Lost in Translation

28 08 2012

It’s a national holiday here in the UK! It’s not significant or anything; we just have one in late summer because there are loads in spring but none in autumn, so the next one isn’t until Christmas now. This has nothing to do with horse riding whatsoever besides, perhaps, that I’m a day later than I might otherwise have been with writing up what I got up to on Saturday: My friend Damian and I went for a yard lesson together at the school rather than a hack. We’d specified in advance that we were happy with whichever horses they wanted to give us.

Now, I was slightly nervous about this. I really wanted to organise lessons for myself over summer before I could find a more long-term riding solution back in West Yorkshire, where I attend university; partly to keep a hand in, partly because I was convinced that half of what I understood from what I’d been taught in Japan would be wrong, partly from the language barrier, partly from the horses being trained slightly differently. At the same time I was really looking forward to it!

We arrived early, and were amused by a horse who was wearing a hood over his eyes and ears. We didn’t know this at first, but this would have been to keep the flies and midges off him. He did look comical, though, inquisitively sticking his head out of a window and into the entrance-way  as he was. Heh.

I was then introduced to a horse I’ve never met before nor heard any of my friends talking about by the name of Tara. She was a pretty, very sweet dark brown mare, and I was immediately relieved to have been given a full-sized horse rather than a pony. Prior to leading her out, I did go over and say hi to Urby, but he had a face on him and didn’t come over to be petted. I get the impression he’s quite spoiled and doesn’t have time for people who haven’t come bearing treats for him.

Tara was marginally reluctant to be lead out into the yard, but she didn’t put up a struggle or flat out refuse as Billy and Urby had in the previous weeks. There was, however, a little bit of a drama when we got out into the yard – as I mounted her, Tara started bucking and broncking, as if she wanted to get me off her back. As with the previous instances on Kit and Shirika, I had That Moment when reality seemed to stop and give me the options of ‘Stay on’ or ‘Fall off’; this time, I managed to remain calm, and chose to stay on. And, to my astonishment, I did, and managed to pull her back to a halt eventually, at which point I was asked to dismount so that her saddle could be adjusted. Our instructor-to-be explained to us that Tara is quite ‘responsive in her back’, and had the girl who had tacked her up for me walk and trot her around the yard a few times to calm her down. He said he’d never seen Tara do that before, assuring me that she was ‘a lovely horse to ride’.

Damian caught us up with Harvey, a three-year-old Percheron (and Saxon’s younger brother), and once we were both mounted up we started doing circuits of the yard at walking pace to warm up the horses. I took the lead on Tara. I found the lesson was really helpful, actually; we were talked through using the legs and the reins in turning (which I had previously being doing wrong, but which I maintain is actually quite confusing because it seems as though you have a different leg on to turn in the same direction depending on which gait you’re in and where you are in relation to the fence), then the rising trot, in which I was given some really very helpful postural pointers. We did the 20 metre circle in both walk and trot in both directions, which I’d previously only known as ‘makinori’, so it was nice to finally find out what you call it in English, and I picked up the term ‘changing rein’, which I’d previously only understood as ‘temae’. (Later, I also learned the expression, ‘to lead a horse in hand’. I don’t know how they say that in Japanese, other than ‘Tadsuna o motte,’ which just means, ‘Holding the reins’. Heh.)

Finally, we worked up to a canter. This is really what I wanted to work on building confidence in. We were talked through what to do really well, and I was pleasantly surprised at one difference in practice between Japan and England that I felt was an improvement: You only need one kick to start the canter; thereafter, being correctly seated should be all you need to keep it going. I am much more comfortable with this than the Japanese approach of kicking them continuously to keep it going, which all seems a bit unnecesary to me. My first and third attempts to canter the length of the yard were a success (with the third being better than the first, obviously!), but I fluffed the middle one, instead going into a fast sitting trot. Heh. Actually, that was interesting in itself; in Japan we always went from a walk into a canter. This time, however, we went from walk to rising trot to sitting trot to canter, from a corner. I am pleased to report that on this occasion I did not fear for my life at any point, and after some extremely helpful input about how to sit better, my final canter felt awesome!

After the lesson was over, we were talked through a method of dismounting I wasn’t familiar with (no stirrups to push yourself off!) and we lead the horses back into the stables. I thanked Tara and gave her a big hug when I got back; she had been obedient and responsive throughout my lesson, and was lovely to ride. She did visibly lose interest a couple of times and stop listening to me, but I had my whip with me this time and I managed to get her attention back just by administering gentle but firm taps to her neck whenever I could feel that I was losing her. She is definitely my favourite so far.

Tara was sadly taken off almost immediately afterwards for another rider, so I didn’t get to ‘hang out’ with her as much after the lesson as I might have liked to, but because we are massive saps we were there for almost another full hour afterwards just fussing Harvey, and then another horse called Baron in the stall next to his stuck his head out to join in. Baron was a gorgeous horse, and much to my amusement had a moustache. We later found out that one of the instructors trims this, because he doesn’t like it. Heh.

With this having been a lesson rather than a hack I didn’t take my camera with me, and although a friend did come down to watch our lesson she didn’t bring a camera with her so there weren’t any pictures. However I do have the following one of beautiful Harvey, which I took on my camera phone:

Beautiful Harvey

And some more pictures here, taken by my friend Damian and subsequently mailed to me for the purposes of posting here:

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3 responses

28 08 2012
mellchan

Wow, sounds like you learned a lot. Are there different prices For hacking vs a lesson? Here hacking=a discounted ride on a lesson horse in the arena, you ride without the instructor actively coaching you and you work on what you want. What you call a hack we call a trail ride….and of course a lesson is just a lesson.
Have you found the horses you have ridden in the UK to be easier or harder to ride? I can’t believe they had to kick the horses to keep them in a canter…just wondering if maybe they are extremely stubborn horses in Japan.

What you described in your lesson sounds pretty spot on with what I have been taught. Posting faster in the trot can cue the horse to canter or go straight from the walk by applying pressure behind the girth with your outside leg.

And since you mentioned the no stirrup dismount (called emergency dismount here…don’t know why because its the standard
in most places..not just for emergency
situations), I will tell you that one day I didn’t
lean forward enough. As a result when I tried to
swing my leg over it got hung up on the Cantle
just long enough that it dumped me on my butt
in front of about 7 people. I was just talking
about this the other day on some forum or
maybe here…..if it was here and you are reading
this for the second time then I apologize. I’m on my phone writing this and can’t be bothered with looking at past comments 🙂
Gorgeous horse! Love the color, I would like an Irish draught horse of similar coloring.
Thanks for the post, please keep taking pictures of anything. I think next time I get out to the barn I will try and get some photos of the typical tack that I use on skip.
Anyways, happy riding and good job staying in the saddle..a rodeo queen in the making? Lol

30 08 2012
onahorse

I guess it depends on the riding school here; the school I’m currently attending charge the same fees for adult lessons as they do for hacks, the price depends on how many people are attending rather than whether it’s a lesson or a hack. So, the most expensive is private, where it’s just you and the instructor, then semi-private, which is what we’re doing, then group is the cheapest, but that could be any number of people.

It’s hard to say whether the horses here in the UK have been easier to ride than the ones in Japan. They have different merits, I suppose; the horses I knew in Tokyo could be quite disobedient, but they were very willing, if that makes sense, whereas the horses in the UK are on the whole very obedient but a bit less spirited. Heh.

Harvey is very handsome, isn’t he? I did manage to find this picture of Tara, too: https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/426862_298720106854386_239412709_n.jpg

2 09 2012
onahorse

NOoooooooooo! That’s actually a different-but-similar-looking Tara o_0

New pictures soon!

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