In Which I Do Not Completely Suck…

I have jumping pictures and I feel pretty good about them. They are awfully blurry because they’re stills taken from video. This is one of the first times I’ve looked at pictures of myself riding and NOT thought, “Oh, wow, I suck.” There’s always room for improvement, so feel free to give me some tips.

# 1
Picture # 1:  I like this one the best because of his ears. They’re pricked! Doesn’t he look happy and like he enjoys his job? I think we look like we’re working as a team.
Picture # 2
Picture #2 – The moment before take-off. I can’t tell if my heel is down far enough because of the blur. I’m in 2 point with my eyes and chest up. I have a feeling my heel could be driven down further.
Picture # 3
Picture # 3 – I think my heel has dropped down in this one. Chest and eyes up, having a blast!
Picture # 4

Picture # 4 – My heel is definitely down in this one. It looks like I managed to stay upright and still give him enough room to follow through with his head. I can tell because there’s a little slack in the reins. Even though he’s looking down, I managed to keep my head and eyes up. Also, notice the suicidal cat who decided to sprint directly across our path.

I have a ton more pictures, but they look almost identical. My position stays the same over and over on the jumps. I know I can improve, but at least I’m consistent. My leg pretty much stays put and I keep my head up. I’m excited to jump higher, but I really want to be as perfect as possible at crossrails first.
By the way, I freaking love this. I’m addicted. All I can think about is getting back out to the barn again!

My new horse friends…

This is Oakley.

We’re in love. Well, I’m in love with her and she tolerates me. I bring her and Baron an apple every day and I hose them both off during my lunch break. She’s an OTTB, rescued from auction. Her body style reminds me a lot of Baron. Once she gets some muscle and gets a few adjustments, I think she’s going to be a really nice horse. I’m hoping I’ll get to ride her at some point. Her show name is Chilean Princess, which I think fits her better than Oakley. She’s a bit of a diva, but the chiro said she’s in a lot of pain and that is probably why she seems irritable.

This is John.

He’s a large Welsh pony, not sure exactly how tall, and he’s the one I’ve been riding while Baron is laid up. This picture was snapped at 5 o’clock this morning when I rode. He did not appreciate the flash in his face at 5 a.m. He is getting much better about refusing. This morning he didn’t try to run out at all. He stalled and tried to refuse but I pushed him over twice and then he was perfect for the rest of the ride. I love riding John. I’m learning to keep him straight to the jump and how to ride the turns so that we come in straight on the approach.

I had a lesson on Sunday morning and my trainer said my leg is staying put and I’m holding my position very well over crossrails. Verticals are my next challenge. My trainer doesn’t give compliments unless they’re earned, so when she says I did well, I know I really did well.

At this stage of the game my focus is a straight approach, shoulders back, chest up and leg in place. Jumping crossrails isn’t “hard,” but this is where I’m building my foundation for the higher jumps. George Morris says it’s easy to jump higher but it’s hard to jump better. I want to jump better!

Happiness is a good ride.

This is John (not me riding!)

I was in Colorado for the last 10 days. We drove with two toddlers about 1200 miles. Driving through Oklahoma and Texas was fun for me; I saw lots of cattle and horse ranches and the landscape was totally different from Atlanta. Kind of made me want to spend the week at a dude ranch! I didn’t ride in Colorado. I didn’t want to spend money to ride somebody else’s horse on a trail.

The day after I got home I did an early morning ride with Baron. We just jumped a crossrail in both directions. It was actually a really good ride though because I stuck my leg way back until it felt like my foot was behind me. WOW. What a difference that made! I finally felt like I was posting with the motion instead of behind it. It was only a difference of a couple inches, but it changed my position and center of balance entirely. Baron is getting the hang of jumping. I think he likes it. He pricks his ears and gives a good effort even over the little x’s.

In sadder news, Baron has something funky going on in his hindquarters.  I can’t ride him until he gets adjusted again. Just when we were starting to build momentum, we get a setback, but oh well- that’s horses. I’ve been riding John while Baron’s laid up. John is a beautiful dapple grey who is a great ride as long as I’m paying attention!

This morning I rode John over crossrails and I really had to keep my lower leg on him all the way to the jump or he would refuse. Any hesitation on my part and he runs out or stops dead in his tracks. He’s a good teacher for me because he makes me concentrate on my lower leg. I have to keep it not only still, but also pressed to his side. If I lean too far forward with my upper body, he refuses, which is good for me because it forces me to keep my shoulders back and chest up.

I love riding “imperfect” horses, or horses with quirks. I have to really RIDE, not just sit there and be a passenger while the perfectly trained school horse carries me around. I’m thankful for the opportunity to ride different horses. I love Baron and he’s my favorite, but I love the experience I gain from riding other horses as well. I think as we ride we develop a “toolbox” of skills that we can use. Every new horse has its own quirks, personality, and preferences and each one adds something new to my toolbox. John is teaching me to be confident when I approach a jump, to keep my lower leg on and my chest up.

We ended our ride today with a nice long canter. It was exhilirating and totally worth getting out of bed for!