Wow, what a hot and humid day it was yesterday for my Saturday riding lesson at Acorn Farm! At each class, we always get to practice all of the major skills I’ve learned to date. The most recent skill that Nathalie introduced was cantering in a two-point position. That’s where you lift your bottom out of the saddle, push your weight down into your heels and bend forward slightly, chest out and head up. I’m learning that because it’s the position for novice jumping. By taking your weight off the horse’s back, it makes it easier for him to bend and take off, carrying him and his rider safely over the jump.
The two-point position requires good balance, because your only points of contact with the horse are your hands on the reins and your leg from the knee down. My balance was a bit off on my first attempt yesterday, but then I managed to get it and hold it better on subsequent attempts.
After all of our trotting, posting, diagonal-changing, figure-of-eighting, framing, cantering, flying-lead-changing and two-point cantering exercises, Nathalie asked me if I was up for a new challenge. I love when she does this! I have absolute trust in her that if she suggests a new challenge, she believes I’m ready for it, so I’m always delighted to try whatever it is.
While Kobe and I took a break in the shade of a tree, Nathalie set about creating a ground pole course for me to ride. Previously, I’d only ridden over poles that were either set a few strides apart along the rail, or put in a row of three as a foot-placement test. This time she set up four along the outside rail, two at each side, and two diagonals. What was really fun was that she placed a couple of poles next to each other between two proper fence standards, so it looked like I was approaching a jump. That was a thrill for me, made me feel like I’m really progressing.
Then she explained to me the order in which she wanted me to canter over the poles, just as if it was a real jumping course. I’d never done that before, and was quite excited at the prospect. Since there were a couple of direction changes, it meant that I would have to make sure Kobe performed a flying lead change in certain places to keep him balanced. Also, Nathalie told me that she wanted me to count strides between two of the poles and to aim for the optimum seven strides between “landing” after the first one and “taking off” for the next.
Man, it was fun. Nathalie made a video of two of my attempts at the course. Now that I’ve seen it, I can see I have a lot to work on. One of those things is keeping my butt in the saddle! When Kobe shifts his weight to his outside hip for his lead changes, it really does a number on me. Anyhow, here is the video:
After my lesson, I gave Kobe’s sweaty body a hose down that must have felt really good to him (I know because getting some of the spray from the hose on me felt really good too!). Then I let him have his grazing-in-the-grass treat to allow him to dry off a little in the sunshine, before going back to his stall.
One of the other mature students, Nancy, was going to be participating in a show jumping competition at the adjacent show grounds that afternoon, so Nathalie, Paige (a young student), Paige’s mom, Nancy’s husband Tim and his friend, and I all piled onto two golf carts and rode over to the show ring.
Nancy did a terrific job on her stunningly beautiful horse Romany Way, with Nathalie supporting and advising her right up to the second she entered the show arena (and even doing what she could from the sidelines!). Watching Nancy and the other competitors ride the courses so skillfully showed me how very far I have to go. But that’s not a hardship. I’m enjoying it so much, making terrific progress and good friends since I started at Acorn Farm last April.