Had a lesson with John today - at last! It's been rather a long time. I was really pleased with how Echo went and as usual, it left me with plenty to think about. I wanted to jump, so we just got warmed up on the flat to begin with. He thinks her canter has improved, so that's good news and he also said it looks like she's starting to think about lifting her front end and I must really encourage that. He said I mustn't become 'outline-obsessed' and see it as more important that she lifts herself up off the forehand at the moment - if I concentrate too much on her being round, she'll go too low. I was pretty happy with some of her flat work today.
I like the trot in this picture - the carriage is really starting to improve:
I also like how bouncy the canter looks here:
We started the jumping with just a little cross pole in trot:
although he quickly said that trot is not the best pace for her to jump from - she's actually much more balanced in the canter. He soon established what my main problem is. I find it impossible to tell what a good stride into the jump is. I literally have no idea whether we will get over the jump properly until I am one stride away - sometimes not even then. He said that I can't expect to be able to do this, as I've never done it before. However, I have to do something about the stride on the way in, that way I will learn. Apparently!
He also said that I don't actually look AT the jump - I only look in the DIRECTION of it - very different things. On the way into the jump, I look at the line that I think I should ride - looking into my corner first, then making sure I'm heading straight to the fence. He said I must absolutely not do this - if I focus closely on the jump, I will ride the best line to it naturally. If I fix my eyes on the jump, looking at it, I can then adjust the stride to what I see. I absolutely whole-heartedly believe him, but years of riding school lessons teaching me to ride into the corner and go straight to the jump are quite hard to un-learn. I found myself naturally looking at my line rather than at the jump, then just riding forwards in the hope that Echo would sort herself out over it. Didn't work. Here is John despairing of one attempt:
We had a little chat and he reminded AGAIN what I needed to do:
However, when I did get it right, it felt great. I felt like I was able to change her stride and get her to lengthen into the jump so that we hit it correctly. It was about 50% of the time that I managed this. It is something that I really need to work on.
I did, however, ask John whether he thought it was a totally ridiculous idea for me to attempt the clear round at the tiny showjumping competition on Saturday. He said it was a good idea and that I should do it. Eek! Part of me was hoping he'd say, 'No - you're nowhere near ready for that!' Well - I'll have a go; it'll just be to get her some experience and it might even be fun!