Yes, that's right. Stella's got her groove back. Apparently, all that was needed was a little education and that magical Morgan cure-all-- night-time turnout.
After auditing last week's clinic with Intrepid Amy, I felt some groove coming on, and got back in the saddle at least. Following that success, I-Amy and I managed to slip up to the Stuart Horse Trials grounds to audit the XC portion of the clinic given by Leslie Law. While I am drawn to XC work and believe these Morgans have a lot to show the world in terms of how much ground they can eat up without tiring, I have no idea how to actually negotiate a jump at all, much less scary banks, coffins, and water jumps. So I was thrilled that we could find the time and make the trip.
The opportunity for me to stand 15 feet away from a scary jump and listen as Mr. Law gave instruction to riders before starting their approach, to watch riders and horses attempt the obstacle, hear the follow-up instruction/correction/suggestion, and then watch them take it again was invaluable. Still photographs and even video of riders on XC courses have always made it look so difficult/foreign and haven't shown me how it works. At the clinic, we watched horses and quickly got to know their personalities and comfort levels with this work, and it became clearer and clearer as rider after rider went through, then circled to repeat a jump at least once, that the horse does the work. He takes the jump; his athleticism, instinct, and intellect get him over.
That may sound stupid to anyone who already jumps or who understands it, but this was the first time I really saw how it worked. The rider can help, and she can most certainly hurt the horse's effort, but she ultimately ain't the one jumping. He is, and I saw that with my own eyes, up close and personal, and I get it now.
Maybe some of my not-understanding of this principle comes from only having exposure to jumping in lessons I was in, or in competitions I was not in-- where all the focus is on what the rider did right or wrong to mess things up. There was not a lot of discussion, except peripherally, that the horse is the one who does it. The one book I've read that considers this principle is Pippa Funnell's, but she only says it once and doesn't dig very deeply into it.
For me, this is a lightning bolt of fundamental understanding.
As I bring Sherm along, I have been concerned from the start about screwing him up because I don't have enough experience. The XC clinic put in very clear terms what parts are my job, and what parts are his job, and how much of his job comes naturally to him. While I have to be in the right place at the right time with the right seat to let him do his job, I only have to worry about getting my job right, not both of our jobs. I'm not jumping that; he is. He's bright, bold, and talented enough to get his job done.
So, we got back together yesterday, and again today, and we're back. Working together, me on my job, he on his, and while we're not flying over obstacles yet, we're getting work done without fear. He helped again by being Sherman, charging right for the newly-delivered park bench on the property, rather than shying away from it like every other horse on the place. Bold, bright, talented, inquisitive. Just sit up and do your job, girl, and he's going to do his naturally.
We also switched to night-time turnout Friday night, so he's sleepy as hell and totally relaxed when I go out to ride first thing in the morning, which is my best time. I can't overstate the value of having a good bit of that excess Morgan go siphoned off by a night of galavanting around... a focused, not-a-rocket horse is a whole lot easier to work with while we're still learning, and his quiet helps my confidence greatly.
We're good. We're back. We're going places.