On Top of Things

24 05 2012

So, today I got to riding club early. I needed to be there for 6:45, but wanting to err on the side of caution, I made it for 6:30. A handful of other first years had got there even earlier and had gotten stuck in already with mucking out the horses’ stalls, which was great as it meant they all got out and ridden faster, but it also messed up the order of the day a bit so that those of us who were still left at the end were all scratching our heads a bit trying to work out what still needed doing.

In the least dodgy way possible, I really enjoyed learning to take the horses’ temperatures. It felt good to be learning to do something that would benefit their health. There are a few that really dislike having it done, most of which my sempai did for me, apart from Shirika, who clamped her ears and her tail as soon as she saw me approaching with the thermometer, poor darling. The way we did this was by patting each horse on the shoulder, then running our hands along the length of their body and patting them on the rump, so they know it’s coming. Then, obviously, you insert the thermometer into the horse’s anus. The thermometers we were using had a string attached with a clip on the end; this was then clipped onto the tail, and the horse was left alone like that for two minutes. Once this had been done, the whiteboard was marked with a tick to let anyone thinking of mounting the horse know they had a thermometer in them, and when the temperature was taken this information was written below the tick. Then, when you’ve done all of them and because most systems in Japan require you to shout something at some point, you shout: ‘Zento taion owarimashita!

Next was riding practice, which followed a lot of watching other people first. I was the last person to ride Max, after a couple of others had trotting practice on him, and then the sempai who’d been instructing them had a turn herself. I mounted, was told to hold the reins at their maximum length, and I waited a moment, before she told me I could start walking practice, and that I had five minutes.

Now, what I was expecting to happen next was for her to walk alongside me offering advice and instructions. But she didn’t. I asked Max to start and turned him around to go around in a circuit of my own making in one corner of the training ground (which was being used by several other riders at the same time), and what happened next totally surprised me. A large group of first years came into the riding ground and, working as a team, created a large, rectangular enclosure around me as I carried on riding out of show jumping fence posts. Now, I know that the underlying message behind this was ‘We now think you can ride by yourself, but don’t trust you enough yet to let you loose around the other riders,’ but having all those people working simultaneously to do something specifically for me, on top of the fact I quickly realised I’d been left to my own devices for the first time, made me feel big and important. Heh.

So I steered Max around the outside edge of the enclosure, making him speed up when he slowed down to maintain my pace, making him cross the enclosure diagonally to change direction at intervals and practising making him double back on himself in a circle, and making sure he stayed on track. It may have only been five minutes (it felt like more), but I got a lot out of it. The sempai who’d ridden him before watched me the whole time, but didn’t shout out any instructions or criticisms at all, at least not until my time was up, when she just told me to ride Max out of the riding ground to dismount in the yard. Her only comment was ‘Ii, yo,‘ which I guess in this context just means, ‘That was good.’ That made me really happy.

After that, I lead Max back into his stall (after a brief headbutting/pushing contest with him after I lifted the reins over his head to lead him off, which he let me win) where I was helped by one other person to untack him. Then I went and washed his bit, hung his bridle up, and went back and lead him out to the araiba to wash him. He was beautifully well-behaved throughout, but then tried (unsuccessfully) to bite me again after I’d returned him to his stall when it was all done and I was about to leave him to his own devices. I’ve heard other riders describe him as ‘high-tension’; he’s so unpredictable. I think he might just be either territorial, or trying it on with me to establish which one of us is in charge. Anyone more clued up on horse behaviour have any ideas?

The rest of the session wasn’t much to write home about, but I came away from it feeling very positive about things. Long may this continue!

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One response

26 05 2012
Bibble Sugondo

Heh, knew you could. Great stuff

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