I highly recommend Mary Bess Sigman to anyone in GA or surrounding areas. She is great! Love her style; encouraging, easy to get along with, knowelageable (sp?), funny, and tough. I had a GREAT time! I was nervous; hadn't had any sort of a "jumping lesson" since my Jeff Cook clinic back in early June.
Took Tiki with me to PW for my Saturday lessons. Let a friend hack him for me. She started out with my group of kids in the big ring, but recognized how tense he was, so she went to the covered ring by herself. He relaxed beautifully, and she had a great time:) He was light and soft, and came into the bridle without her having to take ANY contact on him at all. She was very complimentary, which of course made me super happy. He stood in a standing stall with a full net of hay, and a water bucket close at hand for hay dunking; he was happy as a pig in mud!
After a full day of teaching, changed my clothes, packed up all my stuff, loaded the Squeaky, then plugged the address into the GPS and freaked a little; 3:19 was the estimated arrival time. My ride time was at 4. The arrival time does NOT take into account traffic lights, etc. Plus, I was just a *little* distrustful that the GPS actually knew the address; Calimar is WAY off the beaten path, lol. Fortunately, I got there with NO problem, and was able to cruise along at about 70 mph since Becca's trailer is so awesomely light:) The truck pulled it like a CHAMP:)
Arrived at Calimar at precisely 3:20. Had plenty of time to get the boy off, run a brush over his (sweaty) coat, wipe his nose and eye boogers, tack him up, get my boots/half chaps on, and mount up with 6 minutes to spare. Phew! MB actually did what I had hoped for. Asked me to tell her about myself; goals, etc. She took the time to go over what happens at a HT, and some general rules. Most of that I knew already, but I was appreciative of her taking the time to talk to me. I was riding with a lady on a large pony that was SUPER brave; the lady was very obviously a BTDT sort of eventing rider, and was very nice and encouraging. We warmed up with a quick trot/canter both ways, and MB just watched. She then explained how she wanted the course ridden; galloping position in between the jumps, sit up and prepare TO the jump, then getting away from the jump. I practiced the gallop position (picture perfect), and then the preparation position. Basically, it's lift MY shoulder to get him to lift HIS shoulder. That's what she focused on; his shoulder. She wanted his head to come up, his shoulder to lift, and his hind end to sit down. Makes perfect sense. So, like Marisa said, get a little in the "backseat", but she wanted my seat light, not in a driving position. Fun. Warmed up over a crossrail, then it was time to get to work!
First exercise was the lincoln logs out of the arena to an inviting hanging log, to a low but spooky log. I picked up my neck strap, got in my "shoulder lifting" position, put my leg on, and he jumped all 3 jumps beautifully. I felt solid, secure, and even though he peeked at the spooky log, because his shoulder was up, and I was supporting and not chasing, it worked out great. MB had nothing but praise.
Next was the little ditch. Pony walked it with absolutely no problem; K cantered her in to the bigger ditch, and ALMOST fell in it! Needless to say, pony was NOT happy about the wider expanse of nothingness, so Tiki and I walked around a little bit while K and MB worked on getting over it. Finally, it was my turn. MB MADE me walk the little one. We went back and forth over it until Tiki finally quietly hopped over. It was my turn now for the wider one ... gulp! She wanted me to go SLOW and walk over it. I was like, "huh?" MB was like, "Yep, WALK IT". OK. We walked to the edge, he stopped. We trotted up, I leaned forward, his front feet went IN the ditch. We walked again, trotted at the last minute, MB hollered that he was going, I held tight to the strap and closed my eyes as Squeaky boy launched over it. I lost my stirrup on landing, but we were over in one piece.:) Came other way, leaned forward, he stopped. Came again, stayed back, clucked and legged, and he launched. Let's say MB made us do it literally a dozen times. I KEPT on leaning forward, and she KEPT on telling me to STAY BACK. Also, as he started to "get it", he wanted to run to it a little, then stop and launch. THAT'S why MB wanted me to go slow to it, so he would stay consistent. Finally, towards the end, he was a little bit better to it, so we moved on.
Jumped up and down the small bank a few times, and he was a rock star. To my amazement, he trotted right to the edge of the bank and bounced down without even a hiccup. Did a combo of bank up, bank down, hanging log. It was perfect, no problems. Then it was time for bank down, big training level cedar log (the one he's always sticky at), larger bank up (which we'd never done) to train barrels (yikes). Let me say, we've never jumped the train without a nice little sniff and look. This was to be the first "Just go JUMP it!". Down bank was great, stop at the log. I should have used my crop on approach, and maybe he would have gone. MB let him look at it, then we tried again. He went this time, albeit a bit awkwardly, and we continued to the bank. A big leap up after he bobbled and broke to the trot in front of it, then on to the train. I sat BACK, clucked, supported, and he went over! I patted him and exclaimed how the bank was much bigger than what I was expecting! MB was pleased with our performance. We then had to reverse that and do the train to the bank down to the cedar log the other way. Better this time. The bank was so huge my hand came off the neck strap because he had to stretch so much. Did something similar to that one more time, and we had no issues.
Last, we moved into the water complex (gee, just like I've done it on my own, lol!). We walked into the water, and he was happy to do it. Let him take a peek at the cabin; this time we were jumping it opposite the way I had last time. Did a combo of a natural log triple bar, canter into the water, jump a crossrail out, then around to the cabin. Great at the triple, perfect canter and hop over the crossrail, then I rode him well to the cabin and he jumped it. I had used my spur on takeoff, and MB said I rode it perfectly. Finished with a bounce down into the water, then back out. I had jumped out of it last time, but not in. Going towards the barn, he was pretty good. Going away, he got a little too fast and frantic, then nearly tripped coming out because it's only 3 strides before the out. MB wasn't happy with how he was dropping in; she said he was a little unsure and needed to figure it out, so we came a few times until I stayed back on coming in, whoa'd through the water, then WAITED on the bank out. Once we got it, she wanted us to quit there.
K asked if we could go back over to the ditch one more time. MB said that we could, and if the pony had trouble, we could give her a lead. Walked back over there, and I watched the pony jump it just fine. Then K asked me if I wanted to do it ... not really, but I knew it wouldn't hurt. Tried to stay back and remember what MB had said, and he launched. Back again, and he launched again. Again, and a little better. Once more, and it was decent, so we quit for good.
What a great experience! The biggest compliment to me was that MB said she would LOVE to work with us, would include me on her e-mail list for when she was xc schooling, and would be perfectly happy to help us at the HT. I mentioned our 5 year goal was to make it to Training level, and her response was that she would have NO problem getting us there.:) Awesome. I sure wish I'd hurry up and win the lottery so I could lesson like that every week instead of once every 3 months!