I had a stellar jump lesson Tuesday, my first jump lesson in close to two months and Murray’s first serious jump school in a month! I made the tactical decision to do a quick jump school on Monday to get Murray accustomed to the idea of jumping again and let him get acclimated to the fences in the arena, per his insane spookiness lately. This was the right choice: it took Murray and I a lot of time to get back in sync with jumping and also to remember that not all jumps are pony eating monsters and that even if they are pony eating monsters the best way to avoid them is to jump REALLY HIGH over them. One of my kid friends, you know just those normal barn rat better than everyone riders, picked up poles for me and reminded me to do the things I am supposed to when jumping like maintain a rhythm and keep my leg on.
The lesson started out very average. Murray was torn between being happy that we were jumping and really upset that everything in the arena had changed in the last month. He was squirrely but forward, and was trotting pretty adorably.
Unfortunately, once we started cantering fences Murray lost his understanding of what leg means and started to get a little lurchy. When I put my leg on to help him maintain a steady rhythm and reach for the fences it had the absolute opposite effect, and Murray would drop his back and jam another tiny, hideous stride in before the fence. After six fences in a row of this I pulled Murray out of the line we were in as I desperately needed a reboot. This was not working.
While I was lamaz breathing to keep my ish together B told me to change my strategy. Instead of sitting on Murray and driving him to the fences with my seat, she had me go back to the not-quite-half-seat of yesteryear and half halt and rebalance Murray with my thighs while keeping my seat really light. (I had moved away from this to avoid jumping ahead and be able to use my seat more effectively. I just do what I’m told.)
And it worked. DUH.
I am a huge proponent of doing what I’m told by my trainer. I like to think that I fight back with her the least of all the adults, and sometimes that’s certainly true. But I can also be a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes. Fortunately, this was not one of those times, and trainer managed to drag my back from the brink of an absolute meltdown with this strategy.
Oh trainer. How I love you.
The rest of our lesson went really well, especially for a rusty Murray and Nicole. We jumped through the two stride, getting three every time but one (no groundlines maybe? this line caused us a LOT of trouble), jumped some new(ish) scary filler, and got through the one stride line with ones many times, including with my helmet cover falling off.
The big lesson from this lesson was to be adaptable. If I had been schooling on my own and Murray pulled this there is no way I would have figured out to change my strategy, and I’m sure I would have kept jamming my bony little ass into his spine and he would have kept jamming four more inches of stride in before the fences. I am just not that good of a rider yet. But it’s something I should remember — Murray is teaching me all these different strategies to ride him well, and I need to remember to use them. But it’s hard when you’re out of practice. (Let me reiterate: I love my trainer.)
The funniest part of our lesson was when we did just one more course. My kid friend videographer had put my helmet cover on top of the pole over the barrels and as I came towards it I yelled “Oh you may have doomed us!!!!” Embarrassingly, Murray did not give two shits about the helmet cover. I, however, stared it down so hard that I buried Murray to the fence.
So I guess it’s a good thing that Murray is now more educated than me… that means I did my job, right?