An exciting new goal!

Had two wonderful riding lessons this past weekend. I’ve put together a video of some of the things we worked on. Surprisingly, the temperature shot up on Saturday and even further on Sunday. It was time for T-shirts and tank tops again in place of the turtlenecks and down vests of a couple of weeks ago. Weird!

It had been two weeks since I’d ridden and before my last lesson, I’d had two weeks off because of rain. With those gaps, my trainer Nathalie thought it would be best to go back over basic steering, speed and control issues and not rush into jumping. To that end, on Saturday we worked on the basic gaits, practiced the jumping position at the trot and canter, and practiced riding a ground pole course. That went pretty well, and I had fun as always.

So on Sunday, Nathalie had me warm up and then practice a couple of jumps and stopping in a straight line right after the jump. That was followed by jumping a crossrail with a turn to a pole on the ground, necessitating good steering and speed control, not to mention a flying lead change. I wasn’t getting a good line between the crossrail and the pole. We remedied that by temporarily replacing the jump with another ground pole in the center of the ring, and getting the right track from there. Then it was back to the jump and pole to execute the track I’d just learned. It worked! All good stuff! Here’s a video of some of those exercises:

The Flip video software I use permits me to watch the videos I’ve recorded frame by frame, and to create snapshots from individual frames. I find this very useful to slow down the action and get an idea of what needs immediate work and what things generally I need to improve. I was pleased to see that my jumping position is starting to look better. My heels are still not down properly–especially my left, always higher than my right–but overall it’s nice to see there’s been some improvement.

After this great lesson on Sunday, I finally got up the courage to ask Nathalie a question that’s been on my mind for a couple of months now, but was afraid to ask. Since I’m such a newcomer to the world of riding, I had no idea how long it takes to get a novice to the point where they’re ready to take part in a local horse show. I had no check-off list of must-have skills; no yardstick against which to assess my performance to date.

All I had to go on was the fact that all the other students at the barn who were there before I arrived (except for a couple of very young girls) had been riding far longer than me, and they all participated in shows last spring and summer. What I didn’t know was what level of competence they had achieved at the point where they began.

I wanted to let Nathalie know I’m interested in taking part in the shows, because it’s a natural progression from the work we’ve been doing together. At the same time, I don’t want to enter shows until she’s completely satisfied that I’m ready for it. In asking the question, I didn’t want to put Nathalie in the uncomfortable position of having to politely tell me I need to shelve my ambitions because I’m nowhere near good enough at this point.

Hence my shyness in bringing up the subject. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. How would she respond? Do I need to hold off for another horse show season until I’ve honed and consolidated my skills further? Might I be ready by Spring, Summer or Fall of 2011? 2012? By the time I opened my mouth to ask Nathalie the question, I’d gotten quite emotional about it. It’s a huge deal for me.

Imagine my shock when she told me she thought I was ready now, certainly for the “Flat” classes (walk, trot, canter) and that maybe I could do a crossrails jumping class! However, there aren’t any local shows held here during the winter, so the soonest I could participate would be March. That’s even sooner than I was thinking! I was beside myself! I’d been hoping to join in the fun by May or June, and it looks like, God willing, I’ll get my wish!

This is UNBELIEVABLE news!! Seven months ago when I started riding, I had no skills. If I begin competing about six months from now, I’ll have almost doubled the riding experience I have! Six months should be plenty of time to get significantly better, and I think I’ll feel ready to take on the challenge of a show then. It was exactly what I was hoping for! What a thrill! What an amazing new goal for me to shoot for! Stand back, world, I’m a-comin’!


About Roberta

My husband and I are living our dream after buying a classic Southern plantation house... but neither of us has lived in a farmhouse before and every day's an adventure!
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