I got my no reins/no stirrups jumping lessons today. And despite what I expected, dropping the reins was much, much harder than dropping my stirrups. I may be saying differently when I get up tomorrow, but in the moment, it was harder to let go of my control than my support. Which makes no dang sense when you look at the horse in question. Seriously, why would I worry about letting go of this horse?
Yes, he's a saint. But when the time came to take my hands off of the reins and put them on my hips, I had to grab onto my vest to not put my hands back on the reins in the middle of the grid. It wasn't about needing them for balance, it was about the frantic feeling that he couldn't do it without me! But guess what? He could and he did it over and over while I figured that out. He never put a foot wrong.
We don't have video of my passes without stirrups since Trainer A wanted to keep a close eye on me in case I freaked or did something dumb. Not Theo, we knew exactly what Theo was going to do. The same thing he'd done the first twenty times through the grid. Jump - one stride - jump - one stride - jump. My first pass without stirrups was pretty terrible since it dawned on me that I hadn't jumped without stirrups in a long, long time and kind of panicked. There was much clutching and praying. By my last pass, Theo and I came in at the canter and popped through in a way that felt natural and comfortable. The muscle memory is still there and I can still do one strides without stirrups. Muscles were cramping at the end, but now I feel confident that I can jump without stirrups and not die in the process. Go me!
I really can't say enough about what a saint Theo was for this lesson. He was a little perplexed to start, but he figured it out very quickly. My riding was pretty craptacular in a few passes so I made sure to have lots of extra cookies to keep him motivated. And my Thinline pad to protect his back. Not their slim model, the serious business protect his back from my ass model. With my reins knotted up and abandoned, his mouth was perfectly safe. He seemed to enjoy the lesson, using his back and neck more than usual.
Which, of course, means that I've been getting in his way with my hands when jumping. Part of it was Theo figuring out that yes, he can do this without me balancing him. Some of our first passes involved him getting on his face a bit because I wasn't there to help him. Then he figured it out and managed himself while I grabbed mane and thought about keeping my heels down. Once his footwork was down, every single pass was identical. It doesn't get better than that for a position lesson.
It was like doing one of those trust falls. I had to have that moment where I trusted that everything was going to be okay and let go. It turned out to be a big confidence boosting moment for both of us. We're both stronger than we thought.