If you have a favorite horse, it’s a given that you really want your coach to like it. Really like it. If you get the “good horse” seal of approval, life is good. You approach your first lessons with excitement but also slight trepidation, to get the coach thumbs down could be ruinous to future success.
After our first few lessons with Jamie, we were probably averaging a C-. His behavior was as ordinary as he could produce and I felt (I imagine) how parents must feel when their children have an embarrassing throw down at the supermarket. The effort that was put into these “not going onto the arena dummy spits” was definitely A+ and the effort reserved for jumping endeavors rated sadly in comparison.
Rio could show glimpses of potential but these were cloaked quickly lest he have to extend himself further. My claims that I was riding a future champion were met politely but possibly incredulously. Jamie has been patient and tolerant, excepting the odd “if this horse doesn’t get its act together soon, it’s going to get the sack”. I have always felt we were on the same page.
Rio’s efforts to skip, rip out or blot completely the pages of his book were impressive, as was his aversion to anything vaguely gymnastic. Jamie does gymnastic in a big way. Submission also is not up for discussion, it’s an absolute requirement. Rio and I were still climbing that mountain. But as we all know with age comes maturity and with a bigger bit comes control. With ALOT of gymnastics, submission exercises, and that motivation that only a good coach can give we achieved the heart warming, rider glowing comment of “this horse is looking like a show-jumper”. Big praise.
Rio’s lesson starts with engagement work in the canter (that’s the deep end of the pool for him), getting him really working his back end and submissive in the bridle. Lengthening and shortening the stride, yielding from the leg and then moving onto flying changes. Jamie wants them clean, with no loss of balance through the shoulder or compromise on the submission.
The gymnastics begin with the “S” bend exercise over the small planks demanding complete control and bend through both sides of the body. The jump is just an elevated canter stride and the connection to the bridle is paramount. This is guaranteed to emphasize any weaknesses of schooling, or furry responses to my aids by my tank of a horse which will be duly noted by my super coach. More dressage needed.
When we start jumping we keep his neck low and the connection encouraging a rounder jump. This is my personal favorite, it feels very like dressage and after the gymnastics of the last half and hour surprisingly attainable.
Then, the stickler. Big canter, natural jump. Big canter without going x-country, floaty canter without throwing your body forward. I have got it once or twice. Okay, once only really but it felt great. Actually it felt amazing to ride, he felt like a balloon in the air. Jamie was happy, or was that enthusiasm absolute relief? He managed to not roll his eyes while I was looking and made only the most encouraging remarks about that being the ride in the ring we are going to get one day.
One day….look out.