canter · lesson notes

Lesson Notes: Canter breakthrough, finally!

Just some brief outline notes to remember this lesson – it was an excellent one. Tris is finally fit enough to get some serious work done. I paced him a bit during the lesson but he stuck with me and recovered beautifully. Only uphill from here!

First things first: lovely gorgeous stretchy warmup, awesome pony. We walked and trotted on the buckle for nearly 20 minutes, and then I brought him back to the walk and picked up the reins. We did lateral work to ease him in, more transitions: shoulder-in, straight, haunches in, straight, leg yield off the wall, straight, back too the wall, straight…you get the idea.

In the trot we needed more forward so we worked on going deep into corners and coming out strong down the long side. If there was a flaw to this lesson it was that I did not install forward firmly enough and was too nagging with my leg.

Once warmed up, it was all about circles and getting him round and deep. Controlling the shoulders on the circle, getting him deep and over his back, increasing the activity of his hind end with my inside leg. Deep and firm in the reins but not diving.

The real meat was in the canter, though. First we did some circles and back to our counterflexion exercise at each “point” of the circle. As we went on it felt less like a whole body shift and more like a subtle moment of more straightness, and he got stronger and stronger through it rather than threatening to break.

Then WT (winter trainer, to differentiate from the barn’s main trainer, who is in Florida, sigh) suggested an experiment. Tristan has been getting so much stronger and more through in the canter – what would he do if I got into two point, up off his back, but kept everything else the same?

So I did. And it was a teensy bit of a learning curve, as he kept breaking, I was leaning a bit too much, and my brain clicked into jumping mode a bit and I wanted to shimmy up the reins and press my knuckles into his neck and GO…but after a few minutes of figuring each other out, I settled down into my leg, kept my hands down just in front of his withers, and reprogrammed my body.

He seemed happier almost immediately, and was surprisingly adjustable for all I didn’t have my seat – he did lose some of the straightness, but he gained in engagement through the hind end. Left, we made progress. Right? Right we had this one shining moment when his hind end connected up through his back and whooosh, there was everything we wanted, complete with a fleeting feeling of softness through the bit.

Then he broke to the trot, but he got SO much praise, pats, and he was done. His breathing recovered quickly and he was happy to go back into a stall with his cooler very soon.

Next ride, we’ll go back and forth between the deep seat + counterflexion and the two point + impulsion, and as we make progress we’ll start to marry the two together more and more.

(of course, we are getting 18″ of snow on Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, so who knows when that next ride will be? sigh.)

dressage · lesson notes · shoulder in

Lesson Notes: Shoulder-In and Counterflexion in the Canter

The plan for the lesson was to warm Tris up thoroughly over his back before it started, and then drop the stirrups and do a 30 minute lesson in shoulder-in and work on the canter a bit.

It mostly succeeded. The catch was a bit that I didn’t get him really through and supple enough in my warm up, so we spent the first bit of the lesson working on leg yield at the walk and then trot to get him connected and responding. Then we switched over to shoulder-in, starting at the walk.

Tris and I have both ridden shoulder-in before; it’s not new to us, but it’s been a long time and we haven’t really ever had good eyes on the ground when we’ve schooled it. Plus, I’m finding that most things are a bit of a re-learning, both because we were out for so long with his injury and because the new barn is much more dressage-focused than the old barn.

So, shoulder-in went reasonably well; Tris had a tendency to be overbent through his neck and not get his haunches through. I had a tendency to hunch to the inside and let my outside leg flop around uselessly. Correcting the shoulders through the outside aids and tapping with the crop helped straighten him out, and discipline corrected some of my postural problems.

It really got cooking in the trot, though: Tris had enough forward energy to really load his hind end, and when I got him lined up, BAM, I could feel the sizzle in his hind end as if I had unstuck a cork. In fact it became a bit too much at times and he got fizzy and rushed and disorganized at the end of the long side, so we then incorporated half-halts every stride or two to collect the trot more. It felt like every pass we made was better than the last and with great substantive improvement. I was feeling his body much better and able to catch when it was going out of alignment, I was sitting more deeply and through and straight, and we had some very nice passes. Best of all, I was really connecting through my core in the shoulder-in – feel the burn!

Tris was huffy and puffy from working so hard through his hind end and over his back in that shoulder-in, so we walked for quite a while, and then picked up some canter work. The goal here was not necessarily to school, but rather more to demonstrate where we are in the canter. Right canter met with approval: I am more straight and deep in the saddle, more even in my hands and seatbones. He’s more supple and more flexible and on the outside aids.

Left canter was better than it has been, but still not nearly the right canter. So we did end up schooling that direction for a bit, as he flung his shoulders around on the circle and was not nearly as sharp to the aids in the transition. Trainer had us school counterflexion and back for a bit to get control of his shoulders, and once I got the feel of it, applying it correctly really unlocked some nice things in his left canter. Basically, before each “point” in a 20m circle, counterflex for one stride; then correct flex for the “point”; then counterflex the stride afterwards. It was a way really emphasizing my outside aids, and not allowing his shoulders to rule the day.

So it actually ended up being more like 45 minutes, all without stirrups. Hoorah and huzzah! I felt great, and especially loved schooling the canter without stirrups. It’s not an all the time solution – in particular, I can’t warm him up effectively without getting off his back and I can’t do that for long enough without stirrups – but I loved pulling them for the second half and getting a workout at the same time we did more technical work.

lesson notes

What makes a good lesson horse?

A narrative of my lesson with my boyfriend on Tristan has been requested, and in thinking about how to write it I thought a bit about a bigger question: what makes a good lesson horse?

But I’ll get to that in a minute. There’s honestly not much to recap about the lesson. It was 20 minutes, with about 15 on the longe line. A lot of talking him through position at the walk. I made him reach all over and do stretching, and call out to me which feet were hitting the ground at what moment, trying to get him to feel what each part of Tristan was doing in order to propel them forward.
We talked about keeping weight deep in the saddle and it was a bit of an exercise in frustration for me to see him refuse to grasp the idea that it is weight, not muscle, that keeps a rider in the saddle. He insisted it was physically impossible for him to drop his weight through his heels without gripping the saddle with his knees. I told him to see what happened when he gripped as tightly as he thought he should with his whole leg, and bless my horse, he launched into a beautiful forward trot, obedient as you please, and then stopped after two strides because M. was bouncing around like a potato sack.
We talked about posting, and finding the rhythm of it, and then I turned him loose off the longe for about five minutes of experimenting at the walk, seeing what happened when he asked Tris to move off his leg and go different places. We talked about how contrary to Hollywood’s bad example, reins are not the way to make a horse go left or right, and what the right feel of a horse’s mouth in your hands is, and there were some very brief, faint glimmers as Tris tried so hard to figure out what this strange person was doing, when my poor pony offered to step under and reach in response to the sort of, kind of, muffled aids asking him to do so. (I love him so.)
I have always maintained, and yesterday proves it once again, that Tristan would be a really superlative lesson horse. His brain is so rock solid, and his self-preservation instincts are so good. When he feels inexperienced riders on his back his preference is to slow down, and not speed up and take off in reaction to their imbalance. He tries to read muddled aids, and in size and in overall temperament he is the very opposite of intimidating. At the up-down, walk-trot level he is not a complicated or difficult horse to ride; his issues crop up when you get further along, and are usually in response to a more experienced ride.
But he would not be happy as a lesson horse. He doesn’t thrive on work. He keeps his temper cheerfully for the occasional up-down ride but string two or three of those together and he would start to get seriously sour and cranky. He would start to shut himself in. He is a one-rider kind of horse; that’s where his personality really shines through, and I don’t think I’m saying that just because I happen to be that one rider. His interest in and devotion to work is not sufficient to carry him through a lesson schedule.
So I think, perhaps even more than that steady-eddie adult amateur horse (of whatever discipline) the truly good lesson pony is the rarest of equines. The horses that can take a joke all day long and still make faces on the cross ties. The horses who will adjust their way of going to the ride they’re getting, will be kind when interpreting aids, and will generally work to preserve the balance of the rider on their back rather than to upset it. Who do as they’re told not in the deadhead way, but in the highly competent, thoughtful way of a seasoned professional.
What do you think? What qualities go into the truly superlative lesson pony? Would your horse be a good schoolie?
lesson notes

Lesson Notes

(first things first: it is a triumph of will that I even got to this lesson, after my car died 40 miles away and I had it pushed in neutral to the gas station next door and the mechanic called me mid-day and I had a conversation with him that went something like, him: “Did the air conditioning work on this car before?” Me: “It did until it caught fire last summer. I haven’t used it since.” Him: “Wait, what?” All’s well that ends well and I had a working car again by the end of the day. Whew.)

Anyway! Lesson. Good lesson. Ass-kicking lesson for both of us. A solid hour of work, some of it very high-quality, and with stretches that tested both of us equally and separately. I felt some strain in my core & thigh muscles after I got off! Dressage: not for wimps.

The overall theme of the lesson was straightness, and each piece of the lesson addressed a different way in which we were not straight and helped put us straight. First up: leg-yields. Worked on getting the whole body straight: first the neck, then the ribcage, then the hind end. No evasions, just good clean crossover. We also worked hard on getting just the right step: come down the quarter line straight, take one or two good steps, then go straight, then take one or two steps. We moved from quarter-line-to-wall to broken lines, off the wall to the quarter line and back. Walk and trot both.

Then we moved on to transitions: clear, sharp, straight transitions. Here, the challenge was more for me: not to corkscrew my body and drop my inside hand to my thigh. For him, though, less bend, more lift, and more alertness to my aids. We worked on fitting as many good crisp transitions as we could into a twenty meter circle.

Then, changes of direction, on diagonals both short and long. Go deep into the corners, get quality straightness on the short side, go deep into the corner again, and come off the diagonal – off the wall – with shoulders even, reins even, pushing from the hind end. I don’t know that I’ve ever schooled diagonals like that in my life, but it was a hugely useful exercise to have someone really drill me on them rather than just use them as a way to change direction.

Back to the twenty meter circle, and this time, work really really hard on controlling the shoulders around it. We did this by starting with a diamond exercise within the twenty meter circle, as outlined below.

Ride straight lines on the distances from center to wall to wall to wall to center, thinking of the turns off each point almost as turns on the haunches. It’s basically riding a square, which is an exercise I have done in the past but never really nailed. Pretty soon Tris had worked through and figured out what we were asking of him: don’t magnetize your shoulders to the wall, push off with the inside hind to make the turn, be straight and even in the bridle. For me, it was a really good exercise again for the corkscrewing of my body and the over-reliance on my inside rein. Turning those tight corners was all about a deep outside leg and a steady outside rein. We did this at the walk and trot both directions.
Finally, we finished with some very short canter exercises, to get a similar feel of what we had been aiming for through the lesson: straightness, control of the shoulders, a more supple hind end. Eventually in our own schooling we will work on the changes of direction through the diagonal, but for yesterday – since we were both so tired – we worked briefly on canter down the quarter line: come down the long side at a walk, then a trot, pick up the canter in the corner, then come off the short side cleanly and without overbending, and keep straight down the diagonal, then drop back to trot, make the clean turn back on the short side, repeat. We only did it a handful of times, but I could feel how much easier it was to get Tristan straight through his body after all the work we’d been doing throughout the lesson.
In short: whew. But some really, REALLY good tools to work on in our own rides, and a really positive outlook overall. There were some really gorgeous, fancy strides in there, and Tris really stepped up beautifully.

lesson notes

Lesson Notes

Excellent, really difficult lesson yesterday. Tris and I were both quite tired at the end of it.

Once again, we focused on getting him supple behind the saddle, and keeping his shoulders from leading too much in leg yields. I was zipping through them too quickly, and S. encouraged me to slow down and pause on moments of straightness in them. The goal was then not just quality steps but also where his feet were and on what tracks everything was on.

We also doubled down on getting him forward through long sides and then progressed to keeping him forward through the short ends. He is small and compact enough not to need extra consideration on the short ends of the indoor; he can perfectly well keep himself balanced and going really forward through them, no matter what he tries to tell me.

In all, some huge improvements in his way of going and his self-carriage. I’m asking for more and he’s giving me more. We had some stretches of trot that I would happily take into a dressage ring anywhere at Training/Beginner Novice. We had some gorgeous downward transitions in to an elastic, forward walk.

On the other hand, our canter was an unmitigated disaster. Well – to be accurate, there was some mitigation, in that there was a LOT to work through and it was good we did so in a lesson.

In short, we are still working to get him straight and pushing through in the canter. And it feels like no matter how gorgeous a trot we start from, the canter blows up in the first stride. The theory is that some of that quality trot will carry over, right? Not so much.

Right canter was ok, not great, but it went. Left canter was – well. It started getting ugly, and when he broke to a trot I pulled him up and had a talk-through with S. about my tendency to hang on to my left (inside) rein. It doesn’t happen nearly as much tracking right, and when I really cling to it I might as well be hanging on to a brick wall. There is no give, no softness, and my whole arm gets sore.

She asked what would happen if I let go. I told her he’d counter-bend and possibly slam into the wall. I think she thought I was exaggerating. I so wasn’t. Tristan has shown himself perfectly willing to slam into walls in the past. He goes where he’s pointed. It’s an asset on cross-country; not always in dressage.

So we worked back through the trot and she had me physically pushing my left hand forward. That got some beautiful stuff! Then we translate it into the canter. I obediently pushed my left hand forward. WHAM SCRAPE WHAM went his right shoulder and my right leg. Ok. Ow. Tried again; I only avoided the same fate, again and again, when I pulled my leg up practically on his back to avoid the wall.

Eventually, we were avoiding the wall, but our 20m circle was bulging out badly into the middle of the ring. Tristan spied a pole on the centerline (outside the bounds of the circle) and made a beeline for it. He jumped it very prettily and neatly in stride and cracked everyone watching up, and after that he aimed for it each time, having learned that performing antics over it would save him from working hard for another circle.

So S. brought in cavaletti blocks and made a bounds of a smaller, about 18m, circle on the open end, and said that I was a) not to hang on to my inside rein and b) not to go outside them.

Yeah. So after 3-4 circles of Tristan crashing through the blocks and then breaking into trot, me getting progressively more frustrated, my outside rein 2-3 inches to the inside of his withers as I full-on pony-kicked with my spur him as hard as I could with my outside leg to keep him on the circle…we called a truce for a few minutes, and trotted around the ring.

We worked on it some more. I wish I could say we had a magic circle where he stayed on my outside rein and was adjustable and did not try to trip over the blocks, but that was not to be. I did get my aids more coordinated, and our turns were a bit better, and we made miniscule adjustments that resulted in us missing the blocks more often. But we were both getting tired, and we finished with a huge forward trot on the bit and a soft downward transition.

I’m still stumped by his canter. I don’t know if it will just take more hard work by me – or if I’m just not the right person to crack it. I don’t think I can afford training rides on him, or maybe I can save up until the main trainer gets back from Florida. I keep hoping that he’ll make a breakthrough but I can’t ride it well enough or long enough to get there. At least in the trot I could school that for long enough to really get through to him. I never feel like I have enough time in the canter.

Anyway. Even with the discouraging canter work, it was a good lesson, and I’m looking forward to keeping up the work with him.

lesson notes

Lesson Notes

I do so love a lesson in which my ass is completely and thoroughly kicked, and that’s just what we got yesterday.

I had to do a relative minimum of nagging to get Tristan moving forward, and he reached beautifully for the bit way, way earlier than he usually does. I was already counting the warmup a success, and we hadn’t even gotten into the hard work yet.

First thing we tackled was getting him straighter through his whole body; he has a tendency to want to get a bit overbent in the bridle, and when I straightened that with the outside rein he threw his haunches in. So we worked for a while on really getting him straight and through, which to me felt almost a little bit counterbent. I’ve gotten too used to him overbending.

After that, we played with shoulder-in and leg-yielding to loosen him up. In the shoulder-in we focused on pushing from the hind end and not letting his neck overbend and his shoulder come in too far. In leg-yields it was all about small, quality steps and really maintaining the straightness. Shoulder is supposed to lead a teensy bit but not nearly as much as he was trying for; S. wanted me to allllmost think haunches in during the leg yield. We did both straightforward quarter-line-to-wall ones and then went out from the wall to the quarter line and back.

Finally, we cantered for some time and worked on getting him really forward and attempting some straightness in the canter. He was very tired afterwards, and had sweated quite a bit – all down his neck and chest, and on his face. I spent a fair bit of time rubbing him down with towels and checking on him under his cooler, but he dried off relatively quickly. It was warmer (in the 30s) so hopefully that’s why – I still really don’t want to clip him!

Takeaways:

1) Work on getting him supple behind the saddle and continue that through our rides. If he feels like he’s locking up or lagging behind, throw in some leg-yields to break that up
2) Don’t hang so much on the inside rein in the canter, and work generally on keeping a more stable rein length and hold throughout all gaits and especially through transitions.
3) Pick a spot – or a feel – that’s easily attainable for us now, but still quality work, and back off to that to end each piece of our ride. For us right now that’s a forward, on the bit trot with about a Training-level self-carriage.
4) In the canter, try for counter flexion down the long sides and then back to the correct flexion for the short sides to inject more of a feel for straightness. It’s a LOT of work for the outside aids right now but it will keep adding up.

lesson notes · massage

Lesson Notes

Hooray and huzzah, back in the lesson swing!

This was just a 30 minute one that ended in 40 minutes of work if you count the walk warmup and cooldown. I primarily asked for eyes on the ground to recalibrate our sense of forward: not to let me either get him almost there and then give up OR shove him into rushing instead of forward. End result, develop a more honest reaching connection to the bit.

It was a fast, energetic 30 minutes and we were both pretty tired at the end of it, which was great. It was my first lesson with the barn manager, who teaches through the winter, and I was glad that we clicked nicely and I saw a lot of things we can work on.

Takeaways:

1) Ask for acceleration when coming to the long side when first asking for more forward. Going forward out of the turn weights the inside hind, which helps develop lift, and gives him the length of the arena to really motor through.
2) Get transitions crisper; we worked on this on a 20m circle going walk-trot-walk-trot with a step or two in each, setting a baseline of a quick but firm aid. Our best transition was actually a bit muddled – there was a split second where I felt the offer of a canter in there – but that meant that the lift and the forward I wanted were contained in the transition, it just wasn’t quite clear enough.
3) Keep my hands further forward, and resist the temptation to fiddle with the reins just to get him stretching down and through. Leg, not hands! (Story of my life.)
4) Use cavaletti to encourage hind end action and stomach muscles, which will help make forward easier. Start with a regular distance and then shorten them slightly to make him think a bit harder and step a bit more quickly.

This was followed by a massage which had good and bad news. In good – he was quiet and responded really well, and J. confirmed that he’s back at a good weight. In bad – still not muscling up quite enough. Continue with tummy tuck and sternum lift exercises, and really commit to a regular exercise schedule with more work than he has been doing.

dressage · lesson notes · massage

Inspiration

Last night, Tris had a massage scheduled (or re-scheduled, I should say, as it was meant to happen on the day his hives blew up, but thankfully that is in the past). My friend was running a bit late so I groomed him and then took the opportunity to wander into the ring to watch a lesson.

I’ve always loved sitting and watching lessons when I have some downtime, whether it’s friends, strangers, or the trainer him/herself. It’s a good bonding experience with others who are watching and I always come away feeling inspired by something I’ve seen.

Last night was a doozy. R. was giving a local eventing trainer a lesson in flying changes on one of her schoolmasters, a beautiful gray Lusitano who has been there, done that, and whose specialty is the freestyle. He’s a wonderful, kind soul that everyone adores.

Watching R. teach the trainer – who will be clinicing at the barn over the winter while she’s in Florida, and is my pick to re-start Tris and I over fences – was absolutely amazing. He is already an extraordinary rider, and watching him adapt his talents to a much higher dressage level than he was used to was amazing. R. walked him through Otelo’s gaits and had him collecting from his seat and then turned them loose to try a few single flying changes down the diagonal.

I’d never seen a lesson in flying changes before, not the dressage ones anyway, and watching her work him through the singles, then up to two tempis and critique the quality of each one and the way he rode them was breathtaking.

I don’t know if Tris will ever have a flying change, not from the aids anyway (he pops them sometimes when jumping or galloping), but watching the preparation to get there – the collection, the rocking back, the lift in front of the withers, the core strength and stillness to create a space to communicate: all of that will stay with me for a long time.

(Tris’s massage went well, he is feeling great all over save for some small tightness in his right shoulder but that has been slowly decreasing over the months and will hopefully disappear entirely when his foot finishes growing out.)

dressage · lesson notes

Lesson Notes

I had the last of my boot camp lessons tonight; three lessons in 7 days, and probably the most progress I’ve ever seen in myself and my horse over the course of three lessons. I’m trying not to be too sad that the trainer is leaving for Florida because that gives me a whole winter to do my homework and take checkup lessons with the barn’s other trainers and then kick butt in the spring.

Key takeaways from last night:

– Get him straight and forward first and before all else. I was trying to supple too early, and following some previous training advice which said to get him overbent and kick him on through that. R. compared this to a kink in a hose: if he’s overbent all that forward I’m asking for gets stuck. Better to start with a straight horse and then channel that.

– When he flings his head skyward when I apply leg, don’t get suckered into fighting with him about that. Give the reins so he doesn’t have anything to brace against and KICK. Kick him until he’s very very forward and then praise him and go back to a gentler aid. So putting my leg on in the trot resulted in a head flipping, I refused to take the bait and booted him into a good rollicking canter, nearly a hand gallop, patted him, and only once the forward gear had been established did I take him back to the trot. Repeat as necessary.

– In picking up canter leads, I need to pay more attention to his shoulders. If he’s overbent to the inside, his shoulders are pointed to the outside and I’m just inviting him to pick up the wrong lead. Similarly, don’t drag down on the inside rein through the transition.

– Seriously need to work on elastic arms and shoulders. That’s the key to a more consistent contact and more even way of going.

– FORWARD. We have made big strides in this department but I need to stay on task and not settle for “more forward than last time” but really truly establish where he needs to be.

We did make the switch in his bitting arrangement. He’s going in a thinner bit with a football shaped lozenge in the French link rather than a flat piece, the bit was raised two holes, and we’ve added the flash back onto his bridle. Overall he’s much more consistent and happy in it.

He’ll get a well-deserved night off tonight. I’ll start banking barn time again and probably check in with a lesson at the end of October, but we have lots to work on in the meantime.

lesson notes

Lesson Boot Camp

Trainer is leaving for Florida in a week and a half, so I am hustling to use up my credits before she goes.

Last night, we had our first lesson in about six weeks, due to my work schedule and her clinic schedule and sundry other things. We focused on getting a couple simple things down and then my homework is to translate them throughout my ride.

First up: bending. We worked out a few simple exercises to start in the halt then carry through walk, trot, and canter to get him more supple R and L. He’s never been the most laterally supple horse, and he lost any trace of what he once had during his time off, so this was really good for both of us.

Next, some pieces of my position. In particular, my hands. I need a stronger contact and need to focus on using my shoulders and elbows more to encourage elasticity rather than just heavy. I need to keep the reins shorter than I have been. (Always a problem for me…) I also need to keep my hands quieter (something I’ve been working on). I had been backing off on that because one of our bad feedback loops is to get harder and harder against each other, and I’ve been erring too far on the side of a soft contact, to the point that it was inconsistent.

Last but not least we worked on the canter: bending and encouraging a bit of round. We had some really, REALLY nice moments in the canter, when he would give a little to the inside and then I’d add in outside rein to keep him on a consistent circle and all of a sudden his hind legs would connect. There was a moment or two when he felt like riding a bouncy ball in comparison to his usual strung out canter. For the first time in a very long time there were also a few strides where he felt on the edge of control, like he was letting out all that energy we’d just accessed by going FAST. It took me so much by surprise that slowing him down didn’t enter into my mind and we had a few good rides down some long sides before I realized that my horse, my lazy behind-the-leg horse was going too fast.

After the mechanics and riding exercises, we also talked a bit about tack. She opened up Tristan’s mouth and suggested trying some different bits, with two main goals in mind: something thinner and something with more of a peanut shape than the French link he’s got right now. He has a low palate and a small-ish mouth so the thickness of the bit wasn’t as kind as it typically is; it was hard for him to really get his mouth closed and accept it. I knew he had a low-ish palate, hence the French link instead of a regular snaffle (which he def. doesn’t like) but as she showed me his mouth and we looked at the way the bit was moving together the thickness made sense, too. A different shape to the middle link (right now it’s a flat piece) will also provide a gentler bend.

Overall she praised both my seat and my general instincts – often when he had a breakthrough we both said “Good!” at the same time. My hope is always that I’m a good student – that I respond quickly, effectively, and am thoughtful about the questions I ask and the conversations I have – and I feel like our communication was good. I’d ride with her twice a week, every week, if I could, but I can’t work that many hours at the barn on top of my regular job, alas.

Final note: it was such a gorgeous day that we rode on top of the hill in the jumping ring, and used a headset. I kind of loved it. Having her voice in my ear without straining to listen meant that I could react quickly, go further in the ring, and have near-constant feedback on what I was doing, which I really needed last night.

We worked hard for the full hour, and Tristan was foamy with sweat through his winter coat, so he got a long rinse and a cooler to go back in his stall, where he was clearly a bit weary.

He’ll get tonight off to rest as I stay late at work to catch up, and then we have another lesson on Thursday, whew!