An Education of Sorts

11 05 2012

Today it hit me just how awesomely considerate the folks at my riding club are. I got to ride Tifon again today; this time she was on a slack rope lead again and I had an upper year student walking beside me giving explanations and instructions, however the purpose of the lesson wasn’t to teach me riding techniques, but terminology. In Japanese. How thoughtful is that?

Three terms that are commonly used in riding instruction were explained to me. I remember two of them, and while I can’t remember the third to repeat it I know I would understand it if I heard it again. The first two, makinori and han-makinori, mean to steer the horse around in a circle; the former is a wide circle (in this case, the same width as the cordoned-off space we were using to practice in), whereas the latter is a circle of half that diameter. The third term (it began with na and was long, I remember that!) means to turn at 135 degrees in a corner and walk diagonally across the length of the training area.

You know, immediately after the lesson finished, I ran back to the changing room to put my (borrowed) helmet back and thought it would be a good idea while I was there to write them all down. It was at this point that I realised I’d forgotten the third one. Still, I’m really impressed that they’re taking the trouble to help me with all of this!

I was actually late for riding this morning because my first train was delayed. This rarely happens in Japan, however as they are so efficient they added an additional six cars to the train when it did arrive to accommodate all the people who had consequently missed a connecting service. Thus, I wasn’t as late as I might have been had the same thing happened in the UK. Because of this I only had a small amount of input into the chores first thing in the morning, which meant most of the time I was there was spent doing nice things with the animals.

After riding Tifon, the team captain rode her. He is clearly a very skilled and experienced rider – in both dressage and jumping – and he makes everything look effortless. He’s not just good at it, though – he does it all with finesse. I can only dream of ever being as good with horses as he is. Whereas I have to concentrate with all my might just to get Tifon to keep walking in a straight line, he can gallop on her without outwardly appearing to have broken a sweat.

Once he was done practising, we gave her face, legs and hooves a wash, then lead her outside, dried and groomed her. Her legs were still hot after we’d finished, so I was instructed to rub something called ‘Relax Gel’ on them to help cool them down. I assume it works like deep heat, but cold instead of hot. It had no effect on my hands, anyway.

Once Tifon was successfully lead back into her stall (without any injuries to my extremities this time, I’m pleased to report), I took her head collar off and couldn’t help myself giving her a big hug, pressing my cheek against hers. She didn’t object.

Then, I went to fetch a broom and a dustpan to sweep up the stables, but was instead asked to take one of the ponies for a walk – the smaller of the two (whose name, I now have it on good authority, is Kama – not Chibi)! First I was asked to tether him and give his coat a quick brush, but initially he didn’t want to come out to where the posts are because he was frightened of Hokon, who was already there. I tried a trick I’ve been shown to use when one of the full-sized equines spooks at the sight of another horse, which was to walk him around in a circle back the way we came and then out again, but it didn’t work, so I just had to pull really hard on the lead in the end while he pulled back and one of the sempai pushed his backside. It was like something out of a cartoon.

Once I started walking him, his mood noticeably picked up, however. I took him out into the training ground to graze on the plants growing at the edges and in the shade where it wasn’t too hot. He was so excited and happy at this, it made me smile. I want a tiny pony of my own to take for walks!

Coming back, I had a little bit of excitement when Shiro (who had been left in the lunging pen) ran at him, and Kama responded to this by first jumping up in the air and then trying to run back at him, even though neither of them could have gotten past the barrier. Only I had a firm hold on the lead, so when Kama tried to run beyond its length the momentum jerked the lead sideways and swung both myself and him round in a skidded semi-circle. After being momentarily stunned at this unexpected turn of events, Kama spotted another patch of grass he obviously liked the look of, and ran for it, dragging me along with him. I recovered control, however, and dragged him back to be tethered up to have his hooves cleaned and get groomed properly… which was the last thing I did before I had to leave for school this morning.

I am not going riding tomorrow because I am going to watch a sumo tournament. I will be back there on Sunday, however, which is also when the new starter’s welcome event will be taking place. This will be a formal event; I’ve already been told I have to wear a plain black suit, white blouse, nude stockings and black pumps, and prepare a self-introduction in advance…

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