Wednesday, I had a lesson with a trainer at a different barn. The barn was about the same distance from my house as my current barn so it didn’t take me very long to get there. The lesson was scheduled for 5 and I got there at around 4:30 after work. (I may or may not have cleaned my boots specifically for this lesson.) I definitely felt some nerves. I shouldn’t have since nothing was riding on it more than me finding a good trainer. Still had them though, not much you can do about it but work through them.
I met the trainer, D. She was finishing up a lesson with a bunch of kids jumping higher than I have ever attempted to. She had a couple of people show me the horse I was going to be riding and help me find some stuff. The horse, N, was a huge chestnut thoroughbred gelding. Like 5 inches on Scarlet at the shoulder at least. Maybe more. I groomed him, ditching the curry comb after he gave me a few dirty looks. He was pretty dang clean so that wasn’t much of an issue. D checked over my stuff before I got on. Then she explained that we were gonna just test the waters, see how each other worked out. She does a free trial lesson so that there isn’t any obligation on either side. (A good incentive for me to try her).
She had me take a lap at the walk, trot, and canter. D wanted me to ask for the canter from the walk. N didn’t canter from my cue. He just trotted off. I pulled him back and asked again. D explained that my cue isn’t working because I’m basically asking and then letting go. I’m not holding the pressure until he canters up into me. So I tried that. It was a lot harder than it sounded. I had to really work to actually hold my cue, as silly as that sounds. I’m not used to really forcing a gait to happen. But I realized that Scarlet has been not cantering well the first time I ask him to canter lately so I filed that piece of info away to try later.
D set a pole down and had me canter over it so she could observe. She remarked that I need to ease up with my hands before we get right on the pole. I should get him straight and then let my hands go forward and then depend on my legs for direction etc. N is a horse that will keep whatever pace he is set at, unlike Scarlet who rushes the jumps from excitement. Once I did that well, D then lowered a couple of fences and had me canter over them. I definitely got a bit scared then. Not because I thought she was asking for too much, but I didn’t have confidence. Scarlet literally does everything except choose the fence most of the time. I was worried I fail hard enough that I was going to mess up N when he went over. And that did and did not happen.
I had turned N off the rail too early and he got an awkward distance to the jump. He angled it so he could get a full stride in and D explained what I did. I didn’t fix it as well as she wanted the second time. So we did it again and I got the correct place to turn and it went much better. The other direction, I only had to do it twice. N is super sensitive. The second time around, he picked up a much faster, lengthened canter when I asked for it. So I half halted and he almost broke to the trot. A tiny bit of leg and he was like oh got it. It was pretty fun. I liked the lesson and will definitely go back for more. I’m pretty sure that a full lesson, not a trial, will be more intense. And I’ll ask for homework and for what she things I need to focus on etc next time.
Friday, I was really interested to see if anything from the lesson impacted how I rode Scarlet. It was a typical Friday at the barn which meant no one was around. Perfect for jumping. Almost all the jumps were at or below where I had set them last time so perfect for jumping. I warmed Scarlet up and got a slightly better response for the canter cue with holding it. I’d been having to actually pull him back to a normal trot a time or two recently because he was just running into the canter so another positive to come from the lesson. I jumped a bunch with Scarlet and he actually listened pretty well to a half halt about 4 strides out and then soft hands. He had a few jumps but when we had gone over a few and he was sure we were going to do more, he was very good. It was really fun. Another point toward the lesson. I’ll definitely be doing more.
Saturday, when I was grooming, I noticed Scarlet had chipped his back foot. The inner panicking drama queen freaked saying oh no he need shoes! Death! Fire! Apocalypse! My logical self had to grab that screaming freak by the throat and shake her around a bit to get some sense. Honestly, the chip is tiny. Like the size of my nail. No need to freak out.
We did a different arena than normal so I could do lots of circles and some counter canter. We did a few figure eights of counter canter. It was much smaller than I normally ask him to do and guess what? Scarlet had better balance than I ask for him. Funny how they tend to be a bit better than what you ask of them. I especially try not to push Scarlet much because I’m super protective of him. I need to remind myself Scarlet will only improve with being pushed past comfortable, just like me.
A very productive week and I’m really happy with it. I don’t think I’m going to get too many lessons in. I’d love to be in a once a week plan, or even be able to afford to keep Scarlet at that barn. (I don’t know the prices 100% but just looking at the place made me thing that I probably couldn’t afford it.) I’ll be taking a lesson once a month at the least. Maybe twice if I can scrounge up the extra cash. But any amount of lessons is good because I will improve.