Friday, April 18, 2014

We ARE the Cool Kids

I tacked up in jumping gear…  I was ready for an over fences experience, but I was mourning the fancy new bridle’s fate to hang in my locker for the evening.  (Why should it matter?  It’s not like I can see what is on my pony’s face while I’m riding…)  For fun, let’s review my current jumping get up:
Cotton pad, gel pad, and saddle – nothing out of the ordinary yet…
Double end elastic girth – still not so bad
Purple Biothane breast collar – because it is THE best fitting breast collar we have, and we need to attach to *something*
Running Martingale – we’re going to use this for a while just to see what sort of difference it does or doesn’t make
Brown bridle with be-ribboned brow band and rubber reins – fun, or what?

Then Coach says, “There’s no reason you can’t jump in your dressage bridle.  Grace is doing it, tonight, too.”
Watch me succumb to peer pressure just because I want to…

As if that change didn’t make us cool enough, we got even cooler!  Coach decided we needed to head into the indoor to talk about our dressage tests and to run through them once or twice.  During my first run-through, I forgot my first canter transition.  Oops!

On my second run through, I took my reins by the buckle, and then grasped my breast collar to minimize cheating.  Just for fun.  I rode through my entire test this way…  I picked up my left rein twice:
1) when she decided we should turn right rather than finish the last ¼ of our canter circle.
2) when she gave me the downward transition to trot on the long side, but decided to pick up the canter again just because it was more fun.

Let it be known that Coach’s first comment as we turned down centerline (with effectively no reins!) was, “You’re not quite on centerline…”  Her commentary later suggested that while the geometry left a little to be desired, the test was definitely recognizable, and our rhythm remained consistent.  And that I could definitely ride the pony in a neck rope.
Yes, folks, we really are the cool kids!

We moved outside, where things became pretty freestyle.  I decided today is the day the training wheels would come off of our skinny!  I cantered through the grid several times (which started as just poles on the ground) before attempting our single barrel.  It was flanked by a single standard.  She ran out the first time, so we tried again from the trot.  Sneaky Coach came through and put alternating single cross-rail poles in the grid when we weren’t looking.  I really love it when that happens!   It really makes you think about whether you have the right elements going in rather than assuming you do and relying on the last trip to have kept it all together.

The grid isn’t for the horse.  The grid is for me.  The horse knows how to jump from a balanced place if I can just stay out of her way.  The grid gets by balance down, my shoulders back, my hands un-stuck, and all of my shock-absorbing joints loose.  Once I’m together, my horse is set up for greater success over the next challenge.  I think this is why we have been more successful over the single barrel from the short approach than from the longer approach.  Less time to lose all the parts and pieces!

By the end of the day, I was riding the grid to a line of cross-rail-to-barrel or the grid to the line of barrel-to-cross-rail with equal ease.  There was nothing flanking that lonely barrel.  She could have bailed against all my wishes at any approach.  Instead, the Fancy Pony considered the question with my suggestions for a solution, and answered it willingly.  She played along because I asked her to.
And THAT is the coolest part of it all!

Stay tuned for video of our skinny barrel negotiation…

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