Friday, January 25, 2013

Hitting Our Stride (literally)

I won't invoke "hitting our stride" in the figurative sense quite yet.  While I think Prairie and I have come so far in the last 10 months, we have a ways to go in achieving that magical-oneness still. 

But we are hitting our literal stride quite consistently these days.  This morning, after a pretty light (in terms of cardio) lesson last night I opted to set a few jumps and work on my eye and jumping from different distances (read - not always burying us to the base and jumping out from underneath every fence..).

I realized (as I was dragging jumps out) that this was the first time since high school that I was going to jump outside the structure of a lesson or clinic.  Growing up I schooled over fences alone all the time.  Such was the advantage of having my horses at home and only having a trainer out once or twice each week.  But then in college we rode at a barn that had a (reasonable) policy of no jumping without a trainer present and after college I veered off into Dressage never to look beyond the odd cavaletti here or there.

But our current barn doesn't mandate that you participate in a training program which means everyone can pretty much do whatever they want with their horses whenever they want.  Handy if you aren't writing checks for full training all the time...

Regardless, this was still the first time I felt confident enough in myself, and more importantly in Prairie, to think that it would be productive to work over fences on our own.  I didn't feel even a sliver of doubt or concern so I set my fences to 3'3" (with one warm up X) and tacked up. 

We warmed up focusing on our straightness and worked the spiral in/leg yield out exercise from our dressage lesson last week which also makes me focus on my own straightness (super needed)...

After a few transitions, which felt pretty crisp and clean we popped over the X a few times, reset it to a vertical and got to work. 

We started in my comfortable teeny, tiny canter and worked on adding strides and getting our leads. I had the jumps set such that I could figure-eight back and forth over them forever which helped us settle into a rhythm and keep working

After about 10 minutes I let the mare stop and breathe before stepping outside my comfort zone, and pushing the mare forward.  I even got my ass out of the saddle and rode her up to a bigger stride and maintained a two-point.  Getting myself totally out of the tack is one helpful way to restrict the amount of half-halting, driving, and jamming the stride that I like to do so much...

Miracle of miracles, Prairie didn't bat an eye.  Just fluid, relaxed jumps, followed by fluid relaxed turns, followed by more fluid relaxed jumps.

Then I REALLY pushed Prairie to open up to her "natural" stride and we bounded across the arena in very few strides, but maintained our balance and adjustability.  I love that Prairie is getting confident enough to take off from longer distances and she understands me when I give her the "yes, that distance" squeeze to move up. 

I'm proud to say that we only had one (minor) scoot that was the result of hitting some deep footing which caused the mare to slip a little.  Slipping still sends her into outer space, and rightfully so, but she did manage to recover and come back to me before the next fence. 

We still struggled with our left to right lead changes, but I opted to not fixate on them since I was succeeding at my task of working off my eye and increasing Prairie's stride. 

But, me being me, I just couldn't leave well enough alone.  Having totally rocked our initial goal/focus for the day I was starting to get really agitated by the "no right lead" thing and decided to pick at it a little bit. 

I pulled out of our never ending figure eight and worked singularly over one fence on the diagonal, which suggested that Prairie should switch to her right lead over the fence.  We rolled back to that fence probably 5 times before I got her straight enough to allow her to change, and when we got it she got huge pats and we quit for the day. 
"I can't reach the cookies in your pocket when you stand over there"
Things that I love:

1) this mare.
2) feeling comfortable schooling 3'3" on our own, totally no big deal
3) Prairie opening her stride without losing her mind.
4) quiet mornings at the barn.

It's so easy for me to get frustrated about her changes, because I know if we started nailing those every time we would have a very rewarding show season ahead of us.  But I also know that we are growing by leaps and bounds and my comfort and partnership with this mare is only just now starting to gel.  My timing is getting better, I'm tuning into her footfalls and better able to predict her reactions...

Aside from our changes, everything is feeling more consistent and reliable.  It's so rewarding to hit a training period where the hard work starts falling into place.  We've got to be coming to the end of our fun little plateau, or at least we should be.  I need to step it up and push us forward again.  But coasting for just a little, and basking in our small successes is just too much fun. 

Too fun.


  1. That's awesome she is progressing so well. Keep up the good work!

  2. Oooooh!! You are so brave, very cool. :)

  3. Awesome progress for you both! It's especially telling that you were able to pick on the leads with success when that wasn't your original plan (often things fall apart when we change or add to our plan and want to school just one more thing, right?).

    You remind me of when I first felt confident enough to jump school on my own. It wasn't that long ago, being a re-rider of sorts. It's a great feeling. Now, I'm back to basics and not working anything other than flat on my own since I have a green baby (just coming 4) who has barely been schooled over poles and cavelletti. I am happy about this, given his age, but some days it feels like a step back. You are a good reminder to be patient, it takes hard work and it will come in due time.

  4. Sounds awesome! Congrats on a good jump school.

  5. Yay miss mare!!! :) Love that you are "hitting your stride" together!


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