Last night's ride was insanely productive. If not for Prairie, than definitely for me. Not only did we canter baby cavaletti like a normal horse, we strung together a full course in the indoor and managed to have a balanced, ground-patting stride the whole way around with lead changes. It did wonders for my confidence.
Admittedly the jumps were wee to start with, but by the end when we put them up a bit, I still felt like I had an incredibly balanced, responsive, totally controlled horse under me.
I'm still fairly certain that Prairie's reasonableness can be attributed to the confines of the indoor - which means it might quickly evaporate in the (much) larger show ring this weekend... but I don't care. I feel like a functional, capable and not a totally-horrid rider again. (yay).
So what was our lesson?
We started with reviewing our basics for our flat classes. Worked through our general transitions, adjusting P2 between her HUS and Eq frames and nitpicking my bad equitation habits (of which there are PLENTY). Prairie was a bit strong and on her forehand, so I worked on finessing her back without any large tantrums.
Then, we started working over our cavaletti as a warmup and started putting some courses together. Here was our ring set up. Mind you, this is a 20x40m arena (maybe). Possibly a smidge smaller. Prairie eats up the long side in about 5 strides. 7 if I try really hard to collect her up.
What you see here are two red cavalettis (one with CONES under it), a blue plank vertical, a purple vertical with flowers and a skinny white wall.
What you can't see (because my "drawing" skills are limited) is that both the Wall and the Flower jump had really tight angles either between other jumps or out of the corners. So to sum up? Prairie was going to have to SLOW DOWN and sit back if we were going to do anything other than charge through all the jumps.
In turn that meant that I had to sit back and ride instead of just hoping that things went well.
While I keep saying that the confined space was great for Prairie's mind, I think that I have to admit that the looming walls were just a helpful for mine.
I rode my corners, I gassed the mare in our rollbacks, I support her with my outside aids and low and behold, she did FANTASTICALLY. Even when the jumps went up, she stayed with me (with the exception of some motorcycle like turns from 3 to 4) and managed to come back from every tight turn in a balanced, controlled package. I only totally lost it and missed a jump once (#5 - we took a long spot on 4 and had no shot of getting straight in 3 strides..).
It wasn't all glorious, but it was really encouraging. For one thing it was rad to feel Prairie sit down and wait for the jumps after our last ocuple weeks of what I can only assume are rage blackouts as she approaches a fence/cavaletti/pole. It was also great to feel Prairie getting some of her leads on her own (both over the fence and in the corners), and when she didn't our simple changes were respectable and less tragic than they have been.
I doubt all of this will stick with us in a larger ring and I know that the quick recovery will be challenging without our new bff (the martingale), but that's ok. At least I know that in the right circumstances the mare can actually use her brain (a little) and eventually that will happen more often.