February Publisher’s Note: 2019 Mostly Right

Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography


In a lesson recently at Stonewall Farm, I rode down to a single oxer. I was on a horse I didn’t know and I walked right into my typical amateur moment. In my half-seat, light as air, with a soft arm, riding just how this horse liked, I failed to close my leg out of the turn. Then I failed to close my leg on the approach. Then I failed yet again to close my leg at the base. By the time we arrived, there wasn’t much canter, much horse, or much going on. He stopped. It was a toss up – he probably should have gone, but he had every reason to stop. 

I focused immediately on the correction. I pushed him off my right leg into the jump and turned right to counter where his body had drifted out of the jump. I circled calmly and put my leg on. And then I also sat down hard, opened my hip angle, dug in, and jumped the jump. It was effective, but it wasn’t pretty. Also, it wasn’t that effective as the horse who a moment ago was soft and huntery was now stiff and hollow. He jumped the jump and Emily Elek called me in to chat about it.

“Just because you had a negative result doesn’t mean you go back and change every thing about your ride. You only change what didn’t work. You were riding him great – your upper body was good, your eye was up, you knew where you were, you were soft in your elbow – and then you didn’t close your leg. That was your mistake the first time. The second time, you jumped the jump, but it was full of mistakes – you drove into this horse who wants you to be soft, you clutched his mouth, you pushed, pulled, thumped your body, and rode rough and tough and did it, but incorrectly,” she explained. 

It made sense. I tried again and got the canter I wanted by closing my leg before the turn, stayed soft, kept my leg in the turn, out of the turn, and on as he took off. He jumped round, slow, and I felt like in that moment, over that jump, I could jump anything in any ring. It was perfect. All I was left to focus on was not being jumped loose. We kept jumping with my leg firmly in place in the turns and on approach until, utterly exhausted, we quit for the day jumping far higher than I would have ever guessed I could be comfortable. 

Photo © Adam Hill

Returning home to New York, I dove into strengthening my base so that I could hold my leg easier while staying soft in the saddle. Running, spinning, squats, lunges, planks, and working out in my Shoulders Back quickly followed. Suddenly, a tragedy – he STOPPED – turned into a surmountable platform: I had one thing to fix, not my entire ride. 

Looking critically at other aspects of my life, I found myself doing the same action in other places – changing every single aspect of an unsuccessful circumstance – essentially throwing the baby out with the wash water. When something isn’t going well or to plan, I tend to go full throttle changing everything, editing, and upending the system. As a scientist, I can objectively see that this does not help me identify the error and isn’t the most efficient solution. 

It’s just as important to sit down and analyze what is working as focusing on what is not. Take the time in 2019 to be critical, figure out what is successful, and make sure you continue it. And save your energy to change just what actually needs to be changed.

See you at the ring! 

About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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