356 Days

It’s been 356 days since I decided to start taking jumping lessons.

It’s been 335 days since I took my first jumping lesson.

I’ve had approximately 18 jumping lessons since then, and have gone from petrified of even ground poles to jumping small verticles. Yay!

Next week marks the same event I originally went to where I decided to begin jumping. I had hoped to be competing in it this year. In hindsight, I think that was a bit of an overly aggressive timeline. 😏

But… this year, when I go watch, it won’t be with wide, fearful eyes, but with an eye toward identifying what I know, to watch how others do things, and learn more about the sport.

And wine.

I’m really going so I can sit on the sidelines with a single serve plastic cup o’ wine while “Ooh”ing and “aaah”ing over the cross country jumpers.

It’s gonna be a blast!

I can’t wait!

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Lessons in Winter – Part 856,001+

My cohorts bailed AGAIN!

Lessons in Winter

I get a private lesson tonight. This should be fun. I barely make it through a group lesson, and I can cheat during those.

“You asked if I did two point the whole lap of the arena?… Uhm, yeeaaah, I did”
**shifty look**

God, I hope the instructor doesn’t read this blog… 

It’s a balmy 25 degrees with a “Feels Like” of 12. We’re positively tropical here compared to the last two days.

What are my cohorts waiting for? Above freezing?!
As if that’ll happen before April. HA!

Your winter wonderland horse pictures:

Lessons in Winter

I was supposed to have a group jumping lesson Wednesday night, but my cohorts bailed. Something about it being in the teens caused them to re-think their life goals, I guess.

I haven’t been riding the past two weeks anyway. I sat on Ava once for a short bit. That’s all. The rest of the time has been spent fighting with broken equipment, shoveling snow, and trying to keep my fingers from falling off while cleaning stalls.

Luckily, the lesson barn let me ride with the Thursday group lesson.  

And of course, Thursday was single digit temps…   I should’ve asked for a private lesson Wednesday.  😂 

Thursday’s group consists of three kids. All of whom were mute. I tried talking to one before the lesson,  but from her expression I am either an ax murderer,  or I have some seriously hideous visage which upset her.  

I’m using the term “kid”  loosely.  They appear to be allowed to drive,  so I assume they’re over 16. 

The instructor had mentioned a while ago that the Thursday class was a bit more advanced then the Wednesday class.  So I was really looking forward to testing my skills against better riders.  I guess I had assumed they’d all been jumping for years,  were knocking out 3 foot jumps,  and had mastered the basics of jumping by this point. 

Reality: they were a very,  very small step,  incrementally,  better then the group I ride with on Wednesdays.  But apparently just as unwilling to be the first one up,  the first one over, etc.  Bah. 

At one point the instructor gave us directions on the next exercise she wanted us to do,  and absolutely NO ONE MOVED.  She explains it again, expecting the kid at the front of the line to go when she undertsands what to do.  No one moves. 

I was at the end of the pack,  so I yelled out,  “Do you mean now?”  

“Yes,  now!”

No one moves… 

So, i pick up a trot and head to the front to start the exercise.  

Why does a middle aged,  fat,  out of shape lady gotta show the athletic,  young whipper snappers how it’s done?! 

That’s just sad…

Kids, don’t be the sad sack that lets old ladies show you up. 😁

One of the exercises had us jump a diagonal line,  but first and third jump were offset. So,  normally you’d do the straight line on the sides,  and the one on the diagonal.  This exercise we did the first jump off the straight line at a bit of an angle,  then the jump on the diagonal,  and third jump on the far straightline at a bit of an angle.  

Primitive cave man drawing of jump setup

I had to try that three times.  I’d get the pony set up on a bit of a diagonal line over the first jump, then try to bend her a bit more for the second jump,  but by that time the pony was like “NOPE!  We’re going around!”  We only had about a stride or two between the jumps.  Things happened QUICK! 

Third time,  I had a bit steeper angle over the first jump and began the approach to the second before we left the ground for the first,  and then I could angle her toward the middle of the second jump.  It all flowed smoothly after that.  Well,  sort of..  Pony did great.  I kind of just tried to stay out of the way, and I dropped the reins on the second jump.  Bad habit of mine.  Second the horse pulls I let the reins slide.  

Pony: “I’m going BIG!” 

Me: [Throws reins at horse] “Whatever you gotta do,  Pony.  Just don’t crash!” 

It was SO MUCH FUN!! 

I can’t wait to do it again! 

Fourth Lesson – Or, that time I almost quit

I walked in to the barn for my fourth lesson absolutely PUMPED! Ready to rock and roll.

Instructor asked me if I wanted to ride “The Hot Horse” this lesson. I enthusiastically said yes. I love a hot horse!  So she brings in this 16-ish hand, mud-brown, TB gelding with a bit of a goofball personality (my fav kind of horse).

I brushed him down, tacked him up, and we wandered off into the arena to hop on. Instructor tells me this was her personal eventing horse, and that she rarely has others ride him, so she’s curious to see how he’ll go/look with me. Eek! No pressure.

Everything’s going great at the walk. Nice horse, well trained, super sensitive (love it), and I feel pretty darn secure up there even though the saddle feels too big for me.

Then the instructor has us trot. As soon as I ask for the trot, the horse flings his head up and around, pulls the reins out of my way too lose fingers, and launches into an big trot (my reins flapping in the wind around his neck).

Instructor calls out “You might need those!”

Me: (** totally embarrassed **)”You said he was a seat ride” haha

I finally got myself back in order, horse back under me, and we did some trot warm up for a few minutes.  Everything was going well. I was a touch nervous because I could tell that this horse was much hotter than either of mine, and I was worried that my fear of jumping was going to create a bomb under me.

Instructor set up a small “course” of ground poles to ride. This horse was awesome. Actually leg yields, you can steer his shoulders, very  easy to ride. I was having a blast trotting over the ground rail “course”.  I was feeling a million feet tall, and tougher than nails!

Instructor raised the poles into small cross rails. We’re supposed to go through this course one at a time. Meaning one of us will stand in the middle while the other rides the ‘course’. The other lady in the class ducked into the middle the second the rails went up. HA!

Probably a good thing though. If I have to go first then I don’t have time to work myself up into a panic.

I struck up a trot and headed toward the first jump. My gelding does a very nice, smooth jump over the first cross rail. I’m feeling solid, secure, like a million bucks and on top of the world.

The second jump, we LAUNCHED over it. Totally caught me off guard. Tossed me around a bit. The gelding lands, and we’re cantering across the arena with me curled up in a fetal position on top. Instructor yelling “Sit up, Sit up”, “Breathe”.

Confidence a bit shaken, but I stayed on so no big deal, right?

I steer the moose around and approach the second jump again. We go over it smoothly, no issues. Everything is wonderful. I’m on top of the world again.

Approach third cross rail, and again, horse launches himself over it. I’m literally grabbing anything in front of me to stay on.

I’m scared now.  Like, really scared…

I circle the horse so we can do the third jump again because I’m completely off course. Get to the third jump again, and LAUNCH! It’s so powerful it’s popping me out of the tack, I feel like I’m a split second from falling off. I have zero control. I feel like I’m 8 feet in the air with only hard ground beneath me.

We make it over, and I stop the horse.

At this point, part of me is screaming at the top of it’s lungs “I’M DONE!!! I want off! No more! I’m OUT!”

It was such a strong, visceral reaction that it shocked me!

I had very heated argument with myself about whether I was quitting jumping for good at that point or not.

I almost quit… it was close.

But, i really want to do this. Really badly. And I’d regret quitting.

I re-gathered my whits, focused my breathing, listened to instructors advice about position changes and rhythm, and trotted the moose back to the third jump again. He calmly hopped over it and we finished the last two jumps with no issues.

We did the course twice more. We had a couple of additional launching jumps, but this time I was ready mentally and actually rode the horse instead of being an out of balance passenger.

The better I rode, the smoother the jumps got, the calmer the horse got.
Imagine that…. haha

So, all in all, an eye-opener on how hard this is going to be, and how far I still have to go before I’m ready for an actual “event”. But… I was really freaking proud of myself for working through my fear, and it helped me see how much my body really influences the quality and type of jump the horse can give.

Also, that horse was amazing. I was really touched the instructor let me ride him.

I think I shat myself a little

My second jumping lesson… read first lessons post here

I’ve got this ground pole business down now. I feel like a Queen surveying her realm when I look at a line of ground poles. Used to scare me to death to see two ground poles in a row.. but now? “What is this pathetic excuse of an exercise with just two measly ground poles? pfftt.”

So when the instructor set up a “Box” with ground poles… Ppffftt. No biggie.

She explains the exercise below. Trot in, keep turning right.

BoxPattern

I’ve got this.

I’m cocky.

I am Phillip Dutton riding a Beginner Novice event with ease!!

.

.

.

Then the instructor raised the poles.

I trotted toward the box, eyes up, position a bit shaky, but holding up okay.  As soon as the pony hopped over the first cross pole, I immediately looked down. One trot step in the middle, and Pony put the breaks on for the next cross rail.

I had a momentary “Oh Shit” type feeling, but since we really didn’t have any speed it didn’t unseat me much. Pony kindly did a slow, calm hop over the second cross rail (saving my butt).

Whew! Made it through!

At this point I have to make an immediate right turn and line back up with the box for the second line.

I was a few strides out, staring down the quickly approaching cross rail…

Utterly freaked out.

Pulled the pony off the line and circled.

I didn’t even think. I just saw the first cross rail, panicked, and immediately turned the pony.

As soon as I realized what I’d done, I realigned the pony, and we popped through the box again. Immediate right turn, and hopped the next line.

After third line, I was so giddy that I thought I was done and went back to the rail, completely forgetting I was supposed to do one more line of jumps. Ha!

I swear though, that second line, I could actually hear my anus clamp shut in fear.

……….

As a side note: This is the very first lesson I’ve ever taken where the word “twerking” was used to describe my riding position. HAHAHA!

half-ass

Yes, I am so dang good, I can twerk while jumping. jk. I don’t even know if twerk’s a word.

I’m starting to question my goal of participating in a beginner level eventing competition next fall.  Or maybe I just need to invest in some dark brown riding breaches. 😉😂

First Jumping Lesson

I went to my first jumping lesson last Wednesday night. No pics,  sorry.  I went by myself. 

I was so nervous before it started! Really nervous! Sweaty palms,  heat racing, type nervous. 

They brought up 2 horses, and a pony. Guess who got the pony? 😂 

Actually,  it was a super cute pony who was about the size of Joy. 

There were three other ladies close to my age in the class.  All at about my level of riding (bit more experienced in jumping).  I was worried about riding in front of them at first,  and making a fool out of myself,  but they were so incredibly nice.   

I haven’t 2 pointed in 30 odd years. I couldn’t seem to get the mechanics of it down.  It seems so simple,  and yet I was either tipping forward or falling back.  I couldn’t stop posting in 2 point.  What’s up with that?!? 

Instructor had us go over a line of poles on the ground first.  The lesson pony,  Willow, handled them with ease. I just clung on and focused on my body position while Willow did all the work.  

When the instructor was satisfied with our pole work she let us jump a single cross rail.  

I had mixed emotions about going over the first jump.  Excited, with an undercurrent of feeling nauseous.  Part of me wanted to quit,  but the other ladies there weren’t scared.  They weren’t even phased.  It made me feel like I could do it too.  

The first lady rode over the cross rail easily and then it was my turn.  Those jumps seem so big when I’m on the back of a horse.  They also seem to get massively larger the closer I get to it.  What was a 6 inch jump, started looking like a 4 foot oxer in my mind by the time we got to it.  

I closed my eyes. 

Willow jumped over it easily and with a nice fluid effort.  Easy to ride it.  I got scolded for ducking my upper body down (oops),  and i made a mental note to fix it next jump. 

Second jump was easier.  Jump seemed a lot smaller this time.  I kept my upper body as still as possible.  I had issues holding 2 point though and wobbled backward a bit. I wasn’t quite in balance. 

Then the instructor changed things up and had us jump the first cross rail the opposite way, and continue down the line to the 2nd cross rail.    
I tried to watch the other ladies as they did their jumps.  They made it seem easy. 

Then my turn…  The first cross rail went well,  but as soon as the pony landed she started cantering.  I’ve never cantered over a jump before and the second jump was coming up very fast!  I was freaking out.  I was mid-debate with myself about pulling the pony back to a trot or not when suddenly we were at the next cross rail.  It seemed so massive.  At least a 6 foot wall.  I grabbed mane.  Pony soared over it and landed gracefully on the other side.  My heart was thudding in my chest.  I almost wanted to quit at that point.  And yet..  OMG it was fun.  Scary,  but fun! 

Instructor had us come around and try it again.  This time it didn’t seem quite as big of a jump,  nor as terrifying when the pony cantered up to it.  Not quite the smoothest approach to the fence,  but I felt like we stayed in sync a bit better the second time. 

We did that line a couple more times and by the end I felt a lot braver about jumping.  

I’m still not really confident in my 2 point position.  And I had issues with keeping my upper body up when I closed the angle of my hips.  I think it’s lack of strong back muscles.  I was really feeling every back muscle after I got off the pony.  Those were the only muscles that felt sore afterward.

I go back for my second lesson on the 11th. I’m really excited about it.  Really fun group of ladies and I get to challenge my fears and learn new things.  I can’t wait! 

Oh,  I was really pleased that the instructor praised me for staying balanced when the pony jumped the second line of cross rails. She said the strides were off,  or something,  and so pony had to jump from a bad spot.  Instructor said I did a good job of staying out of the way and not messing up the pony’s balance.  I was thinking..   “My motto in life: stay out of the way and keep the peace” 😂 

All in all,  a fantastic group of ladies to ride with,  a safe and well trained pony to learn on, and a knowledgeable instructor who pushed me just outside my comfort zone but not beyond. It waa an exhilarating experience.  Scary, but exhilarating. 

The Death Wish

I’ve had this wild thought in the back of my head for several years now of trying eventing.  

It’s insane.  I’m petrified of jumping.  

It took me 2 years to get comfortable with ground poles.  I spent the first 3 months of of trotting over one ground pole with my eyes clamped shut every time we got close to it and praying until we were over it.  I still can’t canter over one.  

I’m a chicken. 🐔

But,  a mere 2 years later,  and I can now ride 3 or 4 trot poles in a row with my eye’s OPEN,  at least 60% of the time.   😂 

Anyway,  a few weeks ago I went to a local 3 day event to watch.  My real reason was to assess the jumps,  the riders, etc.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,  but fear and other priorities have always held me back.  

When I scoped out the event,  the course looked awesome.  They had this great beginner level course set up that was literally small logs on the ground.  The riders were so freakin’ nice.  I stopped a few people to ask where to go,  or where not to stand,  and everyone happily helped. Just super nice people.

But,  what I really liked…  All the horses were Normal.  A bunch of unknown origin ponies,  a lot of TBs,  several drafty looking crosses.  The riders ranged from the super athletic looking ladies to the large bottomed,  flabbier,  older adult looking riders (they looked like ME!!).  

So,  I thought,  why not?  I can try it once.

Better than always wishing I had and regretting it when it’s too late. 

So I signed up for jumping lessons.  

Then utterly freaked because I don’t have the money.  So i texted everyone I knew asking if they needed work done in exchange for $40. 

I’m pathetic.  

Now I need to find an extra $40 every two weeks over the winter.  Aarrggh! 

I don’t think my friends and family are going to employee me enough to support my riding issues.  

If only I could get overtime pay for overtime work (thank you salary rules 😡 grrr). 

I’ll have to figure something out.  I’d really like to try just one event. At least to know I conquered my fear and made a dream a reality.  I’m never going to be an upper level dressage rider.  Nor do I have the money to afford rated dressage shows.  But competing in one beginner level,  local,  3 day event is something I could cross off the bucket list. 

I may need to start selling blood to make this happen though.  😯

There’s got to be someway I can earn an extra $80/month…

Hunter Clinic

As a poor sap who really doesn’t understand “Hunter land”,  i was a bit lost on the intricacies of the clinic.  However,  man,  was I impressed when the clinician made them all do basic dressage work to start off.  It was nice to see that good fundamentals are fundamentals for everything.  

You know what really shocked me…  Each group lesson was 2 hours long.  

My horse would’ve died.  

I would’ve died.  😂 

Makes me recommitted to doing more endurance work with my horses.  Not that I’ll probably ever do “Hunters”, but mine are exhausted after 20 minutes.  Kind of pathetic after watching these machines go for 2 hours straight. 

Anyway,  first group I watched was rather disheartening.  Didn’t seem able to steer,  stop,  or go.  It was like watching kamikaze fighters dive bombing fences. Scary,  yet mesmorizing. 

Second group was much better.  You could actually see shortening and lengtheing strides,  balancing the horse,  etc.  One of the riders had the most to die for flying changes I’ve ever seen in real life.  Just amazing.  None of the late behind,  shuffle change,  weirdness I sometimes see passed off as flying changes.

Oh,  they even had a few older riders in the mix.  That was cool to see.  One older lady’s chestnut got a bug up its butt and decided to hop,  buck,  around.  That little lady stayed glued to the saddle.  Quite impressive to see.  My heart was in my throat watching it though! 

Hunter world, to me, is a crazed land of perfectionist insanity that both fascinates and appalls me.  😁 


It was interesting to watch the clinic. A lot of good stuff talked about.  Applicable to any horse rider.  I actually learned a few things,  so that was cool.  And as always,  I’ve gained a deeper respect for the difficulties my sister disciplines face.  

Best part EVER… not a single freaking auditing fee!!  *cough* dressage people *cough*  Anyone who wanted to come and learn was welcome to watch.  Even a naive fool like me was welcomed. 

So there I was,  dressage rider,  watching a hunter clinic.  😀

It was fun and educational! 

Who Rode My Pony?!

I swear someone snuck in and trained my pony while I was gone. I don’t know who, but when I find out….

5-53

I came home after a week away to a pony that canters.

AND I can steer at the canter.

AND she’s picking up the correct leads with correct bend both ways (most times)!

It was…. weird.

Happy! But, weird….

She cantered so well, that we actually tried our very first simple change of lead. It was awful, but we trotted when I asked, turned, and she tried really, really hard to offer up the new lead.

Overall, I was thrilled!

I had dreamed of this day! I thought it would never happen!

We have a CANTER!! WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The rider relief is evident…. hahahaha

I think I may have even cried a bit…..

…………

Trot work was O.K. Not great. Not terrible. I need a bigger area to work on getting her connected.

We’re always turning. I tried pushing her forward, and she kept breaking to canter. I think I need a long, straight track to trot her on for awhile.

I love this pony’s walk. 🙂

Photo Bombed!!

I set up two ground poles to trot over. Joy apparently thought we were doing a different discipline instead.

She caught me off guard and I bumped her mouth. 😦

Our haunches-in is getting better!

And more jumping!

I just want to mention that we’ve been doing trot poles for over a year with no issues, but today… these were jumps! Haha

I’m really looking forward to starting lessons in another month or so.  I think the trainer can fix up my riding so Joy can do her job better.  And then, maybe, I can start thinking about entering a schooling show later this year (fingers crossed).

5 minute training video of ride: