Sunday, May 27, 2018

XC Lesson with Kelly

I was a Princess today. Ha! Beth had mentioned XC schooling at Chatt Hills today a few weeks ago. So I put it on my calendar and was super excited. And then she cancelled because of the weather. I was so bummed. I thought about going by myself (or dragging Mike as a grounds person) but I know we're so out of practice and I would need help. Beth was teaching at Ashland but... I really wanted someplace different. I know that I can learn things and improve over the jumps at Ashland but I really just wanted a change of pace. (I know... I'm so spoiled... Ashland rocks... I'm so blessed!) So I messaged Kelly to see if she could teach at Cedar Ridge and she said yes! Luckily the weather cooperated and we got in a great school. 

Well, it was a great school but it was tough. It was disconcerting how "Off" we are. Well, I am. I don't know what happened but suddenly I want the deep spot instead of the flyers and now he feels too fast to me. Ugh... To be honest, both of us were a bit chicken today. BUT.... we worked through some things and made big progress. And Danny is a saint! I so love this horse!

So... we started off by him spooking and WAY overjumping the little ditch/stream of swamp water on our way to the XC field. Hee hee. But he did jump it. It took some convincing and it would have been at least one XC stop, but he did it. We did it twice but then headed to our lesson. Kelly had driven ahead and I didn't want to keep her waiting. We started off warming up and reminded Dan that leg means go. Shock and Awe! One of these days I hope to not have to remind him EVERY ride, but.. today was not that day. And that's okay. I need to be more consistent. I've gotten much better at doing it at the start of every ride, but as the ride goes on, I get a little less demanding in how little pressure I want to use to get a response. Which is totally not fair to him. As Kelly said today "that's a C". (Side bar... she mentioned my position was a B, which is good... and I said Nope... no it's not. I told her that I was a straight A student and B's were not acceptable. So... she then said my position was an A minus... really not bad and certainly not affecting Dan in any way but that if I wanted an A plus.....hence the C grade). So anyways, back to shock and awe. I need to taper it too. So... in the beginning, during transitions... shock and awe for sure. But out on course... if he's sluggish between fences, use my whip behind my leg and get a response. Just make sure I have enough time before the fence to resituate. And then, if he's been super but it's the end of the course and he's a little tired... and he doesn't respond, maybe instead of a "smack" I give him more of a cheerleading tap. So... useful information, especially as in an effort to be the straight A student I tend to go overboard... I need to hear that so my brain can focus on that and not be bonkers. 

So anyways, back to the lesson. We worked on my 2 point position. Kelly said that I tend to be a bit ahead of the motion. And I laughed as I was noticing that in a lot of my pictures. I feel like my position isn't bad (especially after reading the Jimmy Wofford article about galloping position and not standing in the stirrups) but that I was ahead of the motion a bit. I tended to hover about the withers rather than above the saddle. Kelly had me look down at my feet during my A minus position (Really, it's a B position but she was being nice). And I couldn't see my toes. They were JUST peeking out from my knee. Then she had me kick my feet a little ahead of me, and push my butt a little behind and that was my A plus position. However, I had to be careful not to let my shoulders drop too much or get sucked into the fetal position. She said this kept me closer to the tack too as I tended to make too big of movements. Then she had me look at my feet again. OH!! I can see almost my arch and all my toes. OHHHhhhhhhh... I didn't realize it was that big of a difference. So... now I have a visual check when I'm riding. 

So we started over the little baby tootsie rolls and worked on my position and making sure Danny was in front of my leg and responding to my leg. He was a good boy and I sort of got it figured out. Kelly said that I needed to get more bend in my ankle (Which is funny because I don't think I've ever heard that... but I get what she's saying). My ankles are bendy but I tend to put the weight on my toes rather than letting it sink into my heels. My ankles are bendy so it LOOKS like I have nicely bent ankles but I'm not actually using them like it's intended. I'm still sitting on my toes. So....she wanted me to sink my weight into my heels and know that my leg will move up and down a bit as my ankle moves as my weight goes into it. Then she said that I was really good at bending at the waist and in the ankle but my knee didn't seem to want to bend as much, so... if I felt like I was getting too "fetal position" or too "jockey style" or hunkered down... to make sure my knees were bending. 

Gracious! That's a lot to think about! So we started a little mini course and of course, I got a little too hunkered in the tack and abandoned Dan but once we got that figured out it got better. We started out okay and then she had us jump what I thought was a fairly substantial training level ramp jump. I hate ramps! She said it was novice height but could be on a training course. We walked up to it and discussed the theory of it. It's basically an oxer. Heck, almost EVERY XC course out there is an oxer or a vertical. Mostly square and ascending oxers though. So therefore, I didn't need to ride it as anything but. That helped. So we came around and the first time over it we nailed it!! Now granted, it felt a little fast and strung out but he jumped it right out of stride and it was lovely! And then... the next two times it was not good. I got too carried away with getting him in front of my leg and taking the flyer that I ran him at it and jumped up his neck a stride early. Luckily he is a saint and kept going over it both times, thus saving my hide. So we regrouped and attempted some other fences and fixed the issue. Basically what it boiled down to was a few things. One, I was being a bit of a chicken. Two, Dan was being a bit of a chicken. He wasn't quite confident jumping out of stride like that. Which is interesting, because both of us used to be much braver. But maybe that's because the fences were smaller. Maybe it's because we both have improved and our canter has improved and we realize we need a better canter. Who knows?! But we both chickened out a bit. Danny was better than me and it was more of a slight hesitation before take off and/or patting the ground rather than stopping. The other issue was that I was running him at it a bit in an effort to get him in front of my leg and totally forgot about balancing him. And I was riding to a spot vs riding the canter. So we tried again and got a much better jump even if it was a bit deeper of a spot. Kelly said it was perfect because the rhythm never changed and he jumped right out of stride. I told her it felt less "frantic" but like we didn't have quite enough impulsion. She said that perhaps yes we could have had more energy, but really, he jumped it out of stride and nicely so be glad with that! So we did a few more little courses, including through the water, and he was good. We worked out some kinks and once I started riding rather than just trying so hard to do exactly as she said.... it got great. Not that what she said wasn't important or worth following, just that I had to do that but also balance the canter and keep my shoulders up and count and etc. I had to RIDE. 

Phew... it was hard work for us both. But in the end, we got some really nice jumps and it built both of our confidences. :) Yay!

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