Posted by: shannonc | June 27, 2009

It’s so easy to change


I have proven myself somewhat inadequate in managing my ever-shifting schedule.  I woke up Thursday morning and started chores thinking I had a 10am lesson, and realized about 8 that it was a 9am lesson.  Oops.  Went to hitch up and check the trailer and found that our unseasonably wet weather had invited a furry white layer of mold to grow over everything in the last two days:  hat moldy, hay in trailer moldy….cleaned all this up in a hurry and threw very cooperative, unfazed pony on the trailer.  No time to change bits, no time to take the leather scissors to the figure 8.  Off we go.

For the first time in a lesson, Sarah and I got to focus more directly on ourselves, rather than on our ponies.  This is a good thing – I knew I had this coming.  While I know that I’m doing generally okay because the pony keeps getting better, I also know that leaves a lot to be desired.  The thing I was asked to fix is my tendency to fold roundly and then stay folded too long.

Not taking the 5 minutes to change bits now becomes a one-hour mistake.  LOL.  The new snaffle I’ve started using for jumping doesn’t actually erase the problem, but does blunt it a little.  The pony pulls.  He wants to come behind on approach, but he pulls on landing.  So I’ve been slipping out the reins to stay behind him and give him plenty of freedom as long as he agrees to keep coming forward, then taking up the slack in my elbow as he leaves the ground, and rounding my shoulder to give to the pull on landing.  I could do this in a much more stylish way – pix snapped at just the right time put my hands in my mouth, then the next moment my shoulder is hunched – but I do know I’ve been riding him pretty softly in spite of how it may look in a given moment, and the videos are good, so I try to put horrifying photos out of my mind. 

Where all this puts me leaving a fence, though, is in a pretty ineffective position.  I’ve tried to be so giving that my shoulders are now down, and depending on whether my back has joined the party too, sometimes I haven’t landed in my feet.  The pony goes away from fences politely, but heavy – so instead of helping him come back up, I’m letting him pull me forward out of the tack more.  And since my reins are 6 miles long, I’ve got my hands at my ears.  Once I pull them out of my mouth…I’m managing his balance starting with my bicep.  Not a great thing.

Meredith wanted me to become much more effective and supportive much more quickly and the visual she gave me was putting my belly button down in the air, then sitting down and up right away on landing and add, add, add to the next jump.  She wanted me to absorb the pull in my lower back and let it bring me closer to the saddle, rather than absorbing it in my arm and having to take much more time to use my seat and leg.  I understood what she wanted me to do, but I just couldn’t produce it consistently.  Occasionally I got it, mostly I didn’t.  We were working on a little course and the distances were off because the fences were small, so my eye was complicating the assignment in addition to the bridle not helping me out.  The net was that if I didn’t make one mistake, I made another.  I got the back right sometimes, but then other things fell apart – things I was doing just fine before I tried to change.  I finished almost every time through the exercise with an “Arrrgghhh!!!” because I just couldn’t pull it together.  I knew it, I could feel it, and no extra effort was making it better.  In the end the pony got tired and we knew repetition wasn’t going to help the work improve, so we stopped on a so-so instead of a successful moment.

It was the kind of lesson you still remember in 6 months – you look back on it and say, “I’m *so glad* I’m not in THAT place anymore!”

At least I know this :)

The good news is that the pony was super tolerant of me being a total mess.  He still went to the fences and jumped, in spite of whatever balance he met them in, and in spite of whatever disorganization was happening on his back.  He took the long spots when I asked for them.  He may have been a bit confused – probably was – but his attitude was like, “I’m not quite sure who you are up there, but I’ll go along and you just let me know when you get your brain back in your head.”  It’s nice that he has enough confidence to just sort of get the program and motor through.  Good pony.

Meredith said he’s not used to me piloting so quickly on landing, and his expression was surprised – “really?  This isn’t my part of the routine?” but she reiterated afterwards that she really likes him because the more I ask of him, the more he tries to do.  Sometimes I’m in baby green pony mode and just don’t ask enough.  When he changes and is able to step up, I need to change and ask him to step up.  He’s growing!  That’s awesome.

Sarah got a totally different visual and she did much better with hers.  She was quite pumped up by the end of the lesson, which she needed after the weekend.  Meredith kept saying to her, “I’ll teach you anytime!”  More of that and I’ll end up with a complex!

In somewhat of a panic after my falling-apart-trying-to-get-somewhere lesson, I scheduled an extra one today so we can get in more supervised chaos prior to GMHA.  My experience is that when you hit certain transitions, sometimes things need to get worse before they come together in a better way.  That’s where I want to get – preferably before the next competition!

PS:  New frontrunner for name:  Kiss This!  With or without the exclamation point.  What do you think?



  1. FYI, she was SAYING, “I’ll teach you GUYS anytime….You guys actually LISTEN and DO…” She wasn’t just talking to me. She was applying that statement to you, too, chica…..hehe.

    And it doesn’t look NEARLY as bad as you make it out to be, little Miss Perfectionist ;p

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