‘When you do get back in the saddle it will be twice as sweet!’

9 04 2013

Credit to the effervescent Mellchan for the post title. You were absolutely right! When I walked out of the riding school this evening, I felt like a smoker who’d been trying to give up, taking that first, long drag on their first cigarette in a while before the guilt and regret kicks in. Heh.

So, I returned for my scheduled weekly lesson. There were three of us this time, which I believe is what now constitutes a full house! I didn’t ride Soapy, but Bramble (I forgot to ask for her when I rescheduled), but that was okay by me; Bramble might be hard work, but I do like her. I like all of them, really, but having ridden her a number of times I feel like I know Bramble, at least a little.

This time, we had a different instructor as a one-off. I’ve actually had her before, but she didn’t recognize me – she gave me a private lesson on Soapy, that time I completely failed to get her to canter on the left rein. I don’t think she was any better or worse than our usual teacher, but the difference it made having someone ‘new’ with a different style of teaching who picked up on different faults in us as riders was both welcome and refreshing.

So, we did the usual walk and trot, transitions and 20 metre circles, all the while being reminded to check we were on the right diagonal. Bramble tested me by ignoring my leg, as usual, but unlike my usual instructor, today’s teacher put this down to her being ‘slow’ and ‘laid back’ as opposed to ‘grumpy’/’lazy’, which I thought was a nicer way of looking at it. I noticed as I was going around that she wouldn’t respond to kicks, but would to the whip; however, once she’d had the whip once, she’d respond to a nudge the next time around. We did a round of trotting and transitioning without stirrups, which was great, and I found straight away after we took the stirrups back that she was more responsive to my leg, which served as a helpful reminder that it’s me who needs to improve, not her – she knows what she’s doing.

Finally, we moved on to canter. When we halted to discuss this, I started getting butterflies in my tummy at the thought of doing it after four weeks and no practice; especially as one of the other ladies and the instructor had both said that Bramble, who I’d never cantered on before, was difficult to canter on because she’s reluctant to transition, and when she does her gait is really bumpy and she shakes you around all over the place (or words to that effect). Furthermore, unlike the other two, I wasn’t given a neck strap, because there weren’t enough to go around. It was actually fine, though. Thinking it might help, I backed up my ask for canter by shouting, ‘CANTER!’ really loud as I swept my foot back, and I could see – both times – from the way her ears flicked and she almost jumped a little bit that that jolted her into doing it right away. They were right about her shakiness, but I focussed on keeping my hands down and relaxed on her neck, and I felt okay. I even managed to take one hand off the reins and pat her on the neck to let her know that she was doing good on the second go!

Finally, we gave our horses a long rein and walked large to give them a cool down. Our stand-in instructor gave feedback to us individually, and asked us if we had any questions in turn. Her feedback to me was not to kick, but to squeeze on both reins to ask for trot, then nudge with the leg, and finally to use the whip if I was ignored; also, to relax my hands more. We dismounted on the centre line, and as I turned Bramble in the lady I often see in the stables was there, and she said that she looked ‘knackered.’ Heh. After dismounting and putting her stirrups up, I gave Bramble a nice neck rub, thanked her and told her what a good girl she’d been.

Leading her back to her stall was interesting; she was perfectly happy to go back, but she walked at a snail’s pace. I tried to tug gently on the reins to encourage her to go a bit faster, but she resisted, so I dropped my pace and walked beside her. She knew where she was going, anyway, and I wasn’t in any hurry. Once back, I untacked her faster than I think I’ve ever managed, and put her rug on, which wasn’t actually hers and thus needed some on-the-fly adjusting as I tried to put it on her. The last time I attempted to untack Bramble, she’d been in a less good mood and had threatened to bite and kick me a number of times, so I’d ended up leaving her rugs off and informing a member of staff of what I’d done so as not to cause her any further distress. This time, she was perfectly amenable, even pausing from her hay net so I could slip her bridle off (which most of the horses there fail to understand is a necessary part of the procedure – you’d think they’d want the bit out!), and even nuzzled me when I told her I was going to step under her head to fetch her rug. Heh.

Before leaving, I went and said hello to Soapy, as usual. She’d had her mane hogged, which was a shame, but she looked a bit like a baby foal for it. When I called her, she looked up from her hay, swung around, didn’t come all the way to the door but stuck her neck out just far enough to raise her nose to my face and exhale on me while sticking her top lip out, which I’ve decided is the horsey equivalent of a brofist. Then she turned straight back to her hay. Matti was in his stall next door as well, so I said hi to him while I was there; I don’t think he remembers me, because he just returned a puzzled look, and blinked. He’s still very beautiful, though.

As for the the Pilates, do I feel it’s helped? Well, I think it’s too soon to be able to tell, really; I have kept up the 10-minute basic workout every day (apart from Saturday this week, when I was away), and I have noticed that my posture seems to have improved in general, and that doing things with a straight back has become easier and feels more natural/comfortable. Specifically where riding is concerned, I’m conscious that sometimes when you come back to something after a break, you feel better able to do things without the same old mistakes, so I don’t want to conclude right away that too much of what I felt tonight was down to the Pilates and not that, but I noticed that rising in trot was much easier than I remembered, and I was not prompted once to roll my shoulders back nor to relax them. I also felt more secure in the seat during both the trotting without stirrups and in the canter, a rocky ride though that was. One thing I can point to and say for certain must have been the Pilates, however, is that when I put my jodhpurs on they were loose around the waist! And that can only be a good thing.

The one picture I took on my phone came out better than I at first thought (although it’s light in the evenings now it’s still a bit dark in the stables), although it’s a bit blurry. This is Bramble in her borrowed rug after I left her to it.

Bramble

Incidentally, while I was typing this I found one of her mane hairs stuck to my fleece. N’awww.

I want one of these. I feel like I’ve earned it!

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10 responses

9 04 2013
Sparrowgrass

I want one of those hoodies too, although I’m not sure I earned it. I spent quite a lot of time yesterday evening giving the aid and shouting “Canter! … No! that’s just a really fast trot again!” Lacking calm and lacking canter a lot of the time! 😦

10 04 2013
onahorse

Oh no! I hope you manage to harmonize with each other sooner or later with a bit of perseverence!

10 04 2013
Sparrowgrass

Eventually we managed a brief canter, on the correct leg, in each direction. That counts as a triumph!

10 04 2013
onahorse

Hooray!

9 04 2013
thecasualphilosopher

First of all, I SO want one of those hoodies! So cute!

Second, I know the “doing the same things but without the same mistakes” deal. I experienced that a lot in figure skating. Elements suddenly improved after a bit off. Have yet to experience same in riding…… :/

It sure sounded like a great lesson. Bramble sounds like she was worked! I’m often chagrined at Starzz of course knowing what to do, if only I would cue correctly.

Really enjoyed your comparison about the smoker and the first long drag. Lol.

10 04 2013
onahorse

Thank you, I’m really pleased that you enjoyed my ramblings! And it’s a great hoody, isn’t it? We should ALL get them. Heh.

10 04 2013
mellchan

Yes! A not so secret club of wordpress bloggers with the same awesome hoodie!

10 04 2013
onahorse

Ah, but all the best secret societies are hidden in plain view!…

10 04 2013
mellchan

Oh yay! I got a mention…..is this what a celebrity feels like? Im putting it on my resume! 😛 I am glad you enjoyed yourself and came back in with a refreshed mind and body…..and thats great about the pilates!

And thank you for the photo, I always love those.

10 04 2013
onahorse

You’re welcome, of course!

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