Yesterday was my first lesson with my own horse. You know that mixture of excitement and nerves that you felt on your first day of school? That's how I felt going to this lesson, even though my rational brain tried to get my emotions under control. I'm not sure why I felt nervous. My trainer knows me as a rider and she also knows my horse so really it was just the combination of the two of us together that was the new factor.
When I got to the barn I tacked up Casey and then headed out to the arena.
At the beginning of the lesson, we focused on just getting Casey to bend in circles at a walk. My trainer told me that a way to deal with her trying to speed up when there is pressure on her mouth is to just keep pressure on her mouth until she softens into it. Since we were circling, my trainer asked how much pressure (1-10) was I putting on Casey's mouth and when I said 2 & 3 she told me to aim for 6 & 8. This was a struggle for Casey at first; she really fought against it and kept trying to jig, but then she sank into the pressure and got a really nice, relaxed, bending walk. I really need to work on keeping my outside elbow locked to my side and keeping my shoulders back, because once I did those things. Casey magically got a bend.
|Bending at the walk|
After probably 10 minutes of really intense work at a walk (who knew that was a thing? not I) we moved into trotting. Again, we aimed to keep Casey bending in circles. When she picked up the trot she was going at her normal trot speed (aka demon-horse-fast-trot), but as soon as I put my shoulders back she immediately softened into a very nice relaxed trot. Once she was listening and bending in a small circle we continued this around the entire arena. Every time she started to stiffen up and speed up we did more small circles until she softened and slowed. When she was doing really well bending one direction we would switch and go the other direction. We trotted for probably 10 minutes and then let Casey walk.
My trainer then had us do something called "the butterfly exercise." Basically, we used the short side of the arena and would trot to the corner (bending to the inside), then would do a bending half circle, and then move diagonally towards the center point of the short side (switching bend and diagonal) and repeat going the other way. The first time we went through it Casey seemed entirely confused, but then she started getting it and her bending got much better. My trainer says that this exercise is great because it is a little bit hypnotic and so horses get into a really nice bendy-soft trot in it. We did this for about 5 minutes.
|The butterfly exercise|
Then my trainer asked me to canter Casey. The first attempted trot-to-canter transition nearly took both of us out because Casey got really heavy on the forehand and I didn't support her in bending to the inside (plus she was just not paying attention), and so she stumbled and we almost went down. Luckily, she had a smooth recovery and didn't even break out of her trot. The next time I asked her to canter she picked it up perfectly and we did a few laps each direction. My trainer was very impressed with how calm Casey's canter was (because before it was a bit wild and unorganized). She told me that I shouldn't mess with her canter at this point, because as she figures out collection at the trot it will translate into her canter.
And finally, it was time for the jumping! We started with a trot-in, canter-out of the outside lines. We were working on just keeping Casey calm and relaxed up to the jump, avoiding rushing at the second jump. She was very good and so then we did a tiny x-course (outside, diagonal, outside, diagonal). My trainer told me to avoid interfering with Casey's pace before the jump. Since Casey can't collect herself yet any interference from me just messes her up. Casey did really well when I didn't interfere and the issues that she had been having with the blue diagonal jump disappeared once I got out of her way.
Once we were all warmed up my trainer had us do just the outside line (yellow and purple) and she raised the jumps, first to 2'6" and then to 2'9". Even with the jumps raised, Casey stayed calm and relaxed and she acted like it was no big deal to be jumping 2'9". Once we knew that she could handle the higher jumps, the rest of the course got raised to 2'6" (with the yellow jump remaining at 2'9") and we did a course (outside, diagonal, diagonal, outside). Casey was really good and though it seemed to tire her, she kept going until the end of the course. She didn't rush the jumps at all! I actually think that she is better behaved over the big jumps than she is over the little jumps. I did notice over the course that she really likes to take the long distance and that she avoids chipping. When I mentioned that to my trainer she said that it was a good thing because she'd rather have a horse jump long than chip badly. After a little cool-down we did the same course, but subbed in the brush (which is basically a solid fence jump with fuzzy green "brush" stuff on top) and that was the only thing that threw Casey off. She basically half-heartedly tried to run out and then realized that she couldn't run out and so jumped it. I don't know that she has ever jumped that jump before so I think that she handled somewhat decently. She kept her head together and didn't melt down (and she didn't stop, thank goodness). After that course we let her be done.
We walked around to cool down and after that Casey got lots of cookies and love. She was so good! There is a lot of work still to be done, but she really was a rock star in our first lesson. I learned many good tools and tips that I can use on my own with Casey and she definitely showed her athleticism. I think that she was sore by the end of the lesson, but considering that she is only a month into working after more than a year of no work, she really is getting fit.
So many pats for the good horsie
My plan is to work with Casey by myself 5 times a week and then have a lesson every other week with my trainer. In a perfect world, I would have two lessons a week, but I just don't have that kind of money lying around right now so a lesson every other week will do for now.
|Tired at the end of the lesson|