And after yesterday’s inspiring title…

1 07 2012

Well, I don’t know whether it was because I got there early and cracked on with mucking out a stall (which I did get finished before the register was taken), whether it was because not many people came today or whether it was because they’re going soft on me since I had a fall and it’s my last month here now, but they actually did let me ride today – and it was awesome!!!

After waking up about an hour and a half early due to itches on my right hand from being bitten on it half a dozen times by mosquitoes (I have insect repellent sunblock, but it soon rubs off my hands and then they bite the bits where it’s rubbed off) and not managing to get back to sleep, I managed to make it to the stables for 06:15 this morning. I was the first person to arrive and I didn’t know where the keys were, so I had to wait for the next person to show up before I could crack on with anything. I know where the keys live now, though, so if it happens again I can just let myself into the girl’s changing room and then crack on with stuff.

Upon arrival I set about serving my sentence right away. I mucked out Max’s stall. I understand that Max, like Hokon, has been behaving a bit on the difficult side recently; since they’re the safe horses for inexperienced riders to practice on, I wondered if it’s to do with the heat; it makes me belligerent, too. But I digress. Aside from not wanting to move out of my way when I needed to get to the opposite side of his stall, Max was fine with me.

After the register, I cracked on and mucked out Hokon’s stall next. Not entirely by choice; at this time everyone else was getting on with them, too, and Hokon had been left. He wasn’t aggressive towards me this morning, but he wasn’t especially friendly either. In any case I got him done and untethered him nice and quickly.

It was at that point that my pleasant surprise came in the form of a second-year sempai coming to tell me that she and I would be riding Max from 08:30, and that prior to that we would tack him up together. She very considerately asked me if I thought my leg would be okay. I said that I thought so. That was good enough for her.

Pleasantly shocked and resisting the urge to attempt to do cartwheels (which I can’t actually do!) down the length of the stables, I hurried off to join the others watching the upper years’ practice. Then, later, at the instruction of the second-year sempai, I headed off to collect all of Max’s tack and start grooming him. He was lying down in his freshly-cleaned stall when I got there; thankfully, as soon as I opened the door and called him he stood up.

We got him tacked up and out in fairly short order. Then, for the first time, I had a lesson given by one instructor, in a pair with another first year – in the main riding ground, and not in a cordoned-off section of it. Before the lesson began, I’d been cautioned by another first year that she’d ridden Max the day before and he’d been difficult for her to control, so I was mentally bracing to have to deal with this. Initially he wouldn’t walk, and I had trouble getting him to turn at first, but after the initial problems he was fine.

In a pair, myself and the other rider practised trotting in a wide circle, one in front of the other around our instructor. I feel so much more confident in trotting now, and I have to say that I find it remarkably easier to do in the flat, wide open space of the main riding ground than in the circular pen. (It’s also less concerning, because flat ground has no camber.) After some initial criticisms of my posture and the length at which I was holding the reins, which I corrected, I was more or less left to it and told I was doing okay. We practised both the sitting trot and the rising trot. My rising trot is fine now, and doesn’t take me the same amount of physical effort it used to.

After that, I was told to continue at walking pace while my partner in training carried on with cantering practice. This went on for about another 15-20 minutes. I was told to watch as I continued riding, which I did. After he’d finished and had been offered tips and pointers, I was instructed to ride into the circular pen for a cantering lesson of my own.

The objective was to get me cantering from walking pace. On my first however many attempts, Max just went into trotting. Eventually I managed to get him to canter, but then he went back into a trot after a few paces. The reason: As my instructor carefully explained to me, inside the horses’ mind, if you’re not giving them input into what they should be doing all the time, they decide for themselves, so in order to keep Max cantering I would have to not only kick him – but keep kicking him. Initially I couldn’t make myself do this, partly because I didn’t like the thought of continuously kicking Max and partly because I was somehow convinced it would just make him go faster. But after that explanation, I did as I was being told to, and lo and behold, I got Max to canter for several laps of the ring without stopping or breaking back into a trot. My sempai said that I still need to do a fair bit more practice, but for only my second go I’d done well to have started off not being able to do it at all and ended up able to sustain it.

After that, I was told to ‘norikiri‘ – that literally means to cut the ride (as in, end it), and in practical terms means to give the horse his cool down. I let the reins go slack and rode Max around the pen for a few paces, occasionally cutting across it to change direction, and we carried on like this for some time while my sempai gave feedback to the second-year sempai who’d gone before me stood right in the entrance to the pen, so I couldn’t exactly just walk out. Eventually they realised they were blocking my way and got out of the way. At that point I rode him out into the yard and dismounted.

Before we cleaned and groomed him, I asked permission to give him a sugar cube because I was so happy with how things had gone and enthralled with Max for how good to me he’d been. I didn’t have any of my own; I never realised this before, but all the various bags of cubes hanging up around the place belong to different riders. Someone gave me one to give to him, though. It’s still making me want to hug myself every time I remember his little(-ish) face when he saw it in my hand. Awww!

After that, we washed him and groomed him and put him back. Although in general he was well behaved, it started to rain so we had to groom him indoors where he could (unfortunately) see all the other horses had been fed while he was being made to wait, which made him a bit antsy. I tried a horse-whispering trick I read about on the internet on him here; apparently, the soft spot of exposed skin under a horse’s tail (just above the anus) is a pleasure spot, and if you softly massage it, it will help an agitated horse to relax. Max certainly enjoyed this, although he looked a bit surprised when I started doing it (and I have no idea how it must have looked to anyone who might have seen what I was doing). However, any positive impact it had on his behaviour only lasted as long as I was actually doing it, and since I was trying to dry him with a towel at the time this made things a bit tricky. Still, if you don’t mind putting your fingers near a horse’s bumhole, try it! Heh.

And that was me for the day.

Incidentally, at one stage today I saw a girl who started at the same time as me having her first go at jumping! I hope I can have a go at that before I leave, too… 😀

I feel I should probably say something about my hip. No, it’s not 100% better yet, but amazingly, while it still felt sort of bruised as I was walking to the station first thing this morning and kept giving me the odd twinge while I was mucking out horses’ stalls, once I mounted and was in the saddle I was absolutely fine. No pain, no discomfort, nothing – not even when I was cantering, not even when I was rising with the trot. Dismounting was a little uncomfortable, but after riding the whole lot actually feels much better than it has since before the fall last week. Horse riding is good for you, people!




5 responses

2 07 2012

Reblogged this on gsug and commented:
Good for you! Back in the saddle and taking on more challenges too.. Good news about the hip. Jumping eh? Maybe next week? Xxx

2 07 2012

I’m also wondering if I’m good enough to start work towards jumping. My instructors know I’d like to jump when I’m ready, but they’ve not said anything recently. Other people (experienced people who’ve seen me ride) say things like “Have you jumped [new horse] yet?” and then seem very surprised when I say I’ve not started jumping at all. For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking I’ll wait til I have a lesson where I’m doing well and then ask about it … but I’ve not had a lesson I felt good about for a few weeks and falling off last week didn’t encourage me to tell people I think I might be ready!

6 07 2012

I say go for it! There is no harm in asking. The worse thing they can say is no… good luck! 🙂

9 07 2012

Thank you very much for the encouragement. I have now booked my first jump lesson (although I understand this will be learning about jump position rather than actually jumping anything). I asked an instructor when they thought I’d be ready and she said “Now” rather than the “in a month or so” sort of answer I’d expected. I’m really pleased I asked but I probably wouldn’t have got round to asking without having had that bit of encouragement from you 🙂

11 07 2012

You’re very welcome! I’m glad I could help, and I would love to hear about how it went!

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