I Spoke Too Soon!

14 01 2013

Well, I’ve had another lesson this evening, and it was really useful. I really think I spoke too soon about not being challenged enough and thinking the group I was in was too basic for me. It would appear that I’m exactly where I need to be.

Because it had snowed earlier in the day and I had an exam this afternoon I decided to be extravagant and book a taxi to get me there rather than walking. I can’t believe that the distance takes me some 50 minutes to clear on foot, but only ten minutes by car! For having said that, the fare was very reasonable. This also meant I arrived in good time, and as there were only cats in the office when I got there (this is quite normal) I went to check the class timetable to see which horse I had and see if I could find them to say hello to before my lesson.

The timetable said Symphony (which is much more like it where names for mares are concerned, if you ask me), so I turned around and surveyed the stalls behind me, to see one bearing that name with a speckled orange-and-white (I don’t know what the technical term for that is!) pony inside it, who was eyeing me inquisitively. I wandered over to say hello. She seemed a lot like Domino in that she seemed to enjoy my being stood there, but whenever I lifted my fist to greet her as I do with other horses, she would bite at it. It wasn’t a snappy, hostile bite like I was used to from the belligerent Thoroughbreds at Gakushuin, but it didn’t seem like a frisky one, either. I opened my palm in front of her face to show her my hand was empty, but she flinched like she thought I was going to hit her, and gave me a sad look. So I just stood and didn’t try to touch her at all, but she kept her head out, sniffing at my clothes. I caught the eye of the lady who usually takes my payment, said hello, and asked if she was Symphony. She turned out not to be; Symphony was being used in a lesson, and this pony’s name was Rosa.

It transpired, in fairly short order, that I would actually be riding Rosa in the school this evening, so it was nice that I had some time to introduce myself to her and demonstrate that I meant no harm. Symphony was brought out from the lesson, and I stuck my hand up to say I was having her. She is a gorgeous brown mare of 16hh, with the build of a Thoroughbred or a particularly slim Warmblood. I didn’t have a chance to ask which, sadly. I led her into the school, but was then asked if I wouldn’t mind swapping for Rosa with a new girl, who was quite a bit taller than me.

Rosa, I’d guess, wasn’t much taller than 14hh, so I mounted her from the ground, feeling a bit silly using the steps. First issue was fixing the stirrups right. I put them down quite low, but my instructor said she thought I’d find that more difficult when I started trotting, so I took her advice and put them up a bit more. Rosa was very patient while I faffed about with these, and responded instantly when I asked her to walk on a couple of steps to make sure they were even, even stopping when I asked. However, I was forewarned that she could be grumpy, and she certainly snapped at the instructor a couple of times and flattened her ears while she was stood in front of her.

In this lesson, we all had a practice at rising trot, individually and as a ride on both reins, then we did work without stirrups to help with our balance and position. I took second position in the ride this time. Second problem: Acclimatising to posting on a bouncy little pony after riding so many full-sized horses. I was all over the place, I couldn’t keep pace with poor Rosa, and we only managed to trot to the back of the ride after Rosa quite rightly slowed to a walk, feeling that the rhythm of the trot was all wrong. So, to help with this, I put my stirrups down a bit more, tried to rise faster at my instructor’s suggestion, and we were more successful on the second go. Although, I used my whip on her when she didn’t respond to my leg, and she went suddenly into a very fast trot, which ended up being quite uncontrolled. I was advised not to do this again if I could help it, because Rosa can sometimes be slow in her transitions and it doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t listening; using the whip would push her on too fast. I apologised to Rosa.

That instructor is brilliant, though. When struggling to get on with ponies on past occasions, not one single instructor before her has ever made any suggestions about how to deal with the difference in gait; she gave me several suggestions on things I could do differently to help me get used to Rosa’s movements, and by the end of the lesson I felt much more comfortable on her. She’s a brilliant instructor anyway; she doesn’t just tell us to do things and then tell us what we’re doing wrong, she explains why and how we should be doing things the whole time as we ride around, and offers additional tips and criticisms as and when she deems necessary. I feel like I can learn a lot from her!

We moved on to sitting trot without stirrups. I had trouble with this on my first go, because Rosa’s saddle had slipped over to the left, so all the way around the school I was fighting to stay upright, and, sad to say, ended up pretty much clinging on with my thighs. I highlighted this, and turned into the centre to take my stirrups back and try and use my body weight to shift it back into position. The second go around was much more successful!

Then, in a rather rushed move due to my having to adjust my saddle, we all took back our stirrups and trotted around large as a ride, and then that was the end of the lesson. Before we dismounted, our instructor told us that in ‘the coming month’ she was going to do a lot of work without stirrups with us (which is absolutely fine by me, I love riding without stirrups… when I’m not sliding off!), and that she was going to do some work on cantering with us following on from that. From this I was satisfied that I am in the place where I need to be, and that the relatively unchallenging lesson last week had been planned that way on purpose to ease us back in after the break. What a thoughtful teacher!

When I dismounted ‘grumpy’ Rosa, I forgot to put her stirrups up (bad Carrie!), because something she did distracted me: She turned her head around, holding it quite low, and rested it against me. Any more clued up horsey-types know what this might have meant? She wasn’t making any attempts to move or bite me or anything like that, it was just like… a head hug, I suppose. It was lovely, anyway, and I could quite happily have stayed there and cuddled her all night. She held that position when I put my hands up to stroke her face, until I took the reins from under her chin to lead her out.

Although I did lead Rosa back and took her bridle off to help save time, I didn’t hang around this time as I already knew Soapy wasn’t going to be in to say hi to as I’d checked the timetable earlier for that, too. I did give Rosa a last pat and thanked her for being good, though.

On the way out I also said goodbye to the funny chestnut pony I’d presumed to be Abby last week. Her name is actually Tallulah. Tallulah. That’s a fantastic name for a pony!

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3 responses

14 01 2013
gsug

Reblogged this on gsug.

15 01 2013
mellchan

She’s cute, maybe at the end she was investigating you or simply feeling content.
The uncontrollable trot! It makes you feel like your insides are shifting about right? Skips trot is like that…the awful fast trot that some horses do before a canter…except he does it always! I think if you ride Rosa more it will probably really help your seat….when you do get back on those horses with a normal gait it will feel REALLY easy!

15 01 2013
onahorse

I thought Rosa was adorable, if a bit skittish. I think I could probably improve a lot about my riding by using ponies; a bit like the equivalent of learning to play an acoustic guitar so playing an electric one will be comparatively easy. It certainly helps when you have a patient instructor who recognises the difficulty you’re having and gives appropriate advice to help you deal with it!

I hope she realised I didn’t mean to hurt or frighten her by the end of the lesson!

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