It was always going to be a busy weekend, with the first lesson of the jump group on Saturday and the Christmas show on Sunday, so I was not best pleased on Friday night to realise that I had a cold. But I decided to try to go ahead with everything and then pull out half way through if needs be, so I turned up for the first beginner jump lesson as planned, but not feeling that I was on my “A” game.
The lesson was not taken by the yard owner, as had been planned, but by one of the instructors. I’ve had lessons with her before, but not recently. There were also considerably more horses in the school than the 3 others we’d been expecting … there were 7 of us in total, which when you consider that D and I usually work alone or with one other, that was enough to get the pair of us worked up before we’d even started the lesson proper!
After the somewhat concerning warmup in open order (the first time I’d ever experienced a walk, trot and canter open order warm up) and no one had crashed into each other, we formed a ride and proceeded to practice our jump position in walk and trot. Then we did some trotting poles. This was all much more in my comfort zone than the warmup had been.
I pretty much knew that the assurance from the owner that there’d be no actual jumps in the first session meant nothing now she wasn’t teaching it, so I wasn’t that surprised when the instructor set up a tiny cross pole.
At this point I’d realised that every other rider there had considerably more jump experience than me with my 1 jump lesson 18 months ago. I was certainly the only one there on a horse I’d never jumped before. Although it had been advertised as a beginner group it had turned into a back-to-basics group as a result of the people who booked in.
Someone fell off during the jump position work, which did no favours for my nerves.
So when it was our turn we aimed at the tiny cross pole in trot… and he took it in his trot stride. It was put up a bit and he, again, decided with a little effort a trot stride would do the job. As we were approaching on the right rein I’d been hoping to get a jump from trot so I didn’t have to approach my first jump on the wrong canter lead, but instead everyone changed the rein so we approached on our easy left canter.
I had a reasonably straight line in and got to the fence, where I felt a considerable lift and heard an “ooh” from the instructor. We landed. I thought I was falling off, but suspect that might just have been what landing feels like, as then I was up and braking to avoid crashing into the back of the ride. Apparently he’d jumped very big. I’m told this is because we came in too fast, but if he has a steadier canter I’m not sure where to find it.
I have a half memory of being sent round to do it again, and I imagine that was a more modest sized jump, but I can’t say more about it than that.
Then as if I wasn’t far enough out of my comfort zone, the instructor announced a course of 3 jumps, starting with the approach on the tricky right rein. At this point I panicked and could not take in the course, no matter how many times it was explained to me and how many other riders I watched. Eventually the instructor suggested just doing the first jump and I asked if I could approach in trot.
This went well and we cantered away, D in charge of steering, while I got over the shock of having jumped again, and as he happened to have turned towards the next jump, we did that too. We came round to the third one but, it being the first thing put in front of me that wasn’t a cross pole, I didn’t like the look of it. So I stopped him about 10 meters away from it. The instructor dropped one end of it to the floor, we went over that, and the lesson was done.
The verdict from all and sundry was that Drifter really likes jumping, which I had suspected, and that he’s really bloody fast in canter. Considering that I know he didn’t show anything like his fastest canter, and I thought he was quite steady, for him, this surprised me a little.
It seems I may need a stronger bit, but as so far this week he’s broken his flash and his water bucket, last week I paid out on clipping, a new cooler rug and an exercise sheet, as well as the Lee Pearson lesson, use of the wash box and show entry fees as well as the usual bills, I can’t do any more spending. Perhaps we can borrow one or perhaps I can be firmer in the bit we’ve got. We also need a martingale (luckily I do have one) and I need a body protector. I had been assured as we wouldn’t jump yet I didn’t need one yet, but that theory has been disproved. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage that one.
Generally I feel like the lesson was too much too quickly. I have to keep reminding myself I stayed on and I actually jumped things. On the one hand I’m not sure the group’s right for me, but on the other hand if I don’t do it there won’t be another opportunity to join a group like this. I’m already behind the standard of the group – if I don’t stick with it there will be no chance of joining them later.
I’ve toyed with the idea of dropping out of the group and continuing privately, but that has many disadvantages, among which is the fact that I’m more likely to do it if it’s a set class at a set time than if I have to arrange a jump lesson myself and can say “oh, I’m too tired this week, I won’t bother, we’ll jump next week.” Next week might never come.
I think I’m going to give it another week or two and see how it goes. Bearing in mind that I’ve done virtually no cantering all year until the last fortnight, this group is a bit of a tall order for me, but perhaps in another fortnight of cantering and these jump lessons it will be a better fit. It is disappointing that at present the group isn’t what was advertised and I don’t know what to expect from it, but I’ll give it a go.
After the lesson the school was free and myself and one of the other riders who I’ve made friends with since moving to a stable near her remained in the school. Her husband set up some canter poles for her and invited me to have a go as well. I hadn’t ever done canter poles (surely I should have had a chance to do those before having a jump put in front of me?) but had a go. I’m not sure what Drifter did with his legs exactly… he didn’t kick any poles but I think he was quite inventive about how he missed them because it was distinctly bouncy and un-rhythmic from my point of view – I’m pretty sure we had big strides and little ones and a little hop. We had a few goes in both directions, once even on the correct right canter lead, and he remained inventive throughout. I suspect slowing him down so he’ll do a normal length canter stride is going to be a challenge… and quite the opposite of how we have been working recently. I think we did the canter poles badly, but that was probably more useful for me than doing them well – I needed to see that nothing bad happens when you do canter poles badly.
They also gave me the chance to let off some steam with only one other horse and rider in the arena. I needed that too.
Overall I’m kind of annoyed with myself. I know Drifter and I did really well. Not only did I learn jump position, we got over jumps. We even strung two together. I didn’t fall off, and he didn’t stop listening to me. Yes, he got excited and I got scared, but that is to be expected. He’s not jumped for a year and likes jumping so he got excited. I’ve only tried jumping once before and narrowly missed hitting the floor so I got scared. He’s fast and lacks balance so we lack finesse.
The annoyance comes because somehow I can’t feel that we did well. I know it rationally, and half the yard has told me we did well, but I’m just not connecting with it. Maybe it’s because I’m exhausted and my sinuses are full of glue. Maybe it’s because I can’t stop measuring myself against others whose situation is not comparable. Maybe it’s because my expectations of myself are too high. Who knows. Anyway, the facts are that we jumped stuff, even though I wasn’t expecting to, and that I stayed on even when he jumped rather larger than was expected by anyone present. That can’t be bad.