Today was my first lesson with PNT (Potential New Trainer) which will probably be PNT (Permanent New Trainer), so I think he rates an initial now.
Last night I popped P over a couple jumps just to remind him that we still do this. Unfortunately I only got over 2 because the ring was literally infiltrated by 7+ kids for a group lesson.
My favorite part is when I start to say “Excellent” after P lands from the vertical….aaaaaannnndddd he bolts. I love the little ponies scattering.
So I was a wee bit nervous for our first jump lesson with someone who thinks these are acceptable things to jump:
My lesson was at 1 and Google Maps said the barn was 1 hour away, so I decided to play it safe and leave at 11:20. That would give me plenty of time to figure out where to go and give P some extra time in case he was nervous.
Turns out being chronically early for everything is smart.
I have an awning on my trailer (manual) that is aweeesome and I use it at practically every horse show. The fabric ripped awhile ago (parked semi under a tree during a storm) and while it’s still usable, the vinyl around the ripped part has been slowly peeling. But I’ve hauled a bunch and it’s never given me any issues.
Fast forward to today: on my way to a super important lesson where I’d ideally like to make a good first impression, heading down a fairly busy road towards the highway, I see my awning unraveling out of my rear view mirror. So I pulled over and when it wouldn’t stay rolled up, figured I should just cut it off because it needed to be replaced anyway. And oh yeah, I HAD TO GO.
Of course my NEW scissors (3rd pair in as many weeks) were missing, so I grabbed some baling twine and tied it around the rolled up awning in 3 places, and then continued on my way. My friend was meeting me at the lesson to observe so I texted her to please bring a knife or scissors. Nothing like first impressions, huh?
Of course, the entire 26 miles on the highway was nerve wracking because the awning was desperate to escape the twine:
Thankfully we got there without any further excitement, tacked up, warmed up, then it was time to begin!
We warmed up W/T/C so Trainer B could see how he moved, then he asked what specifically we struggled with. I told him our confidence in one another sort of ebbed and flowed. He’s not a packer by any sense of the imagination, and he’s also super cautious with a high sense of self-preservation. But sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes when he feels hesitant to a jump, I’ll feel it and rather than RIDE (which is actually what he needs), I go into defensive mode, where I tighten up my whole body so I don’t get thrown WHEN he stops. And then he stops. And I get sad.
I also explained that he was out of my care for about 6 weeks, in which the rider (who was not supposed to ride him…literally a condition of him being there to be sold) was very tough on his mouth, and that we had been just working on the flat since I got him back, with the exception of the 2 fences last night. So I said I’d like to go back to the very basics to have his reintroduction over fences solid before putting anything more complex together.
Oh yeah, and please don’t kill us.
It was excellent. I’m going to post snippets from the helmet cam below (whittled 1 hour and 11 minutes to 7….warning, it’s incredibly boring) in case anyone out there has a green horse or a horse that needs to go back to basics and wants some exercise ideas from someone who knows what they’re talking about. The first 1:35 is just cantering each direction for our warmup- the facility is gorgeous!
The best part is that for Trainer B, P was NOT perfect like he always is for Trainer J. He had nervous moments, times that he didn’t want to listen and even refused the first cross rail!
Not that I’m happy that he refused, but at least he didn’t put on his whole, “I’m perfect” façade that he does sometimes.
He was also super rushy to the x-rail, not so much to the plank for whatever odd reason that only exists in P’s twisted little mind. So the first thing we did was trot the plank, come down to a walk, pat him, back up to a trot, rollback towards the x-rail, then down to a walk IF he started to rush (spoiler alert: he rushed the cross-rail pretty much every single time), walk over the cross rail, turn toward the plank and trot it, then back to walk.
By the end of it, P was coming back to me as soon as I asked. The key was timing, and being that I’m fairly rusty (i.e. having not jumped him on a regular basis since pretty much November), that’s my homework.
Because he’s so nervous and rushy, holding steady contact over fences is too much for him now. So he had me keep contact before the fence, exaggerate my release over the fence, then keep it relaxed if he landed nicely. If he landed and bolted, he had me take a very firm hold to whoa him. P hates having his mouth yanked on and while I didn’t actually yank, it did work to get him more sensitive. When I hang on him, he tunes me out. If I give and take, he pays attention and it needed to be a dramatic give or take to really get him listening (he said I’m too soft with him…very true). This was drilled into me by the last person I worked with on jumping, so I just need to practice to get my timing down better again.
So Trainer B zeroed in on that P is a nice horse, and that he’s athletic enough to get around the lower levels just fine the way he is. He said if we wanted to go jump a course tomorrow, we’d probably leave all the rails up. BUT- it’s best to go back to the beginning for now, because 1) It won’t take long to get him back to where he was before, and 2) These exercises will help him to realize he’s not allowed to rush before and after jumps (forever an issue), which will give us more control in stadium, especially through turns and combinations. Sounds like a win to me!
So then thankfully he left to go to the other arena on the other side of the barn to teach his next lesson, and I could cut my awning off in peace.
The arms of the awning had seemed slightly wobbly on the way up, so I double checked that all the locks and knobs were tight before setting off for home. Though I opted to take the back roads route this time, even though it was slightly longer. Gut instinct, I suppose.
Gut was correct, because this happened not even 5 minutes away:
Luckily I was on a pretty much deserted road and NOT on a highway where this could have hit a car or something (shudder), and I was able to pull off right away. And also luckily, duct tape fixes everything!
Made it home without further incident, but needless to say, trailer is going to the trailer shop ASAP.
Thankfully husband comes home tonight, so I will most certainly be able to ride pretty much every day for the next 2 weeks. I’ve been managing to ride nearly every day as it is, but not being rushed will be majikal.
So my homework is to pretty much repeat this exercise ad nauseam until my timing is spot on and P is expiring from boredom. Then we’ll reconvene in perhaps a week or so, and move on.
I’m determined not to let my dressage go to the wayside though, so I’ve got to be better than I have in the past about splitting my time between the fun stuff (jumping) and dressage.