On Saturday, before I rode with Megan, I got to ride with Yves Sauvignon, who is a local trainer (based in Sebastopol/Santa Rosa area), 3* rider and trainer, and all around awesome guy. In addition to being French, Yves is a great coach. His standard coaching technique both encourages you and pushes you to keep doing better, and his ride philosophy includes a lot of technical elements and precision. At the same time he’s really understanding of different horses’ strengths, weaknesses, and uniqueness, and helps you play to their strengths.
We started out with a trot placement pole, which Yves usually places 9ft out from the base and often serves as a canter pole as well. Murray was on point. At first Murray needed to get a bit more forward in the trot, so Yves suggested that I loosen up/relax my knees a little. I learned a few months ago to distribute my weight into my thighs to help balance and regulate one of the speedier ponies I rode, and have apparently incorporated that into my riding of Murray pretty thoroughly! Yves explained that this squeeze through the knees* is part of the half halt, so while I was trying to push Murray forward I was also rebalancing him, and needed to relax my knees a bit to allow him forward a bit more. It took me a minute to figure out how to ride with loose knees again (uhhh apparently I’ve been weighting my thighs a lot more than I ever realised), but after that it was smooth sailing.
Murray, in addition to being on point, was also on one and expressed many and varied opinions. Through both vocal and body language. Fortunately his opinions did not detract from Murray’s desire to jump the jumps. So jump we did.
Yves has a strong philosophy of show-and-tell for horses that are a little less confident, and doesn’t think that surprising horses a lot does them much good in the long run. He wants his horses, especially young ones, to be brave with all different types of fences. Fortunately for us, Murray didn’t require any show-and-telling, and while he was a little backed off to some flowers the first time we saw them, he jumped them beautifully and in stride.
One of Yves’ big suggestions was to put a bit of a lid on Murray’s antics. While it’s nice to know your horse is feeling good and has a sense of humor, it is (apparently) not so much fun to ride a goofy possibly bucking horse through the lines and not know if there’s some extra goofy behavior coming.
Yves also really appreciated Murray’s ability to balance himself up to the fences and add strides where needed. Even better — during the lesson, Murray was also taking the long spots when I asked him to, and even changed leads a few times (though only when I tricked him). Overall Murray was super responsive to my leg, both laterally and in terms of speed and power — he would step up the pace the moment I put my leg on, and it resulted in a ton of adjustability.
It was a short lesson but a very good one. Murray was feeling awesome, and Yves said I had done a great job with him so far. I so love riding this forward, game horse! Yves also validated my slow-it-down strategy with Murray, and said that he likes to slow it down even more with horses like this, and keep cross country to a controlled canter and trot the fences where necessary. I worried to Yves about making the time, and he said he’s made it at Novice while still trotting quite a few fences, and assured me that Murray’s canter was more than adequate to make time without any freaking out or galloping needed. I’m not sure I tooootally believed him (based on experience and the fact that it feels so slow!), but it was a good, powerful, rhythmic pace so I couldn’t complain.
Maybe not the biggest fences in the world, but some solid coursing that was totally confidence building for both of us! Yves also said that I have done a great job with Murray, which made me feel awesome. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear that I am taking this little quirk ball in the right direction!