Now, I have had plenty of really great, uneventful lessons, but those aren’t the ones it’s fun to write about! I wanted to share something that happened in my lesson a few weeks ago. Here’s the set up: a three-stride line with a straight 3’ jump in and a wide, ramped 3’3” oxer out. Note that 3’3” is pretty much the max height I am jumping at this point and still looks relatively big and scary to me. We had a bad distance over the straight single jump in. Patrick got so close that he basically had to jump straight up to get over it. I must’ve gotten ahead, because I lost my stirrups and ended up lying on his neck. It was not a huge problem though. Feeling me get unbalanced he broke to a walk and I thought, “No big deal. I’ll just get re-situated and we’ll try it again.”
That’s when the unexpected happened. As I sat up, Patrick pricked his ears and picked up a trot. To my great horror, I realized that I was half balanced, had no stirrups and loopy reins and he was head STRAIGHT for the big oxer. His internal monologue must’ve gone something like, “Hey Rider Lady, you missed the second element of your line... I’ll jump it for you!”
I had literally one second to decide what to do. I opened one rein to try to run him out, but it was too late and he was already committed to the jump. I considered bailing out, but figured I’d probably land on the jump. I decided the safest thing to do was to try and ride it. I would probably fall off, but at least if I made it to the other side, I would fall in the sand instead of on hard wooden planks. I don’t remember it, but I was heard to mutter, “oh dear” prior to take off. I leaned my upper body forward against his neck and hoped for the best. He took one big canter stride and jumped. We landed on the other side and to my amazement, I was still sitting square in the saddle in balance with him. Patrick lazily broke to a walk as I shortened my reins and picked up my stirrups. “Well, at least you can’t say this horse isn’t honest.” I joked to my still white-faced trainer.
The rest of the ride went fine. We (more successfully) cleared the line several more times. I’m pretty sure there’s a life lesson in here somewhere in addition to a lesson about how to ride horses. You may not always get the perfect spot to a fence, in fact, I can guarantee you won’t. Heck, you might not even be prepared for the jump. Even so, sometimes there is nothing to be gained from holding back. You might want to quit or bail out before the going gets too tough, but the best thing to do is to just go with it. That’s right, just go with it! Yes, you might fail. You might end up with a face full of sand, but you might just surprise yourself and succeed when you thought you couldn’t.
Now I’m not saying that I want to experience this kind of riding debacle every day. I’m not sure my chicken adult ammy heart can take that! However, I aim to ride the way I rode that day when faced with that situation. For better or for worse, I made a decision to go with him and I stuck to it. Maybe that’s a little something I learned from Patrick. Sure, deciding to jump that fence without any direction from me other than being pointed in its general direction wasn’t the smartest thing he ever did, but he didn’t know that. What was interesting about it was the feeling I got from him once he had decided to jump that oxer. He was totally committed. There was no question in his mind that he would make it to the other side. I think if I had that sort of confidence in riding and in life, it would be difficult not to succeed.