Merry Christmas to me! It’s been a long time coming (18 months, in truth), but I finally tootled the gray beast around 8-jump courses seemingly without a care in the world. I say seemingly because, ever the self-critic, my brain flagged several details to rehash ad nauseum — a slight chip-in here, a bit crooked there — you know… the usual.
Brushing that aside, it was actually a spectacular achievement for one reason – throughout all three rides my focus was not on the jumps, but rather, the canter. The jumps just seemed to happen. Now they weren’t huge, maybe topping out at 2’3″ with just a smattering of interesting elements — a parallel oxer here, a rolltop there. But off-pace and choppy, even the smallest elements seem insurmountable.
So my former jump-to-jump riding style is finally eroding, thankfully. If my hard-earned handful of ribbons is not proof enough (and it never is), then my next lesson planted the new reality more solidly in my mind.
It was a flat lesson focusing on a straightness, mainly in trot, and we achieved beautiful round 20m circles, sitting. A proponent of the ‘stop while you’re ahead’ school, I was happy to end it there. But my instructor directed, “oh, just pop over the rolltop to finish.” So I popped into canter (sigh, beautiful transition) and steered up over the rolltop still in the configuration from the weekend’s schooling show. Up and over that, we rolled along toward the planks, but those seemed a little big, so I steered to a nearby vertical. This elicited a “now the rolltop to the planks,” from the voice on the rail, so I did… and upon facing the planks, I focused on them (they really seemed high) and rushed the fence.
“Now again, and take your time in the turns.”
So over the now-familiar rolltop and through the turn, half-halt, balance, half-halt, balance, and a beautiful jump over the planks.
At that the voice along the rail was happy and we were done.
After untacking, I walked back into the arena. I just had to check the height of those planks. I’m blessed with a hipbone that is exactly 3′ off the the ground (so convenient when setting jumps) and the top plank brushed just above my hipbone.
For the first time in 15+ years, I had jumped 3′. And I hardly even noticed it.
Merry Christmas, indeed!