I think I just taught the perfect lesson.
Well, perhaps not perfect, but when you consider that both seven year old girls were screaming wrecks two months ago who fainted at the word “canter”, I think they`re doing a very good job.
You may remember my posts from Christmas time about how I dreaded this lesson every week, and how the kids were always falling off … Today I only had the two younger ones on it, riding their favourite ponies, and perhaps my favourite ponies too. We started with them each reluctantly holding a whip. I didn`t intend to get them to use it, but they should get used to holding a short crop and changing hands, as well as the fact it always encourages the ponies to be more forward going.
They stayed in closed order, and I risked parking my bum on the mounting block in the corner of the school to give them more independence. They walked an erratic three loop serpentine (it had about eight loops in!) so we practiced that before trotting. They sat very nicely, told me if they were on the correct or incorrect diagonal, rode some decent circles and good serpentines on both reins, in rising and sitting trot with and without stirrups. A passing livery even commented on how nicely they both rode!
Our warm up finished trotting over some trotting poles in jumping position, practicing straightness and keeping the trot throughout the poles. I was pleased with the smaller girl who was very persistent and managed to get Mr Shortcut, her pony, to go right into the corners.
Then we got to the canter part. I was feeling hopeful as they`d already asked if they could canter today. I ran with both girls for the first time, and they let go of the front of their saddles. When I set off with the first rider she said to me “Shall I let go?”
“Yes” I said, “you did last time didn`t you?” Off we went. I gave the cue for canter and my little rider wasn`t holding on. Suddenly, she dropped her reins!
“Woah, hold on!” I cried immediately slowing down. “You`re meant to keep hold of your reins but let go of your saddle, silly.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot!” she said, grinning away.
The next time both of them went alone to canter. This meant we got a few more canters in as I didn`t get puffed out. Both girls were grinning away and starting to look secure in the canter.
Then we moved on to a little jump. Only a tiny cross pole, so that they were feeling like they were making progress. For some reason the bigger pony took a dislike to the sunlight on the white pole so that rider had to be really accurate with her steering and put her leg on. A lot to do when you still have to think about jumping position! Mr Shortcut, unsurprisingly, wouldn`t trot until heading straight towards the fence, and did a sharp left hander almost straight after. His rider soon got the measure of him and steered him straight after the fence all the way to the track.
We built up the cross pole until it was about a foot in the centre; the bigger pony took quite a jump (not enough to unseat, but he put in a bit of effort) and cantered away from the jump! His rider was chuffed with herself. Even Mr Shortcut had to make an effort over that cross so his rider felt the shape of the jump as she folded.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson, and both girls seemed incredibly confident and happy throughout. No nerves showed, and I think they`re bringing all their skills together, so I can start making the flatwork a bit harder and try doing a double or little course of jumps next time.