Update! Update!

18 07 2013

Argh! It’s been too long. Between working full time for summer, maintaining some level of social life, moving house and obtaining an adorable pet tarantula, I haven’t until now found time to sit down and write about my interactions with horses while all of that was going on. But I have been riding. And tonight, it seems, I can actually access my dashboard to update this thing – I was having issues with this yesterday.

I moved house in the first week of July, on a Monday. I fully intended to go riding on that day, but moving house always takes longer than you imagine, for one thing, and for another I was feeling very run down with a cold, so at the very last minute I cancelled my lesson, deeming that the sensible thing to do.

The following week, I met Duke. WordPress doesn’t appear to be working properly, or I’d post a picture of him; he was a handsome black cob of around 15hh. They let me tack him up myself, as he was in a state of undress when I arrived. He disinterestedly continued to munch on his hay as I approached, placed his numnar and saddle on his back and fumbled with his girthstrap; I looked at my handiwork, momentarily wondered if I’d made any errors, and shrugged, thinking he’d soon buck if he wasn’t happy with the feel of things when I mounted up. Heh.

But he didn’t buck. He lethargically hung his head, balancing his weight on all four hooves, as we waited to go forwards to walk. I pushed him on when told I could go, but had to give him a warning tap with my whip when he initially refused to co-operate. Eventually he went forwards into a perfectly positive walk… but I could feel that he was having difficulty staying on the track. It didn’t feel like Maddy’s lazinessin veering off to make the circuit shorter, it felt like he really had difficulty going in a straight line and needed my input to help him. Initially he fought me a bit, but  by the end of the lesson we’d relaxed into each other and he was responding magically to all of my asks. He struck off into canter beautifully for me every time I asked him to, in spite of having an impossibly bouncy trot I had real trouble sitting to without being thrown in the air. I left the stables feeling a bit like I’d developed a girl-crush on this horse, and inside of our one hour lesson we’d been on a journey together and both benefitted. My instructor praised me at the end, saying that he was one of the more difficult horses to ride and that she was impressed with how well I’d coped with him.

Sadly I think this praise went to my head. This week I had another large gelding by the name of Quarry, who, for visuals, is that friendly piebald I posted a picture of a couple of updates back whose name I didn’t know at the time. Easily as tall as a draught horse without actually being one, I was quite excited to be getting the opportunity to mount such a tall horse again, and I was enthralled when he greeted me with adorable equine curiosity when I went to fetch him from his stall. (I have a photograph of the skin between his nostrils. Heh.) As I mounted him, my instructor was holding onto little Chilli, and asked me whether I’d rather have Quarry or Chilli. I said I’d stick with Quarry as I liked riding different horses; she smirked and said, ‘You haven’t ridden him yet.’ It transpired that neither had she.

For her having said he was a difficult horse to ride the previous week, Duke was nothing compared to Quarry. Where Duke had fought me a little on top of having a real difficulty I could help to correct, Quarry just fought me. Full stop. He didn’t want to co-operate. His game plan was clearly to be as troublesome as possible in the hope that he’d be let off the hook and taken back to his stall. He was obstreperous, and did just about everything short of bucking or trying to throw me off to try and get out of having to work.

I had to spend a full ten minutes warming him up at a walk just to get him onto the bit, and even when he picked up my contact he was still fighting me. I tried to go from that to a trot, but he sensed my slightly diminished ability to rein him in in this new gait and purposefully broke away from the track and ran in an uncontrolled zig-zag. I tried again. He sensed that when he picked up speed of his own accord I would hesitate, and he used it to his advantage. I held it together as best as I could but I was struggling, every muscle in my body – including ones I didn’t even know I had – locked into applying all of the things I’d learned in the last fifteen months in a vain attempt to soften him to work with me and not against me.

It was no use. We were out of control. I turned him onto the centre line and my instructor took over, riding him around. I could see that she was struggling against his acts of protest as well, and he began to emit grumbling noises – but he did everything she asked.

It seemed to take her longer to get him to soften than other horses she’s taken over on for me in the past when I’ve struggled, but after a few minutes of riding him around at a walk and working to get him to accept her contact on the reins he did buckle down and they rode a couple of nice, controlled laps of the school at a trot. I tried again, and found him more amenable – possibly also because I took my instructor’s advice of sitting back better. I have a tendency to lean forwards to steady myself when I’m uncertain on a horse, when I should be doing the exact opposite.

We didn’t do any work without stirrups in this session because Quarry was being difficult, but we did do some work with circles. I struggled more than I think I might have if I had been on a more obliging horse but we managed to ride the shape if not the requisite diameter.

Finally it came to the canter. My instructor said she was pleased when I didn’t duck out of doing this exercise in spite of being on a difficult horse, and I was pleased with myself, too. I had difficulty getting him to strike off into canter, but I think I was spoiled by Duke the previous week just going on cue immediately as I asked, almost like I only had to think the transition, whereas Quarry – regardless as to whether he wanted to do it or not – turned out to be another one of those horses who has to take a sort of running jump into the transition. When he did, I ended up emitting a load, ‘WHOA!’ – it wasn’t like I expected at all. He was such a large horse it felt like his stride into canter was a long leap forwards. We managed to canter once on each rein, though, even if we then cut corners across the school and only made it so far before the unintentional transition back into trot.

When I dismounted, I was shaking all over and every muscle in my body ached. My instructor is away for two weeks now so I will have a different teacher for a couple of weeks, but she did say she would request for me to have someone a bit easier to ride next time!

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One response

19 07 2013
Sparrowgrass

Well done!

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