Zeus and I have been on the road (thanks to our trailer!) and we've spent the past few weeks going out and about, experiencing new places, jumping new jumps, and he's getting braver with every footstep. I couldn't be prouder of this guy.
In about 3 weeks, we'll be taking part in our first USEA Sanctioned Event together - his very first horse trial. This means we ride all three phases in one day: Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. It's a lot for a youngster like Zeus, so we've chosen an event that's relatively close to home and is known for being inviting and a good experience.
Even though I train other horses for a living and teach other people to ride, one thing I am always trying to improve on is myself. How can I ride better? How can I be more effective not only with Zeus, but with all my other horses? And how can I ride Zeus so he is at the best of his ability and continues to grow?
Yesterday, my mom and I ventured up to Millbrook, NY, and I had a lesson with well-known upper level eventer Rebecca Coffin-Vickery. Rebecca has been in the sport of eventing ever since I can remember, she's always had a very solid reputation, and her results speak for themselves. Basically, if you're competing in the same division as Rebecca in an event, well...first place may already be spoken for.
Rebecca had asked me previously about Zeus, and I told her his history and what I've done with him thus far. She had a few other riders tag along with us so Zeus wouldn't feel that he was alone while we were working, and she herself rode another youngster.
Zeus surprised Rebecca by being alert but calm, and able to focus on his work even though he'd never been at this farm before - even after she told the other two riders that they could head back to the barn. We worked on a ton of things and I loved that she got specific - weight in my outside stirrup, shift inside hip forward....just tiny nuances that fine-tune a ride that make it transform from good to great. It was so intense that Mom commented later, "I'm not sure who worked harder - you or Zeus!"
I can't wait to go back for more, and am hoping I can squeeze in another session with her before our eventing debut.
At the end of our lesson, Rebecca sized up Zeus and said, "He really is a nice horse! He certainly has a good head on his shoulders and he works hard for you."
He certainly does.