It’s Harder Than It Looks

I showed up to my lesson last night and the barn was empty. After a few phone calls, my instructor showed up, telling me she had texted me that we should change the day due to the uncomfortable heat, but apparently my phone is stupid and I never got it. So we had the lesson anyway.

bay ottb thoroughbred mare
Berry is judging me. Lrn 2 chk ur phne.

I have no photos of the lesson, so please enjoy all these random photos from previous posts!

Deciding that I can manage to stay on during a jump, we have moved on to doing more than one jump. First it was counting striding. I know to many people this seems like the most basic, simple thing in the world, and how can I not do this. Well, I can’t! When I took lessons as a kid, it either wasn’t brought up, wasn’t explained, or I just pretended I knew what was going on because I didn’t want to seem stupid.

But now I was being forced to learn it. And I had to shout each stride really loud so there was no pretending I didn’t know what was going on.

appaloosa mare jumping
Considering I never did anything about striding before, Vintage took care of me more than I realized…

My instructor and I marveled I knew my numbers, and then we moved on to the further task of adding a stride, and subtracting a stride. It got slightly messy, as Simba started taking off from long and short spots. He was too much of a gentleman to complain directly to me, but I bet he’s going to go back to the barn and lament to his friends about the low quality of riders coming through, and how riders were so much better in his day.

Then to make things even harder, my instructor had me doing a simple three jump course with simple lead changes. This is where I completely fell apart. When I was busy counting my strides, I forgot to release. When I was expecting the lead change, I forgot to get in jump position. When I was trying to change leads, I forgot to steer.

Then my instructor added a fourth jump, a natural bush spread, or more literally, a jump with a bunch of pine branches stuffed underneath it. And for the first time since my first lesson on Simba, I was scared of the jump. That was a big jump. Big, as in wide. At least as wide as it was tall. Possibly wider. And it had all those branches underneath… I could get a serious scratch if I fell, or at the least be covered in pine sap.

It was like this, but there was a pole over it.

When I approached it, I completely froze, but because Simba is a good boy, he still jumped it, and I got one of those fun jumps where your body completely leaves your tack and you float in the air above your horse before coming crashing down.

I would have stopped to regroup but my instructor must have read my mind and yelled to keep going to the next jump. I did cut my corner way too early, but it did help me get over the bush. The next time around, it went fine and I only gave a split second thought to the bush.

Eventually, I did a passable round of my tiny 4 jumps, and I was allowed to finish my lesson. My home work, as always is to practice my two point, except this time, she wants me to do it with no stirrups. After telling me this, she paused a moment to think, and then added I should just do lots of no stirrup work. She seemed pleased to tell me this.

Next week, I’m bringing Berry to a lesson. Since she doesn’t have much experience jumping, I don’t think I’ll be doing any courses next week, but I am fantasizing about her suddenly knowing everything, and taking me around a perfect hunter course while I do nothing but smile and enjoy the weather.

thoroughbred mare jumping
One of Berry’s favorite activities is enjoying weather.

How do they make it look so easy? I feel incredibly uncoordinated, my body flopping around like a fish. And this is fairly basic stuff. I see tons of people doing courses, certainly more than 4 jumps, and it doesn’t look hard!

No doubt the hallmark of a good ride is that it looks easy…

Everything just happens so fast. I came in for the first jump, nice and steady, and then BAM, jumped, next jump is coming… BAM! jumped, and now I need to change the lead, but the horse is moving so fast, I’m practically to the next jump before I get a chance, and then I’m so close that I feel like if I tell him to slow, he’s going to refuse and then I’ll be jumping solo.

It’s a lot to take in. I need to learn to think faster. That must be it, you other riders just have super fast, completely in control thoughts, while mine are more like:

Stop doing that!

I thought about asking my instructor when she thinks I’ll be able to do a show, but I think I would be asking her to predict the impossible. So far, I’m at jumping (bouncing?) four jumps in a row, with barely capable lead changes (thank goodness he landed on the correct lead over half the time!), and forgetting to release. I’m not ready for a show.

I will be eventually. It is very motivating to get out and practice. The more riding time, the better.

So, other riders that manage to ride an entire course, what is your secret to being able to process what is happening? TELL ME ALL YOUR SECRETS!

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  1. I swear trainers are all sadistic people who get off on other people’s pain. Mine giggles when she has us drop our stirrups. Full grown woman, giggling like a child.
    The one thing that made everything slow down and seem more manageable was riding a course like you’re schooling on the flat. The jumps are just 4 strides, the rest is flat work. You’re not approaching a jump, you’re cantering up the quarter line and there happens to be something to hop over. You’re not on a long approach to a diagonal, you’re collecting your canter a bit as you prepare to change directions. Thinking about it as riding a pattern on the flat with a couple obstacles made it much easier for me to take it one step at a time.
    That, and living in half-seat (complete with release) until it becomes muscle memory and you automatically pop into it over the fences . But that makes my muscles sore so I hate that part.
    Give yourself some credit, your trainer wouldn’t be having you do things if she thought you couldn’t handle it!

    1. Yes, they enjoy inflicting that pain upon us 🙁
      That explanation does make sense. I’ll have to remember that, and try to simplify it. Also, to take a deep breath.
      I’m doing better with holding two point, but I need to work more on that too. Eventually this will all fall into place and not feel so hard!
      Thank you for the secrets!

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