Today it was time to get back in the ring for soiree number 2 of the John Smart Clinic. We were all on and warming up early and the air was all tingly with zip and anticipation.
With the exception of one mad canter transition (rider error, natch) Max was calm and focused from the off. And the real click came when John told me to keep breathing and I started singing through each exercise. Sure, everyone's ears bled, but if a bit of tuneless humming is what's needed - so be it. Whatever it takes, right? John did say we were on a fact-finding mission to find out how to get the job done so it was clearly his fault on some level.
|Going under cover as a 14.2hh|
We started with a refresher from the day before, which built into a bounce grid of four. Max is a big horse but he's so mentally sharp he didn't struggle at all and nipped in and out of it like a gymkhana pony.
Everyone else was getting a lovely ride too - I think the two consecutive days really worked because it stays fresh but any nerves just kind of get burned away in the mix.
|Engage beast mode|
We then tinkered with some fillers, before cantering into an upright with fillers and making sure we didn't over cook it and spoil the rhythm or stride. All the horses nailed it, and we finished with a straight bar on the diagonal on the right rein, switching onto the left rein and swooshing down the long side over an oxer.
Our go wasn't perfect (he was on the wrong leg after the first, then changed in front, but remained disunited behind) but John said it was good that we'd ridden positively to the last jump.
My riding instructor is always battling to get me to organise between jumps rather than just ploughing onwards so it's definitely my present Everest. Note to self, Keeping Calm and Carrying on is no good if your canter is dolly.
|Just doing flying changes, cos he can|
Not that I'm complaining about having things to work on. The clinic was incredible fun. I had the cheesiest grin on my face pretty much all the way through and I didn't want it to end. So much so that I watched the next session and then volunteered to help move wings and rails for the one after.
I was so grateful to get the ride on Max. His owner had him beautifully spruced and trailered him over which was just lovely, and very generous. I love all the horses I ride, but he really is something special - clever, keen and genuine and up to the rafters with ability. Fingers crossed I'll get to ride him again one day soon.
For now I'll just watch the videos over and over and dream of jumping while I'm browsing the veg aisle in Lidl ....