I was so excited to have my first jump lesson on Gus. You can not imagine how excited. I technically haven’t had a jumping lesson in 18 months. Truthfully though, it feels like longer because even the last one I had on Dandy I can’t really count because I was so scared of Dandy that it was, politely, a hot mess.
So, yeah, I had a lot of high hopes riding on this lesson with Dani Dichting.
Which is why I had a moment of panic when, after warming up quietly in the spare ring, Gus decided that he had never been so excited to get going in his life. He wouldn’t even trot around the arena (canter is the only way to go obviously). He spooked at one of the barn girls who was helping set jumps. And, oh yeah, he did this when Dani asked us to trot through a line of poles to establish rhythm:
We had to do that line about 20 times to the rest of the groups 2. I was trying so hard not to catch him in the mouth but he was not listening to half halts. I finally had to run him into the fence and do a hard half halt at the same time to get him to put the pieces together. But thankfully he did.
Dani was amazing through all of this. She was so calm and she kept me calm as we worked through it. A part of me was super embarrassed because I had just gotten over telling her how awesome he is and what a good brain he has for a green OTTB. I guess that’s what I get for praising him.
Once I had that half halt installed again, the exercise came easy and we loped through it like old pros. Then Dani put the jumps up.
Since all of us in the group were on pretty green horses, the lesson focused on finding rhythm instead of distance. Dani wanted us to completely ignore looking for distances and just ride the canter. It’s one of those things you know you should do, especially on a green horse, but it’s something I always forget about. Sometimes when we ride on our own and we get a bad distance, we keep trying something different to make it better but that’s not what Dani wanted us to do. She said the only thing we should work on is the rhythm.
It was night and day difference for Gus. Not every jump was good but all the real bad ones were when I freaked out and started looking for distances. But I was really proud of Gus. Even when I messed up, he stayed nice and calm and let me fix things for the next fence.
We did several courses and by the end, things were looking pretty darn good. If anything, I was the one getting tired, not Gus Gus. The best part to me was that even as the jumps were going up, I didn’t feel even a second of self doubt. I thought about it actually as I was riding towards the lines wondering if I should be worried… but realized I wasn’t so why bring drama into it?
I left that lesson feeling so good about Gus, about me, about Poplar in a few weeks (sort of wishing I had gone up to B-Nov now…), and just about life in general. I tell ya, leaving a great dressage lesson is fun. I always feel accomplished and like I actually am a good rider. But leaving an awesome jump lesson? Well, I’m still walking on air. I can’t wait until Dani comes back so I can ride with her again.