You would think that that sort of feeling comes around after years of partnership between a horse and rider. After the 'been there, done that' swagger that comes with years and years of been there, done that, seen it all. Complete trust in your partnership and each other's abilities. You would also think, that this is a result of a partnership in which there is a skilled rider and a wise horse who is at least 10.
Imagine feeling that way when you ride a 3.5 year old TB Filly who has been under saddle (and I mean re-started) for 8 months. For which 2 of those months, she has been under your 'guidance'...and I use the term guidance very very loosely as I am sure the 'guidance' I provide is more like 'uhhh, I think this what we should be doing'. I get that feeling when I ride Colby. As though there is nothing I couldn't ask of her that she wouldn't give it - and me - her all. I forget sometimes - well, a LOT of the time, that she is in fact only 3.5 and we are experiencing a lot of her firsts together.
She has earned the nickname - The Duchess...simply because - well, she is. She is very pretty, very high maintenance, very demanding and has a royal presence about her...all in a 16'1h compact package...but she wears a 78 blanket.
As an example of her personality, 2 weeks after she came home to Maplewood, we took her to John's for some introductions to off property schooling. The goal, was to begin to desensitize her to everything...she had only been jumping for about a month at this point...and build her confidence. So, we had her jump over some teeny jumps...but, the jumps were SCARY! Plastic swimming pools, big blue barrels, overturned benches, fans, scary standards etc. Remember how I said the goal was to give her confidence...well, confidence is something she is NOT lacking. She did everything. Perfectly. Well, okay, as perfect as a 3.5 year old filly can be. There were definitely some enthusiastic jumping going on. And let's just say that since that day, I jump school with a neck strap. If WFP and Sinead Halpin ride with one, then I don't see anything wrong with it. Nothing phased her, she could have cared less about anything going on around her or what she was jumping over. She was a complete star.
Then, we took her down to the water. Keep in mind - she is a baby and she had never seen water before like what we were about to show her. There was about 3 minutes of prancing, refusing to move forward, then thinking about it, then chickening out, then putting a toe in, then deciding she didn't think she could do it...then this happened:
|The Duchess getting her feet wet for this first time.|
We have gone to John's 3 times since then. The last was a couple weekends ago. It was her first introduction to XC. Solid logs, drops, jumping into dirt from grass etc etc. jumping over something and landing on a downward slope etc. It got to the point where John yelled at me that "You're too casual, remember to ride her Carrie!!'. That sentence really stuck with me. A Lot. As I mentioned, I forget sometimes that she IS so young, simply because she just takes everything in stride. I have to remember to keep my leg on, keep her in front of my leg (she can unbelievably be a little lazy and nonchalant about work sometimes) and ride her to the jumps.
On the way to one of John's water complex's, there is a row of logs spaced out about 20 or 25 good forward xc strides apart. He looks at me and goes 'how do you feel about jumping that one?" That 'one' was a solid log, about 2'9 and would have been the most imposing, solid, biggest jump I would have asked her to jump. I looked at it, looked at John and said 'If you think we can do it, then we will do it." John told me then 'It has nothing to do with me thinking you can or can not do it. I am asking you because I know you can do it. It has everything to do with if you feel comfortable doing it." It was at that moment, right there, that my respect for John went even more sky high then it already was. My response to him was "We can do it." He said, great, now ride it like you mean it. And I did. And Colby never hesitated, never balked, she zoned in on it and made it feel like just another ho-hum canter stride. When I came back to where john was standing - I was all smiles and told him as such. He raised his eyebrows and said 'well, it certainly wasn't just another canter stride...she cleared it by 3 feet.'
Ditches come next...and yes, she will be wearing a neck strap.
|Taking it all in...|