No Bad Lessons

Snapshot from Snapshot from "the lesson." Who knew jumping a single fence could be so hard? Photo courtesy of Seija Samoylenko.

This winter was the first time I was able to have consistent, weekly jump lessons in a while. But that isn’t totally true. I’m in a privileged position because my mom, Lisa, is a trainer and is able to help me almost everyday. Even though she gives me daily advice her lessons aren’t formal “lessons.”

There is something special about having a specific time with someone that you admire and, importantly, doesn’t see your horse everyday. Plus, someone is there to focus solely on you, your riding and your horse.

I’ve made steady improvement over the winter. I walked away from each session with an idea for training and how to improve or incorporate a certain technique or exercise. I had direction and knew where to take my rides during the week. The lessons weren’t always flawless, but I also haven’t had any points where I felt like I couldn’t do what was being asked of me.

That is, until this past week. The exercise seemed innocuous — three placing poles to a fence (first a vertical, then a wide oxer). The poles were set to keep the horse in a forward stride and place them at the base of the jump. It is an exercise designed to make the rider’s life easier. My sole job should have been to get the proper canter accurately to the first pole. Then, if I could support Roxy with my leg, everything should be OK.

The problem was I couldn’t get her to the first pole in the proper canter and support her throughout. Sometimes I made it on the correct step. Yet often I got there on a half stride over and over. I lost my confidence. Roxy lost her confidence. Her least favorite thing is for me to lose my connection with her and lack commitment to base of the fence. Eventually we found a positive place to wrap up the lesson, finishing over some more confidence building jumps.

I know lessons are supposed to be the place to make mistakes. I know that without making mistakes I won’t improve and the horse won’t learn. It still doesn’t change the fact that having a bad lesson can sometimes feel just that: bad. But I try to remind myself that there is always another chance. Schedule that next lesson. You can bet I’ll be there next Monday, learning and kicking.