New Balance

6 05 2012

And it seems we’re back into the usual schedule. Today, riding club started and finished at the normal times, but there were significantly fewer people than usual.

It began as usual with mucking out stalls; this morning I did Shirika’s, with her in it, tethered by her head-collar and rope lead to the front railings as I worked. I’m getting much quicker at it now, and it doesn’t wear me out as quickly. Much as it may sound as though I’m stating the obvious here, I hope that means I’m getting stronger.

After that, I helped sweep up inside the stables. Obviously, mucking out the stalls creates quite a bit of mess outside of them. Here, I ran into a bit of frustration; initially I was acting on my own initiative, but seeing this, a couple of sempai asked me to stop what I was doing and do something else, which I did unquestioningly, only for the one who’d asked me to do the other thing to come back and think I hadn’t understood them. While my Japanese is good enough to see that this was what was happening, it sadly wasn’t up to explaining what had happened so I didn’t just look dim-witted or ignorant. I guess I just have to take this sort of thing on the chin until I am more articulate; it doesn’t help that my ability to speak Japanese decreases when I’m tired or flustered.

Anyway, I was outside sweeping the yard when I was told to go and help tack up Hokon, who I was to ride today. Myself and a first year with whom I seem to be on good terms did this together. When we approached Hokon’s stall, he was lying down on his side in his freshly-laid sawdust looking recumbently contented. It was very sweet. I wanted to take a picture, but I’m still a bit reticent to ask to do things like this while I’m supposed to be working, more out of shyness than anything else.

When our sempai called out to Hokon, he got up onto his feet without question. We tacked him up and then lead him out into the circular pen for lunging.  I went first, and before I mounted, I realised what the reason I’ve been having trouble with keeping my feet on the stirrups hitherto has been; I’ve been fixing them too low. We were told that as a guideline the stirrups and straps together should be the length of your own arm. I used this guideline today, and found the stirrups a lot more comfortable.

Today, our sempai kept Hokon on a lead while she walked him around in circles and instructed us to do exercises to aid rider balance. First, making circles in the air with out hands and our arms out straight and following our hands with our heads, then reaching over and touching each of Hokon’s shoulders with the opposite hand, then each of his flanks with the opposite hand, then reaching for his ears with each hand, stretching our bodies forward over the neck, then leaning right back. Then, in turn, we took our feet out of the stirrups and did various stretches on them. The final balancing act was standing up in the stirrups while the horse continued walking; this was easy on the first lap, when I was allowed to hold on to the strap on the front of the saddle, but not for the second, when I had to do it just holding on to the reins. I slipped back down into the saddle again a couple of times, but soon got used to it. Interestingly, while I was doing all of these exercises I could feel the part of my back that had been troubling me before I went for my massage yesterday, so I may look into exercises I can do between horse riding sessions to stretch this out to see if it helps.

Hokon is such a pleasure to ride, even when you’re not doing anything terribly exciting on him. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly about him that makes me enjoy riding him so much, beyond just saying – at the risk of sounding slightly dodgy – that he just feels really good. I’m not sure whether it’s something really basic like his shape, his gait or the rhythm of his movements, or maybe even just the benefit of an especially comfortable saddle, but there’s definitely something different about him than the other horses I’ve ridden there.

After we’d both had a go, we left him in the pen for a bit of a frolic on his own, then took him off and gave him a good wash. He hated this. All the way through being hosed down and scrubbed he was tossing his head, biting the chain on his rope lead and kicking out with his back legs, and although he obediently tolerated me washing his face, he kept giving me a pathetic look that said, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I thought we were friends!’ It made me feel really bad. He nearly kicked me in the head when I was trying to dry off his back legs, but I was standing correctly so I both saw it coming and was able to duck out of the way. It could have ended very badly for me if I hadn’t been…

In other news, my foot is much better now although it still hurts when I forget about it and try to run on it, and I have settled on Arthur as a name for my plush horse friend. Heh.

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