I knew that jump lesson number three was to be taken by the yard owner, as originally advertised, but I didn’t know what to expect from that. Having been though the wringer in the previous lessons I didn’t think it could be any scarier than the previous ones. Early indications were that there would be 5 in the lesson, although as it came closer to time another 2 had booked in, taking us back up to the 7 that had scared me so much in the first class, and meaning that we would have a mix of big horses and little ponies.
Although I’d very much hoped to be feeling 100% by this lesson I was still not totally well but feeling much better than I had before either of the previous lessons. We all went round and started getting on board and walking round. This time we were only asked to use open order for our walk warmup – in trot we were all told to stay on the same rein, so everything was a lot less chaotic, and there was no canter warmup at all. Then the lesson proper began.
We began on a circle around the instructor and she asked if anyone who was particularly nervous would put their hand up. I think all of the adults present put their hands up and all of the kids kept them down. She asked each nervous person what in particular were they afraid of. I said, “Too many horses in the school and The Right Rein.” I can’t remember what most of the others said, although when the last lady said, “Falling off!” everyone rushed to agree with her. What I do remember is that no one’s fears were dismissed or laughed at and no one was told they were being silly. It felt like an atmosphere of trust was created.
Next she explained about jump position. Not just how to get into it, as others had explained, but where the muscles should work, where your weight should be, what would go wrong if your leg was in the wrong position. The she asked to see each of us do some canter poles in jump position, either in trot or in canter as we chose. Not as the horse/pony chose, as we chose. She also said that anyone who chose canter had better do well, so we chose trot and received a complimentary comment.
Once everyone had been assessed like that we came back onto the circle and she asked us each about our goals. Had I had longer to think of this I might have answered that I want to see if I can jump and see if I like it, but being on the spot my answer probably came more from the heart, “I want to keep my horse interested, because he likes jumping.” This earned me a, “That’s a really good answer.” That was particularly pleasing as I had had a feeling the “correct” answer would have been more competitive/rider oriented. At this point I began to hope that the lessons might be about the particular needs of the horse/rider combinations present, not just one-size-fits-all. In this I was correct. Everything we did had flexibility. If people wanted to jump from trot not canter, takeoff poles were set accordingly. At no point were D & I made to canter on our right rein, but for those who wanted to that option was there. Everything was managed calmly but quickly, so that there was no hassle about accommodating different needs and no pressure on anyone to do anything. The whole atmosphere was calm, organised and supportive.
We approached our first jump in trot. I hadn’t been expecting to go next, but we were called and I didn’t have long to get my brain, legs and hands in gear before we were over the fence. We’d been warned that she’d ask us how it felt. All I could think of to say was that my jump felt confused. She asked me to elaborate. “I think he was confused because he didn’t know what I wanted from him. And I was confused because I didn’t know what I wanted either.” The lesson learned: have a plan. Even if the plan is just what line you’ll take on the other side of the jump. This was a very useful idea for me.
During the lesson we did canter poles to a fence as well and gradually worked up to a little course of 3 jumps. But the progression was very gradual. We got at least two goes at anything before it got more complex. And each time we had positive feedback. I can honestly say that I felt no fear at any point in the lesson. We were eased into jumping rather than pushed into it. At every point I felt like I achieved something, even when it wasn’t going quite as I would have planned. With the calmer approach and the managed atmosphere I was able to jump each time without going blank with fear. That meant I was actually present to try to sit up and steer on landing. At no point did we fail to go round a cone or miss anything I was aiming for. At one point I did an extra circle before a jump because I didn’t get the canter when I first asked, but in terms of inaccuracy that was it. I was pretty proud of that.
Close to the end I realised Mr S was standing at the gate with a camera on us. Apparently he’d been there some time, but I hadn’t noticed. He actually filmed quite a few of our jumps and it was so nice for me to be able to watch them back.
The below is one of the better videos (because there weren’t any horses or people in the way!) It’s not one of my better jumps as it was early in the lesson. Please don’t ask me to explain why I seem to be trying to rise in the canter after the jump, because I have no idea what was going on there, but please ignore me and see my pretty boy jumping nicely despite the rider 😉
(If you notice that I didn’t go round the cone, it’s because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to, but I did go round it on the next go!)