I had a jumping lesson with Duke on Thursday night, our last one before the show on Sunday. It was…um, varied.
Short version: I stayed on through a hairy moment, and made huge improvements in my riding.
Long version follows.
So we weren’t messing around with jumps that night. Everything pretty much went right up to 2’6″-3′. Ish. I don’t know, I’m not great at judging fence heights. BUT the point is, we just went right down to it. Add to that, we would be jumping both in the indoor and the outdoor. It was so fun!
There is one thing you should know about Duke. He loves the long spot. Loves. It. If you don’t ride him right to the base, he’ll opt for the flyer every single time, without fail. Doesn’t matter if the jump is 3 inches or 3 feet. Boy likes to leap.
Now that you have that context, I’ll get to the actual part where everyone’s heart stopped for a second. It was early in the lesson and we were doing a simple two-stride – a vertical to an oxer. Our first attempt was, um. Interesting.
I didn’t ride enough to the base, so Duke took the long spot. And I mean loooong. He jumped me out of the tack big time. We landed together, but I was down two reins and a stirrup.
Remember how we were in a two-stride line? Who needs reins and both stirrups to take a 2’9″ oxer? Not me, apparently!
Bless his heart, Duke is honest as the day is long and he didn’t stop or duck out. Thank goodness…if he’d ducked, I’d have been toast. Of course, I was completely out of sorts so I didn’t ride to the base, so Duke (say it with me, everybody!) took the long spot.
It wasn’t pretty but darn it if we didn’t make it over that fence somewhat together. It felt like there was about a foot of space between the saddle and my butt as we went over it. But we stuck the landing and I was finally able to regain contact and the other stirrup.
Trainer B verified that I was okay, then grabbed her chest and said, “I think my heart stopped for a second!” My lesson parter echoed that and tried not to laugh too hard, then commented that it was too bad we didn’t get it on video. It’s probably for the best that there’s no record of it, really.
Now, I prefer not to make my trainer suffer heart palpitations. However, I’m pretty proud of my riding in that situation. Thank you to my past trainer for making us ride with one stirrup all those times. It was extremely painful at the time but I guess I have some level of muscle memory from that and it definitely saved my butt last night. Trainer B even said I did a good job staying centered. Score!
Honestly, it was kind of like time slowed down during those two strides. I remember specifically thinking, “okay, you have one stirrup, you’ve practiced this, keep your leg on strong and sit up.” I wasn’t sure if Duke was going to jump but I knew we had to stay straight or else I’d be a goner.
At the same time, my adrenaline didn’t really have time to spike. Even afterwards, I wasn’t amped or nervous about it…though clearly Trainer B was! In her words, I grew some wings that night!
And just to close this this out with a note that ensures you all that I’m not completely hopeless, we were able to make some big changes in our distances. I figured out how to use my seat better to keep him balanced all the way to the base instead of hanging on and handing over control. Our last few courses were awesome – we even did one that started in the indoor and then we cantered to the outdoor to finish the course!