Following abnormally warm weather, today was wet, cold, and miserable and a nice day to ride in the toasty indoor ring. Which was why we were enjoying the wet and windy weather in the puddle filled outdoor… (by the time my lesson started, we enjoyed all these things under the lights).
It’s never a good sign when I show up and am immediately warned by some of the other students that EVERYONE has fallen off today, including the trainer’s daughter who was bucked off by one of her ponies. Great. So I grabbed a mud covered grey and brown paint version of Ranger, worked on grooming, and contemplated my escape. Eventually he was clean and the rider in the lesson before came in and chanting, “I DIDN’T FALL OFF! I DID’T FALL OFF! I DIDN’T FALL OFF!” I’m pretty sure there were cheers… That can’t be a good sign. Her mom told me things were crazy out there and asked if she was sure I wanted to go out…. That made me wonder if NOT falling off was the success of the lesson, not the that the lesson was fabulous…
Anyway, I looked at Ranger, stuffed in his mouth, tossed on my helmet, put on his bridle, and headed out to see my fate…
A lunge lesson was finishing up and a 5 year old was battle her once slow now speedy pony around the ring at the canter. As I walked in the ring, my trainer looked at me and said, “I have to warn you, it hasn’t been a good day.” Way to instill confidence… Ranger and I took off trotting and I could see what she meant. His attention was NOT on me. But we trotted and trotted and trotted. And trotted through puddles where I insisted he use as much energy as possible (he did NOT appreciate that that was the only stop he could speed up — the HARD PLACE — but still, his attention was NOT on me. And things didn’t improve when the lunge lesson and the 5 year old headed out for a short walk around one of the fields and proceeded to leave the gate WIDE OPEN which angered Ranger immensely. He tried to insist on leaving the ring and then when he realized that was NOT happening, he tried to speed towards the gate. Yeah, no. Gate was soon closed but speeding attempts continued so we added some halts and backs much to his chagrin… We eventually added some circles, but while they looked decent, he was never really with me. That said, he was lovely at the canter which lately has been our best gait. Leg required through out sticky, puddle side, some upward tugs required heading towards the in gate, because gate = fast, but nothing that took much effort.
We started working back and forth over our outside single. First starting the “easy” direction then the hard way. First time was actually perfect mostly because we didn’t rush and I didn’t overthink. It’s amazing how that works. Now if only we could end there. Second, “hard” direction, was less lovely but… effective? Mostly we worked on upward tugs to keep him from dropping his monster head and dragging me to the fence. But, the spot was ugly so in my opinion = fail. Evidently the exercise was not about the spot but about the ride and the ride was fine, but… since it didn’t all come together… I don’t like bad spots and I have appear to have an abnormally good eye so not that we’re making me adjust too many other things, I’d not always able to adjust to the spot I should get and I HATE IT. Evidently I’ll get back there once I get used to getting him back on his butt… Grr. Repeat first “easy” direction and instead of being good it sucked. I turned late, didn’t ride to the spot I saw, rode the right side of the jump, chipped it, yeesh. Ugh. I think we repeated this and then when I remembered to TURN (and use both hands) and give the TINIEST of tug ups in the corner because a certain pinto was convinced he knows EVERYTHING, the jump worked. Amazing. When I do things right things work? Then the hard way I got him on his butt with some tugs, allowed him to move up and get a bit forward because it was just easier and he was extending, not pulling, and thankfully the jump worked.
We then did this same lovely exercise with our straw bales. First time going towards the road the jump was fine, but SOMEONE decided to act abnormally and drag on the landing (going away from the barn?!). So we eventually halted, backed hard, and repeated the jump (to a less great spot that I tried not to dwell on but dwell indeed since I’m remembering it now). Landed, got a lovely halt (I lifted coming in since he was trying to drag me to something in the corner… the jump, the gate, who knows….), backed just because and then was told to do it the hard way…. Strangely enough, the hard way, heading DIRECTLY TO THE GATE, was actually easier? Mostly because we weren’t picking up our canter while heading to the gate and had time to stabilize? He was forward, but listened and got off his front end and the jump felt fabulous.
We then moved to the “hard” inside line which, once I figured this line out 2 weeks ago (when it took most of the lesson), it stopped being hard. The line was super easy (it’s a stay out on the rail forever and then turn with both hands. The line does NOT work if you turn early — well, you can get the second jump to work, but the first jump doesn’t work) and the height didn’t bother me at all! I even forgot about the puddles.
We ended with the evil jump, Straw bales around the stupid boogey jump (the weird inside single that Ranger likes to bolt towards half the time). The turn is hard mostly because I turn way too late and then add the fact that I’m usually trying to prevent someone from taking off… Mostly I have a fear of this jump. Bribe was jump well and end… Gahh. So, we did the straw bales towards the road landing correctly (thank you Ranger!) and I actually remembered to turn my head AND tug up a couple of times. The turn was supposedly perfect though I was a bit conservative and the spot wasn’t quite there (I held more than I needed to because I don’t trust him AT ALL on this jump). But, thankfully we’re focusing on the ride, not the distance and it was awful (I wasn’t thrilled, but when am I if the spot isn’t perfect?). But we decided to take it as I did what I was asked to do.
But we are poorly behaved when we want to GO OUT or EAT TREATS
All in all, we were successful and supposedly won the night. We did much more than stay on and had a fairly normal and strong lesson. I love Ranger. He’s fun and just enough of a challenge to keep things interesting. And we get along. As my trainer said, we’re soulmates. Though, it’s really just all the treats I stuff into him to keep him tolerating me…