One Last Ride

Today’s ride was bitter sweet: it’s the last one at FTF. While I will be going out to the farm tomorrow, it will be to give Dandy a bath and make sure everything is ready for the move. I’m also pretty sore and don’t think I’ll be in any condition to ride tomorrow… but more on that later!

Eric’s brother, Michael, has been in town all week and we’ve been showing him all the cool places. Tuesday we spent the afternoon at Lake Tahoe and yesterday we hiked nine miles to North Dome in Yosemite National Park so we’re all pretty sore! Despite that, this morning was set aside for Michael to ride Dandy.

I warmed him up on the lunge line before letting Michael get on. Then I gave Michael a quick lunge lesson, taught him the basics – turn, stop and go – and then took the lunge off. Michael did really well but Dandy was definitely confused and had his nose in the air pretty much the entire ride. I was really impressed that Michael didn’t panic when Dandy decided he’d rather trot, but stayed calm and asked Dandy to halt. Eric gave his brother some pointers and then Michael actually trotted.

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While Michael rode, I set up a grid for Dandy and I: four jumps to make three bounces. I was totally confident we could do this and that it would help Dandy to rock back on his haunches and pay attention.

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But first, Eric warmed Dandy up for me. Dandy was very responsive for Eric and I was really pleased how well Eric was able to get Dandy to collected. They also worked on their canter transitions as Eric still has trouble determining what lead he is on. Eric took Dandy over both a low cross rail and a low vertical for me, first getting him to collect and working on keeping a smooth rhythm. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at taking pictures!

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I really think if Eric would just come out and ride Dandy more, he’d advance pretty quickly. His two point isn’t all that bad, he just needs to wait for Dandy to come to him and not jump for the horse.

Anyway, then it was my turn. I was so confident that Dandy would easily bounce over all four jumps that I totally let my guard down and this happened:

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Yup, runout after the first jump! Come on Lauren, keep the leg on! Make a tunnel and push him through. I came back around, managed to get him over the first three jumps nicely only to have him squirrel out at the last jump. While I forced him over, my leg took out the standard with it. Back around I came again and this is where things went wacky. I could not for the life of me keep him straight into the grid. He wanted to duck out on the very first cross rail so I would have to yank back which would throw us off the entire gird. It was not a pretty sight. (Click to enlarge the ugly)

In fact, it was so ugly that over the last jump in the above sequence, I experienced my first fall from Dandy. Somehow I managed to land on my feet running with his canter but also yanked my shoulder and hip in doing so. I’m probably going to be sore and have a very big bruise tomorrow.

At that point, I realized that something had to give. I took out the third jump and made it a bounce to a one stride. This seemed to get us both back on track. While I still had to deal with some squirming, I had a little more time to get us square to the jump.

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Of course, Dandy preferred to jump it as if it was a vertical… but we’ll work on that.

Once Dandy was going through the bounce and one stride calmly, I put the final jump back in. This time, Dandy and I nailed it

I think my posture is getting a lot better as well. I’m not jumping out of the saddle as much and my release is getting better. It will still be a long time before I can start working on an auto release but I think we’ll get there.

These are the kind of rides I love to have. Even with the fall, even with the craziness, we both learned something and we made progress. A hack out or just meandering in the arena doesn’t really do Dandy and I any good. This just goes to show that I’m really going to need to start having a plan when I come out to ride.