For starters, she was SUPER exuberant to get back to work. We started out with a few hack days, just to get her mind back into work-mode without pushing too hard. Then we had our first lesson on the flat at our farm with Kelsey. It was FANTASTIC. We spent a LOT of time at the walk, really pushing for her to completely relax the underside of her neck and start carrying herself from her topline. Once we got it though, she was a dream to ride. So soft and supple, and super relaxed. We are still working on getting a more consistent connection, because she does tend to bob her head around here and there, so that is a big goal in our flatwork in the near future.
A few days later we had our first jump lesson in about five weeks - oy vey. It was...er...rough, to say the least. April was extremely forward, and extremely excited to be jumping again, and I rode like an absolute idget. I let her get away with way too much in the warmup instead of really regulating her rhythm and tempo, and then it carried over into our work over fences. Poor Kelsey, she's so patient. I'm sure she wanted to pound me in the head with a brick when she kept having to tell me not to HOLD with my hands all the way to the fence. All the old habits of holding her too much were creeping back in, so Kelsey was really trying to get me to relax and let the mare jump up into my hand. It's a vicious cycle, because I tend to plant and hold with my hand when I feel the slightest bit insecure; which only makes April run harder and faster at a fence, so I try to hold more...you get the picture. It can spin into ugliness quickly. We made what progress we could that day, but sometimes it just isn't your day. When I finally let my hand relax and let her come up to me, we quit on a good note.
Then came another jump lesson last night - it's been a busy week of lessons because I wanted to squeeze in an extra one before Kelsey leaves for Europe for two weeks. It was dramatically different from the last ride. I had really worked on my homework, and focused on keeping a super soft hand. Each lesson I have really walked away and reflected on every piece of advice, no matter how big or small, and tried to implement it into the next ride so I don't forget anything. From the very first fence last night, Kelsey commented on what a dramatic difference I had made with my hands. It really showed up in our work too - April was much more relaxed and jumped so much better. She will still come off of the bigger fences fairly hard, but it's not like she's running away with me - it's more excitement than anything. And the less I hold, the less she tends to "run" after the fence. Every little piece keeps coming together little by little, and I know we will get there soon enough!!
The most exciting part of last night - we schooled 3'3"!!!! It was super exciting to know that I was jumping that kind of height with SO much more organization than the last time we hopped it, just for fun. I think that was shortly after I had gotten April, and we definitely weren't ready for it - it was just a little playing around. But to know that we have worked our way up to that in a lesson is exhilarating, and I feel like we are making a little bit of progress! Not only was the fence 3'3", it was the "out" fence in a one stride grid, with a pretty tight stride in between. April jumped it BIG too, but I didn't feel the slightest bit intimidated. I cannot BELIEVE how much fear has vanished in my over fences work.
Samson is doing well, and there isn't much in the way of updates. I started a Samson fund, and the second I put it together the brakes in my car went out. ***Sigh*** I got a phone call from a sweet friend who suggested putting together some kind of donation page, but I told her I really feel strange about that kind of thing. After the phone call, she texted me for my address so she could send me a little bit to help out. She is the second person - who I really haven't known that long or that well - who has made such a generous and selfless gesture. I am so touched that people have such a big place in their hearts for an animal who has made such a difference in my life. I think of each of these people every morning, when his rumbling nicker reverberates around the barn at feeding time. I am touched and blessed to have each of them in my life, and hope to never take it for granted.