Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Over and Over

Third ride at the new place today. We were on the schedule for a jumping lesson. I pretended that Cuna hadn't had the biggest spook of his life yesterday in the new arena (relocating all four feet three whole times) and tried to ignore the threatening clouds and sprinkling rain.

Ack! Jumping lesson. We have these ritzy new jumps with panels and flower boxes and gates and blindingly white poles.

Cuna felt fabulous warming up--he LOVES the new footing. It's packed sand (I think?) and he doesn't have to sink in every stride. I worked on going forward and back and throwing in some small circles to keep him flexible.

Despite how awesome my horse was going, I felt like a peanut. Tight, nervous, and curled up. Not useful. Steph had us canter in to a 2'9"ish square oxer to start the day. I put my leg on, cantered towards it, and sat perfectly still while my brain locked up and my horse leaped sideways and ran out. Two strides out, he asked, "Really?" and I was so tense I couldn't respond, "Yes."


Steph put it down to a 2'6"ish square and stood on the right side to close the easy out. We trotted in so I'd feel better kicking (another idea of hers) and when Cuna said, "Really?" I said, "YES." He hopped right over, then galloped across the diagonal. I brought him back to a bouncier canter to get over the green gate with red flower boxes. It was small and non-threatening.

Leg, leg, leg, and over we went! We kept doing the figure 8 a few more times until I was able to ride to the fence, keep my butt out of the saddle over the jump, and bring him back on the far side. I finally started feeling secure in my position. We mixed up the course--green gate towards home, then square oxer to green gate bending line, then add in the outside line with flower boxes to white gate (3'!)

I rode the first three jumps great. Cuna was forward and flowing. My position was strong. As we cantered around the corner to the new flower boxes, I felt strong and confident. He motorcycled the turn a bit, but I had my leg on...


This was the first time it actually irritated me. All our other problems were because I was locking up and not riding. This one?? Not ok! Steph pointed out that I just let him get long and strung out through the turn and then motorcycle. Not exactly a good ride. Ooops.

Take II.

I gave myself plenty of room, got a proper canter, sent him forward, and brought him back before making the turn to the jump. I changed his balance by tightening my core and getting tall with my upper body instead of pulling. I kept his inside hind engaged around the turn, and we motored right down the line. At the last stride, I realized that I needed to pick either 5 or 6 strides, and chose 6. Cuna SLAMMED on the brakes. Hell no lady. Choose distance before fence, KTHXBAI.

Again, oops.

Take III.

Just the outside line. Instead of sending him on a straight line towards the barn, Steph had us change direction. Going away from the barn would reduce the mad galloping we were doing. She told me to stay out of the saddle on the landing, so my seat didn't shoot him forward, then advised a strong half halt as soon as we landed to hold for the six.

I got a lovely canter, rode to the 3' vertical like nothing, stayed out of the saddle, and felt a lovely canter towards the oxer. I chose not to half halt because he felt so nice... ooops, and we're running out again. Damn.

After I complain that I had a lovely canter, he didn't shoot off, and I intentionally left out the half halt, Steph points out that just because a horse is running faster doesn't mean their stride is bigger. Even though he was on a lovely stride, I still needed to half halt. The jumps are big enough now that he's not going to let me get away with shoddy riding.

Take IV

Ok. Good canter. Bouncy. Over the first jump, stay out of the saddle, BIG HALF HALT, settle for the 6 strides to the scary oxer and we popped out politely.

I didn't ask Steph for video of today because, seriously, it was rough. I haven't jumped much lately due to moving/travelling/October in general, and it showed. Plus we're ramping up the difficultly level, and Cuna is expecting more from me. I can do it and he's completely honest and up front about it, but today was not the prettiest ride ever.

That said, wow, what a difference a year (and an old man horse) makes. This time last year, I would have crapped my pants at the thought of the jumps we did today. Just think: the least "scary" jump to me was a brand new 3' white gate. Yeah. Not a crossrail.

Occupy crossties. Demand cookies. 
On top of that, this is why Cuna is so perfect for me. He saved me, over and over, when we started together. Over little fences, he requires almost nothing from the rider. Now that we're jumping up, he's really teaching me to ride. He's a packer, but he doesn't just give things to me. So not only is he the cutest and most loveable old man in the barn, he's still my schoolmaster. What a guy!

PS I promise I will take actual pictures of the new barn, plus the snazzy jumps, and many more shots of everyone's favorite Cunafish tomorrow. This whole "one pic a day" thing isn't doing it for me.


  1. Smart boy, that Cuna. He's going to teach you to ride despite your every effort not to learn. *VBWG*

    Good analysis of what went wrong. That is the sign of a good rider in the making.

  2. You mean your horse made you actually RIDE?! ;-) All kidding aside, congrats on the progress and a big "YAY!" for wise old-man teacher Cuna.

  3. Sounds like you learned a lot in this lesson. :D The perfect ones aren't always the most beneficial. Cuna rocks!


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