It. Was. Awesome.
Unfortunately, no pictures were taken. It's surprisingly hard to round up a trailer ride for a horse at 11am on Friday with zero notice, not to mention find a photographer. Here's the best I can do:
Yes, a paint drawing of the arena. Be impressed.
The three straight lines represent the three little crossrails in the arena. The section marked 'water' was were apparently the irrigation got a little too enthusiastic and left us with a full scale water hazard. In retrospect, I shouldn't have made it the same color as the jumps. Oh well.
I had Stephanie ride Izzy to start out. I wanted to see a couple things. 1) Izzy being forward and happy and having a good experience. 2) Izzy's repsonse to Stephanie. I wasn't too concerned about this, but Izzy doesn't always respond well to different people, so I wanted to make sure her system would work for Ms. Mare. 3) Heck, I love seeing people ride my horse.
As predicted, Steph hopped on and rode Izzy around like she'd been doing it all her life. She'd canter by with one hand on the reins, explaining what she was doing and why and how it worked. Izzy looked better than I have probably ever seen her. Forward, bold, happy, confident. She even went in and out of the water a few times. Izzy always slowed to a walk, but trooped right through. Stephanie actually applauded that - she liked that Izzy was willing but concerned about the footing. "I don't like horses that don't think," she said.
Then it was my turn. We talked about position. She liked my shorter stirrups and had me stand straight up in them both to find my balance and to redistribute my weight into my feet. As she pointed out, "if 60% of your weight is in your feet, gravity dictates you cannot fall off unless your horse does a cartwheel."
She had me ride Izzy on a loose rein and very forward. She wanted her out in front of my leg (deeerrr...) but pointed out that on a nice moving horse like Izzy, you might as well show it off. Plus, "a horse can't buck you off at a full speed gallop. They can buck you off standing still, but not while they're moving."
We started jumping the center jump. It was a teeny little crossrail. She pointed out, "If you approach the jump and are thinking about the jump, you need to circle. What you should be thinking about is what you're going to do after the jump-the turn, the transition." After she watched me anticipate the jump a little with my upper body, she added, "focus on what the horse's hind legs will be doing after the jump." It seemed like an odd idea, but it worked really well. When I rode in to the jump and focused on our turn and Izzy's engaged hind legs after the jump... magically, it was perfect. It made me sit up just a hair and everything went better.
Using that information, we then did a little course of the three jumps. It started out a little rough.
Stephanie stopped me. "The pace is your responsibility," she told me, "the jumps are hers. You have to ask your self two question: 1) Can I go faster? 2) Can I stop?" Her point was, coming in to the first jump, it was all I could do to keep Izzy in canter, so no, I couldn't go faster, and that was why the jump sucked.
We tried again. I got Izzy into a nice, forward canter...
And it was perfect. She even gave me a flying change after fence #2. We jumped through it once more, and called it a day.
My major take aways from this lesson were:
1) Weight in my feet. 60%. Re adjust as necessary, but it needs to become natural.
2) Until you have forward, you have nothing. GO FORWARD. I need to get a bit out of my comfort zone here, but Izzy looks fabulous when I do.
3) Focus on the hind legs after the jump.
Summarizing like that, it's all so basic sounding. Sometimes you just have to keep learning it, I guess.
Funny thing: we were talking about nerves, and I mentioned that I actually feel more calm and relaxed now than I did before my accident. "Sometimes you just need a break," Stephanie said.
"I had three."
She laughed. "I was thinking something more like a camping trip."
PS Many, many, many thanks to our awesome and gracious western trainer who trailered us out to a lesson on ridiculously short notice, sat through the whole thing, and talked it over on the way home. She is great.