Big news for the MBM: she has a new owner, and a new name! Little Miss Perfect is now Suzy, and she has a lovely new human who is going to learn to event along with Suzy! She also gained a couple of little girls who adore her and feed her heaps of carrots, and who Suzy will get to tote around and care for like the broodmare she is. And the best part for me? I still get to ride her a bit! Suzy’s human was kind enough to let me ride the little mare in a clinic with Yves Sauvignon on December 3rd.
just the cutest little trot
Funnily enough, it’s been a couple of weeks since I last rode Ms. Suzy. Her owner was riding of course, and just hadn’t needed me to jump in since before Thanksgiving! I wasn’t entirely sure where Suzy stood, but I shouldn’t have worried — she was the super star I’ve always known her to be. Our warmup was quick and simple, just a bit of WTC in each direction, before Yves had us head through a set of four trot poles. Suzy rushed the poles the first go through and cantered right out of them, so I settled a little deeper in the saddle and worked on achieving a more balanced and quiet trot. Our next few trips through the trot poles were quite nice, and Suzy got a really nice pace the last go through.
Our jump warmup was unremarkable, if a little disorganized. It took Suzy a minute to get into the rhythm of jumping, and we knocked a few down before we got fully organized. My position was a bit better during warmup, which I could probably attribute to focusing on quite a few more things once we got going a bit (keeping the canter, good turns, straightness, pace, etc.). But I would like to be a little softer on her mouth throughout the ride!
not a traditional picture, but v. exciting because Suzy didn’t really have a moment of suspension in her canter for quite a while. now look at all that air she’s catching!
Yves asked us if we had cantered fences, and I had to respond that we hadn’t reaaaalllyy…. I know Suzy has done it with her owner (I’ve watched), but her canter is still fairly weak and she isn’t confident in it. She is inclined to break to the trot before any kind of footsy challenge — canter poles or fences, for example. So we kept it to a trot right up until the end.
yeah, she really is that dang cute
Yves set up a series of fences that would help us start thinking about getting the correct lead after a fence, changing directions, steering, and straightness. The first was a single trot fence with a big sweeping rollback at the canter to another trot fence. Suzy and I got the correct lead the first time but biffed the first fence, so we tried again. This time we got the wrong lead, so Yves had us change leads through the trot, make a circle, then come back to the trot before the second fence.
The exercise was three fences set more-or-less along the centerline of the arena. You jumped one fence and made a big sweeping turn to the next one, in the pattern of a three-loop serpentine. We approached tracking left, which is Suzy’s weaker lead, and if we landed on the left lead we could continue on. If we landed on the wrong lead for the pattern we were to trot, change, circle, and trot again before coming to the next fence.
After one go through at the trot, where we had to change leads both turns, Yves had us approach at the canter. I asked what he wanted me to do if Suzy broke to a trot before the fence. Yves responded that he wanted us to canter, but if the trot was the right decision for that fence, then let her trot. Seems mystical, but I knew what he meant: make it a good experience for the horse, whether at the trot or canter. I know that she’ll only get better at cantering fences if we actually canter the fences, but it’s hard when Suzy really lacks confidence at the canter. Yves reminded me to wrap my lower legs around her and really support her at the canter to help her along.
it’s a lovely canter when we get it!
Our first attempt at cantering the second fence was a tiny mess. Not a real mess, but definitely not our best work (it got better, though!). Suzy wanted to trot so badly, and I squeezed and squeezed. She trantered a little, but it still had a bit of rhythm to it, and we made it to the fence at a pretty good spot.
not the trantr fence, but what am i doing with my hands?!
Our next few attempts went even better! Suzy was more confident, so she didn’t try so hard to trot on the way in to the fence. Her canter has such a great cadence — every step is very similar, so it was easy to know where we could take off each time! Yet another thing to love about this mare.
We made a couple of good attempts at picking the right lead over the fence. Well, really, I’m not sure what I did — I just really thought about the direction I was traveling after each fence and rewarded Suzy heartily for getting the correct lead when I did that. I watched the video over and over to see if I did anything to help her but… I can’t see that I did anything, really. So we’ll give the credit for that to Suzy.
My one glaring error was that I kept turning Suzy rather poorly, overshooting the center of the fence and ending up off to the far side of the fence. I tried (somewhat erroneously) to correct and head back toward the middle of the fence after doing this, which resulted in lots of crooked fences. Yves encouraged me to just ride straight to the fence, even if we were a little off-center. I’m not entirely sure what I need to do to sort the turns out… I tried turning earlier, but somehow still ended up overshooting the center. So perhaps I need to commit to the centerline a little earlier? Not sure.
The best part was Yves complimenting me several times on making the right choices. I just followed my instincts with what Suzy needed — usually just less speed and a steadier cadence, but also a few well-placed circles that let us get that steadier cadence. It’s so wonderful to hear that your instincts are correct! Such a big pat on the back for me. And extra big pats for Suzy for being such a good sport, and trying so hard. We got lots of good exercises during the lesson to help her progress and get stronger. The hard part will restraining myself so I don’t tire her out with my enthusiasm.