I had a really lovely ride last night. This is a jumping week, we’ve actually had a couple week break from jumping due to the transition from the Summer location to the Winter barn, but this week they had the indoor set up with jumps finally. I feel like I’m making progress, of course I still have a looooong way to go to get even back to where I was in my former riding life. And really, are we ever finished making progress and improving in anything that requires any effort or technique or whatever? Anyway, so after a short warm up, Alison started putting together little jump courses for us. First let me say that I’ve been working on canter transitions with Lulu and these have gotten SO much better. She picks up the canter pretty much right away for me now and we also almost always get the correct lead, even on her “bad” side. It’s not perfect by any means, but really I feel like it’s 100% better than it was just a few weeks ago. I’ve either improved a lot or have learned how Lulu needs to be ridden. Probably some combination of both.
Anyway, so back to jumping. The very first time I jumped Lulu, back when I was trying her out when thinking about leasing her, I had a blast. But I also felt like I was fighting with her over the fences, really battling her to not rush the jumps. And then I think something clicked with me the day we did the “Ladies Outing” to the cross-country course. We ended that day with such a wonderful, lovely collected course round that I’ve had in my head ever since. It’s amazing how a near perfect and wonderful-feeling and thrilling jump course can stay with you like that. Anyway, so it’s been in my head ever since and it was in my head last night while I jumped too. Jumping in the indoor was a different experience, since it’s smaller, the turns are tighter and you end up at each jump much sooner. So it doesn’t leave you much room for disorganization, you have to think constantly and plan carefully and react quickly. And remaining balanced and collected becomes even more important too. So it was a blast, I made a point of collecting Lulu before each fence, trying to keep her quiet and organized around the turns, etc. And I think we did a pretty good job over all. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and I still need to work on plenty of stuff, including my body position, but I think I’m getting it. I think the body position has improved a bit too, even though it still needs work. A couple of months ago I was throwing myself forward quite a bit and doing this big crest release even over the tiniest of jumps. I think I am now more balanced and my release is more reasonable, but I have to constantly remind myself and think about my position. But when I do, and when I keep Lulu balanced and collected towards a fence, everything usually works out very, very well and feels pretty fantastic (there is just nothing like having a successful jump course, the adrenalin alone will have me gasping for breath). One thing that I am very careful about is hand position, no matter what happens on a jump, I am very careful about not catching Lulu (or any horse) in the mouth. Even if we catch an awkward distance and I get left slightly behind, I seem to automatically slip my reins so that she isn’t chucked in the mouth. It makes it more difficult on the other side of the fence of course, because you are then in a position of the horse galloping away and you’ve got no contact at all, so it’s a scramble to gather up the reins quickly, but still it’s preferable to the alternative. I’ve never heard Alison correct me here, where I HAVE heard her correct others for catching a horse in the mouth, even suggesting that someone “grab mane” to make sure their hand position ends up in the right place, or that they don’t get left behind with that result. But she’s never had to do that with me, so that must be one thing that I’m doing right at least.
Anyway, so I felt last night that each course we did was a little better than the one before. I am no longer fighting with Lulu down to a fence. She is a bit strong, but does collect and listen to me and we’re much more of a team. And it’s FUN! Boy is it fun! Thrilling and fun. And we’re just jumping pretty small stuff right now. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel if I ever graduate to bigger stuff.