3 06 2013

You know how I said I was taking a couple of months’ break from riding? Well, a string of unfortunate events you don’t need to know the details of ultimately brought about a reversal of fortune, and so I am now able to resume my once-weekly lessons! Therefore, Monday = Horseday once more.

And I had a really good lesson, in spite of almost being late due to finishing work later than I was expecting and needing to hurriedly change out of my smart, pinstripe trousers and into my jodhpurs and boots on arrival. I rode Maddy again this week; she’s stiff and a bit reluctant, but we are learning to work well together. For a few brief moments in this lesson, I momentarily wondered to myself whether or not the way I was feeling was how competent riders feel when they’re just doing really basic stuff, but only for long enough that the thought entering my head was enough to distract me from what I must have been doing right and something would go wrong. Heh.

Anyway, we’re moving onto working on bend now. The exercise we did this week was to help with this, and because of that we sadly didn’t have any time to canter. This was a shame, because while I saw a jump in the arena when we went in to mount up and felt a bit scared that she was going to try and get us to do that, after the exercises I felt supremely confident and like I could handle any crazy and over-ambitious instruction she wanted to throw at me, even though I still kept making mistakes.

So, after our warm-up, she placed three pairs of cones at different points along the centre line, and explained that we were each going to walk our horses through them in succession. She went on to say that we were going to do this by applying a technique similar to that which is used to ask for a leg yield, and then took great pains to emphasize that we weren’t going to be doing any actual leg yields in spite of students’ tendency to say that was what they’d been doing when really they’d just been learning a similar technique to help a horse to bend. Heh.

Although we only did this exercise at a walk (the outside arena isn’t really big enough to repeat it at a trot, our instructor said), it was challenging. We did it without stirrups to help us stretch ourselves out, assist with leg position and to help the horses to soften up, too; I had a bit of an epiphany about my legs and what I should do about them while I was going around them, realising that if I stretched my legs down and turned my knees outwards pointing away from the saddle, it gave me a good stretch down the inside of my leg, and Maddy became more responsive to my leg asks. The really exciting thing about this was that we were being shown how to use our weight on our seat bones to make the magic work. In all of my work on steering horses around corners to date, this has been the thing I was missing, I have now realised; I knew I should apply the inside (to the corner) leg, I knew I should tilt my shoulders and head to face the direction I wanted to go in, I understood that I should not tug or pull on the reins, but move my hands around as though I was holding the handlebars of a bike. I didn’t know that if I pushed my inside hip forwards and shifted my weight down through it it would support the inward pressure of my inside leg and prompt the horse to literally bend, as though starting to curl itself around the leg.

Doing this, I learned that horses, like their riders, have a strong side and a weak side, but it seemed like the first time I’ve ever had direct experience of being a rider who is applying their aids correctly and it actively helping the horse to move, not merely getting it to go where you want it to, as I’ve read so many times can be the case if you know what you’re doing. And as we went round and round and around, Maddy really did soften up considerably and became far more amenable to all of my asks.

I should mention that while all of this was going on, a very affectionate ginger cat I’d never seen before wandered into the arena smiling with its eyes in that way that cats do. It made a beeline for our instructor, followed her around as she walked about and rubbed itself around her legs when she stopped, giving her eyes of love and mewing adorably. She said she wasn’t a cat person, and I joking said that that would be why it loved her. When the cat tired of trying to win her affections, it went into the middle of the arena and lay down contentedly with all of its legs up in the air, more like a dog would than a cat. It looked very comical, and also very slightly dead (it wasn’t). It then remained in that spot and that ungraceful position for the rest of the lesson. Thankfully the horses weren’t in the least bit fazed!

The end of the lesson was fun; we had a newcomer to the group, not of the human variety, but a handsome young chestnut gelding by the name of Chilli. He was very responsive and forward-going, so we had to get him to overtake Maddy as the lead after a while of him getting up her backside; Maddy has this problem where she’ll be lazy when she’s in the lead, but as soon as she’s following another horse she’ll get a sudden rush of motivation and speed up to the extent that her nose is in the horse in front’s bottom. Hence, we ended up cutting across the school repeatedly to overtake each other. I lost control and veered off the track a few times while all this was going on, but I also managed at least one turn that prompted my instructor to say aloud, ‘Nice turn!’ She also made a point of telling me at the end that my leg and seat position had improved a lot, which made me really happy.

The horses are all being turned out to the paddock now that summer is well and truly here, and although some of them still have thick winter coats to grow out they are starting to look sleeker. It’s lovely to have had such nice horse-rider interaction in spite of the weather being hot and the sun being in the sky.

Soapy was in our lesson again; she seems to have become the default horse for the newest member of the group. While we were mounting up at the start of the lesson, I kept looking over to her and she was staring straight at me the whole time. For parts of the lesson, Maddy kept trying to look over her shoulder, and the more times it happened the more convinced I became that she was warily eyeing Soapy. I went and said hi to Soapy after the lesson, and she said hi back briefly before decisively burying her snout in a bucket of pellet feed. I also got to say hi to Dylan, who was inquisitively sticking his head out of his stall to look at everything that was going on.

Incidentally I have changed my display name to Soapy Photo Girl because I was amused to discover that it’s a search term someone has used at some point to find my blog. When I first discovered this I automatically assumed it was someone from the riding school who had been looking for me, before being far more amused by the (more likely) possible explanation that a WordPress blog about horses was not what the person in question had been looking for. Heh.




4 responses

5 06 2013

Hahaha, I was laughing at the reasoning behind the “soapy photo girl!”

“Soapy was in our lesson again; she seems to have become the default horse for the newest member of the group.” -Has it occurred to you that the fact that they no longer have you always riding soapy means you are a more advanced rider? Sounds like she is reserved for the beginners 🙂 Good for you!

6 06 2013
Soapy Photo Girl

I’m not sure – I have previously been told that she’s good at jumping, which seems quite advanced. I think it’s because she’s similar to another pony called Jed, who the lady in question rode a couple of times before and asked if she could have every week. I have wondered whether my getting Maddy two weeks in a row as anything to do with my instructor’s observances of how differently I fare with taller horses than short cobs and ponies, though.

The ‘soapy photo girl’ thing does make me laugh 😀

10 06 2013

I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. To accept it, see my recent blog post and follow the instructions at the bottom of the post. x

11 06 2013
Soapy Photo Girl

Wow, thanks very much! I’ve been nominated for that a lot recently, it’s lovely to know that people enjoy my writing ^-^

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