Well, I have to say yesterday was just freakin' FABULOUS for me.
It being Thursday, it was my regular lesson day, and even though I have been riding Champ two and three times a week for the past couple weeks, I still needed my lesson to work on jumping.
Of course it was completely clear, brilliantly sunny, freezing cold --the coldest day of this week -- and WINDY. The wind was ridiculous at my house in the suburbs, but it was close to insane out in rural Powhatan county. Nice. Remember what I said about this not being my favorite weather to ride in?
But Champ was a sweetheart for me, getting ready. He even stood quietly and munched his breakfast while not tied in the cross ties. I brushed the shavings out of his coat, he spilled grain everywhere, it was all good. I was really afraid he would be way waaay forward in the ring, where the wind is terrible, but our warmup was pretty good. A couple circuits of a competition-sized ring with no stirrups at the trot, some circles and bending lines (still with no stirrups -- ow!), and then some canter work, in which he started to feel like a freight train, and as per my usual mental response, I started getting nervous. But, I decided I could handle this, and although he felt strong, I was going to stay in control.
We worked on a course of nine fences set at 18" to 2'3". My lesson counterpart, Allison, has been riding a long time, and can jump four feet with whatever horse she is riding, even do it without stirrups, which to me is an insane marvel. She took Promise over the course with a steady, comfortable pace, nice rhythm, the kind of thing that makes jumping a lot of fun. I thought, man, why can't *I* have that kind of control? I would love to feel secure and calm going over these fences, and not like I am steering a runaway freight train! But then it was my turn, and I figured I'd hope for the best, but I was determined to jump all the fences all in a row without stopping, no matter what it looked like.
And I did! Well, we had one refusal, which was really due to my not making a smooth left turn into the oxer, and overshooting it by a little -- enough to make Champ think, "What? What are we doing? Oh. Uh, I'm not sure, I better stop here." It wasn't a bad stop at all, more like a slowing down to a speed at which he could not safely and smoothly jump. So we circled around and approached it again, and he jumped it this time, no problem. And then we went on to my favorite (not!), the one-stride combination, where we got over it no problem, but his effort over the second fence was enough to bounce me out of the saddle a little, and I lost my left stirrup. Still determined to keep going, I turned him toward the last two obstacles, an easy line of two fences with a couple strides in between. I had a decent number of strides to get to the first of those two fences, so I worked on regaining my stirrup, turning, maintaining my pace, looking for the fence, and getting him straight to the approach.
Stadium jumping is a brain workout.
Success! I got my foot in the stirrup a couple strides before the fence, jumped it, two strides to the last fence, jumped that, and we were done! Victory gallop!
The whole course was rhythmic, mostly balanced, timely, and mostly smooth. It was so comfortable and so confidence-building! Then my trainer took us out back into the mares' pasture for cross-country schooling on her selection of small and inviting fences. I jumped around seven fences, uphill, downhill, in the shade and in the light, through the trees, and over some scary-looking steel barrels next to a ditch. It was SO. MUCH. FUN. The last time I rode a cross-country course, in 1996 at Foxcroft, I was so terrified, I was crying. This was so much better! I felt all Olympic-like, even though my fences were incredibly teeny.
I wish I had pictures, though. Champ was a total blast to ride and such a sweetie. I finally feel like I might have faith in a horse, like he is someone I can trust.
The rest of the day was untouchable. I felt amazing all afternoon! And I even managed to score, for cheap, the elusive hunter green polo shirt for my cross-country ride! And it was Pi Day, too, so I made a chocolate cream pie (which didn't fully set, so it was more like chocolate pudding).
Really fabulous. I had a great day.