse was willing and able to do that.  I freaking love the guy but always wondered if it were mutual.

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  1. I love your detail from each lesson... and how excited you are to do things!! :) Great job jumping too- get it girl!

  2. WOOHOO! Yay for cantering your very first line and for so much improvement in just one lesson!

  3. Love this lesson write up! YOu guys are coming so far :)