So last week Gatsby and I had our first two lessons with our new trainer, Alexis Helffrich. Alexis was highly recommended to me by everyone at our new barn including an old friend and instructor of mine so I was very excited to get his input on my somewhat knuckle-headed steed. Our first lesson was a jumping lesson on Thursday. Since neither Gatsby or I had jumped in over a month *gulp* and Alexis had never seen us go before, we kept the jumps pretty small. We worked on keeping Gatsby relaxed and forward and Gatsby was just wonderful.
To start the lesson Alexis had me trot Gatsby back and forth over a small cross-rail. After noting Gatsby's tendency to rush to the fence and then back off at the last second, Alexis set up a short course for us set on a serpentine. Having those tight turns to help keep Gatsby relaxed and balanced is REALLY helpful for me. Alexis also pointed out that while I have a very strong and stable lower leg, I rarely apply pressure from my thigh so I worked on that as well. We did the course a few times and I worked on keeping pressure on from my whole leg, keeping my hands quite, staying back and letting him find his spot. This worked wonders! By the end of the lesson Gatsby was cantering around the jumps super relaxed and more forward than ever! I immediately texted my friend Nicku to thank her for recommending such a wonderful trainer
We had our second lesson with Alexis on Sunday and this time we worked on dressage. Alexis hopped on Gatsby at the beginning so that he could get a feel for him. He concluded that Gatsby seems to have the same issues in dressage that he does jumping, he gets too tense and agitated and rushes through everything. When I got on we worked on giving Gatsby very precise and correct cues so he knows exactly what I want from him. Being able to rely on me tends to keep him much more relaxed. On that same note, Alexis also had me working on being much stronger in my corrections, as Gatsby tends to be quite rude at times. Especially at the canter, he will start bobbing his head all over the place and refusing to hold a contact. To remedy this, Alexis had me hold my outside hand very strong and steady at his withers so that when he bobbed his head he would catch himself. At the same time, I was giving him an open, leading rein with my inside hand and pushing him forward from my legs. Once again, this worked magically. Gatsby continued to try the head bobbing trick to see what he could get away with but by the end of the lesson he had pretty much given up. I am sure this is something we will continue to work with.
Unfortunately, since then I haven't been able to make it out to the barn:( I had to work late last night because of month end and I will be staying late again tonight to make up for arriving late after a dentist's appointment. We do have another lesson scheduled for tomorrow though! I am uber excited and have started planning out a shoe schedule for us this season:)
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