Putting a Neck Strap on the Carrie

25 02 2013

There were a couple of amusing quotes from the lesson this evening that I thought about using as the title for this write-up, but I’ve settled on that one. Heh.

Yes, Monday has come around again and, true to form, I have been for my riding lesson again. Actually, just recently in my ‘real life’ I’ve been getting increasingly stressed out with the demands on my time of university – and thus not working hard enough to meet them, consequently making myself more stressed out to the point of becoming quite anxious. I know that this is a destructive and illogical cycle, because if I just knuckled down and got on with it I wouldn’t have any reason to feel stressed any more, but I’m finding that it’s one thing to say that and entirely another to enact it. I mention this only to express what a lovely breather it was to go down to the stables and put all of that out of my mind for a few hours this evening.

Once again I decided to walk all the way in my boots and chaps. The boots pinched less than they had last week, but then I had padded my toes and heels out with blister plasters and put in a fleece insole to help keep my feet warm. Heh. I got beeped by a lot of cars on the way there; this is not a usual occurrence, but I’m choosing to take it as a compliment.

My lesson this evening was fun, if hard work, and we had a good giggle. There were only two of us this time; myself and the young lady who’s always been in that class with me since I first started, unlike the others who seem to come and go. I think she was even there by herself the week I didn’t make it. I saw her getting out of her car as I was leading Dan out to the outdoor school and I smiled and said hello, but she didn’t say hello back. I’m sure she must just not have recognised me or something.

So, yes; today I rode Dan, who I think I’ve described before as a ‘gentle giant’, because that seems very much to be what he is. He’s a big black cob, no feathers on him, though, and stocky though he is he has a less rotund and more elegant frame than many of the other cobs I have known. One of the ladies who works there, who I sometimes chat to, unashamedly says that he is her favourite because he loves kisses and cuddles and he never bites. This is certainly the impression I’ve got from him; he’s very friendly and affectionate. As I approached him to remove his rug, disentangle his reins from his chin strap and lead him out, he turned around, acknowledged me and snuzzled my hand, as if to demand I stroke him. He put his head down at my side and seemed to like it when I petted his forehead. He was no bother when it came to leading him out, and while I did have the reins in my hand it felt more like he was walking alongside me than I was leading him. He walked at my side, matching my pace and holding his head down low so that his ears were level with my shoulder.

In the school, he was another story entirely. I mounted him and went to put my stirrups down a hole, and he lackadaisically put his head down to the ground, as though to graze on the school floor. First he stood like that on the spot stamping alternately with his back legs; eventually, when I stopped what I was doing, he started moseying towards the track of his own volition. With both feet out of the stirrups, I tried my best to push though my seat and pull back on the reins to make him stop; we got all the way down to the track and started walking along it before I was able to persuade him to double back on himself, walk behind Symphony and take back his previous position on the centre line. This was certainly amusing, if a little frustrating.

Once I’d put my stirrups down and had my girth tightened I asked him to walk on, which he did, slowly and reluctantly. My next problem was keeping him moving forwards. My instructor said that he’s usually lazy, but he sometimes has days when he can be awkward and goes a bit crazy. At the outset it looked like it was going to be the former; it actually turned out to be the latter. I had to kick him continuously at the beginning to keep him going, in both walk and trot, and the other problem I had was that he seemed to be very easily distracted and interested in what was going on in the world around him, so I had a fight on my hands just to get him to keep his head in front of him so we stayed on the track.

At first this seemed perfectly innocent; just a bit of a dozy horse allowing his attention to wander. About mid-way through the lesson, though, it started to become clear that whether this had initially been the case or not, he was trying to see what he could get away with. I wasn’t prepared for this at all, and suddenly we started coming off the track and making unintentional circles towards the centre line and then back onto the track as I fought with both legs and hands to keep him going forwards and where he was supposed to. My instructor called out to me to use the outside rein; for a while thereafter, every time I squeezed on that rein he would toss his head towards that hand over his shoulder, making me lose my balance, giving him the momentary freedom he needed to veer back into the middle of the school again. Frustrated, I turned him onto the centre line and explained what was happening to my instructor, who agreed to mount him and ride him around the school a few times so I could see what she did to keep him under control.

As I watched them go around together, I noticed something else he was doing; a couple of times going around the school it’d felt like he’d lost his footing and tripped a little, but I could now see that he was bucking in protest at being pushed on. That was quite useful, because it reassured me not to worry if a horse does this, because relaxing and just going with it will probably keep you where you need to be. Heh. After she went around on a few times – all the while with Dan making grumbling noises underneath her with his ears back, obviously annoyed at being made to work, I mounted him again and found him a little easier to control. As on a previous occasion with Bramble, I’d like to think that this was because I implemented what I’d seen her do, but I suspect it was partly because her having taken a turn on him communicated to him that he wasn’t just going to get away with doing whatever he wanted in this lesson.

Following on from that, we had another go in sitting trot, which felt more controlled. Then my instructor explained that she’d wanted to do some work without stirrups, but that we weren’t going to because Dan was being a bit ‘… individual,’ as she put it after a thoughtful pause. The next thing she came out with almost made me wet myself laughing; she instructed me to ride to the letter H and halt… so she could put a neck strap on me. Or Dan, rather, she corrected herself. Heh.

Then we moved onto practising canter. This was fun! I had no trouble getting Dan to transition into the canter on any of my three attempts, just keeping him going with it for more than a few strides, but once again I felt okay with it and didn’t panic on the transition. Dan’s own transition to canter struck me as funny, though; other riders will know that there’s a feeling as though the horse has jumped a little bit at first, but it’s only really one end of the animal. On my ask, Dan felt like he was suddenly flinging all four of his legs out in opposing directions so that they were all off the ground at once, and then collecting himself into a canter on landing. I still thanked him graciously for transitioning at all – by that point I had been expecting to have a fight on my hands to even get him to do it! On the first go around, my outside foot came out of the stirrup as I swept it back to ask for the canter; absent-mindedly, I called out, ‘Oo-ooh! Lost my stirrup!’, to which my instructor called back, ‘Just keep going! It’s a luxury, not a necessity!’ That made me laugh, too.

Amusing anecdotes and horse behaviour aside, I think the most useful tip from this lesson was to use my core to push the horse forwards. I found that when Dan was tripping/broncking and moving his head about to try and throw me off balance was when I was losing control, and with it my confidence as well. However, when I was instructed to ‘push him forwards with [my] core’ I applied these muscles and it made a huge difference. I started to sort of imagine that the power from those muscles was being channelled into Dan and was what was actually propelling him forwards, and it helped to keep my back straight as well. Only, now I know that this works I’ll have to make sure I’m not doing it too much so I have no flexibility in my lower spine! Oh, riding is complicated. She also explained trot diagonals to us tonight – which I already knew about – but I kept incorrectly correcting myself onto the wrong diagonal, thinking I knew what I was doing! I don’t know, riding is haaard. I’ll get there one day!

We’re going to move on to cantering without stirrups, she said. This idea does not fill me with fear and dread any more.

At the end of the lesson, I dismounted and put Dan’s stirrups up before leading him out. He was obliging and affectionate again from the moment I stepped onto the ground, snuzzling my hands as I walked around him to put the stirrups up on his other side and once again walking beside me rather than being led by me. He even walked straight past his own stall because I didn’t realise which one it was and he seemed perfectly content to go wherever I was going!

I took him back and helped the lady whose favourite he is to get his bridle off and his rug on. I chatted to her a bit; I agreed with her that he was lovely and friendly, but he had been a bit of a nuisance in the school; she made me laugh further by saying that that was her plan, and that she told him every day to misbehave so they’d stop using him and he could come home with her. Awww.

Of course, I went and said hello to Soapy before I left. She seems to like having someone to say hello to, but to not want to be petted or stroked in any way. When I approached her stall she was stood with her nose in the hay net and her tail to the door; I said, ‘Hello, Soapy!’ and she turned around, but didn’t move. Then she took another bite of hay and looked over her other shoulder at me, and then turned around and poked her head out over the door. As before, she put her nose up to mine and we breathed on each other. I put both of my hands up and rested them on top of the door, and she gently nibbled them with her lips; she moved away from me when I put one hand up to give her neck a rub, so I put it down again as soon as I saw this and then she nibbled at it again. Then she looked me in the eye and softly nickered, and it was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever heard.

Word count: 2093. Roll on next Monday!

Advertisements

Actions

Information

3 responses

25 02 2013
mellchan

Sounds like a fun lesson! I am glad you were able to canter more and that you didn’t come off. You are certainly right that when a horse is bucking its best not to panic and “over-correct” your balance….I think that is what usually really causes people to come off. It kind of sounds like he may have been crow-hopping or cow kicking…..those usually feel more like a trip or a misstep and primarily involve the hind legs?Or maybe he has a very gentle buck? The times I have sat thru a true buck on Skip I feel like I am flying away lol. He also does lots of smaller though still alarming silly kick-out things to let me know how mad he is.
Oh, and my study habits unfortunately sound like they mirror yours. In fact, I have a test in 24 minutes and yet here I am online reading this rather than doing a quick brush up the test material…ugh.
Can’t wait to hear about next weeks lesson, did you ever inquire about doing volunteer work? More time at the stable would equate to more posts, right? 😛

26 02 2013
onahorse

Yes, it looked like that was what he was doing. Another thing my instructor said was that I need to react faster; I found that if he did try to move his head, just a firm squeeze on the outside rein was enough to sort of communicate No! to him after that. I think I just need to learn to be a bit sharper on that score, whilst somehow continuing to obliviously not worry. Heh.

I did inquire about doing volunteer work, but since I’ve now got a part-time job as well as studying I don’t think it’s a good idea just for the time being, and I think my tutors would agree with that (I’d need to get a reference from them anyway). I am hoping to stay in Leeds this summer, however, so I will look into it again then as something to do with my weekends since there won’t be anything else going on then. And yes, more time at the stable almost certainly would equate to more posts!

27 02 2013
Sparrowgrass

Yes riding is very hard especially when the horse is “showing personality”!

I’m not very good at reacting fast enough 😦

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: