Forwards, Backwards

4 11 2013

I’m bursting to write all about my experiences on my first volunteer shift at the riding school, which happened on Sunday, but I’m aware that I’ve got a lesson that happened in the week before that to write about first, and then another one from today as well, and given that life seems to be getting in the way of blogging lately (that’s a good thing in general – I am a much happier and more emotionally stable person when I am busy all the time) I’m conscious that if I try to limit my experiences to one post per horsey event and keep them in chronological order I’m going to wind up getting very behind very quickly!

So, instead, since it’s Monday evening and it’s traditional for me to write my lesson up in the evening after a lesson (assuming I’m not completely wiped out), I’m going to have a bash at summarising the last couple. This may go either of two ways; I’m aiming for succinct, but I know what I’m like once my writing starts to flow. Before I know it, 1,500 words…

Anyway, last week I rode the lovely, cheeky young Elvis again, and this time he showed me some of the personality I’d been warned about. We hard ear-pinning, pulling on the reins, actively trying to get the bit between his teeth and plain disobedience when I asked for bend in the exercises we worked on and whilst riding around corners. We persevered and managed to work together, however. As a consequence of the disharmony we’d experienced along the way, however, I will admit to having been nervous when we moved into the canter, especially when he broke free of the track and tried to cut a large corner around the school. I was more successful on my second go around.

What was especially interesting and, indeed, useful about this lesson, was that we didn’t have our regular teacher, but the jolly other lady who takes us from time to time who I really like – the one who is very strict about technical stuff and quite tough, but fun and encouraging with it, and after seeing us all in trot (around some cones she had lined up for a 20 metre circle) she decided to film us all on her phone so she could highlight the mistakes we were making, and show us what we need to work on as individuals.

To say I was mewling fairly recently about having hang-ups about going fast, I was pleasantly surprised when, where she hadn’t with the other riders on big horses, she had difficulty running to keep up with myself and Elvis, but to me it felt like a good, controlled trot. The circle could have gone better, but after we’d gone around and rejoined the back of the ride she caught up with us and showed me the video. Now, I’ve been taught that a good, balanced rider position is two things: Straight and supple. Well, I’ve got the suppleness down, but not so much the straightness! It wasn’t the position of my torso that proved such an issue, however, as my feet; not my legs (overall, my leg position looked okay to me), but very specifically my feet. In the trot, they flap around all over the place and I’ve never even realised! My toes point outwards, and as I kick on with the inside leg it flies right out to the side and rolls backwards and forwards, rather than remaining nicely in line with the girth, as it should. I quietly vowed that pointing my toes inwards and sinking the weight into my heels AT ALL TIMES would become the order of business from now on.

I won’t go into too much detail about the rest of that lesson (we did a bit of pole and transition work, transitioning between poles on one long side of the school and riding a shallow loop around cones down the other), but needless to say, it was fun and interesting, while at the same time being hard work. I came away from it with a lot to think about, and our stand-in instructor was very good in that she told us all that she knew riding could be dispiriting sometimes, and that it could seem like you’d progressed so far and then you’d have one bad lesson and you’d feel like you’d forgotten how to do everything, but she promised us that we’re all getting better all the time, and even offered to come and see us once a month or so, so she could tell us how much she thought we’d improved. I do like her.

For having said that, though, I also make no secret of the fact that I think extremely highly of my usual instructor, too, who was back this week. I rode Dan this time, who was his usual self; friendly and companionable from on the ground, lazy and all too easily distracted from in the saddle. That said, I was ready for it, knowing what to expect, and although there were a few… moments in the lesson (a decision by him to defy me and walk across the school, which I refused to stand for, dodging trot poles altogether at one point and spooking a little bit when we rode past the open end of the school, possibly due to fireworks), he was mostly uncharacteristically responsive to me, if a little slow with it. I discovered that it had been at my regular instructor’s thoughtful request that we’d got to do more pole work in the previous lesson (she’d mentioned that I’d requested it), and we did more this week; this time, riding over trot poles down one long side of the school, and transitioning from trot to walk and back between cones on the other long side.

What was interesting in this lesson was that I had my head full of all the advice the other lady had given me the week before and was trying to concentrate on incorporating all the improvements she’d suggested while I was working the exercise, but – and I think anyone who has ever ridden a horse will probably appreciate this – the very minute I tried to address anything my usual instructor critiqued on the spot, everything fell apart because I stopped thinking about all those things to try and work on the thing I’d been pulled up on! Heh.

Still, it seems I’ve picked up a bad habit for leaning too far back, particularly in riding trot. Almost all of the criticism this week was that my shoulders were too far back and that consequently – particularly when we were going over the trot poles – I was ‘behind the movement’. I could feel what she meant. She kept telling me that I needed to be much further forwards, and encouraging me to lean forwards into my rise as we went over the poles. This made me feel weird and unbalanced and like I might just go flying over Dan’s shoulder, and it wasn’t until my very last attempt that I felt like I’d got it right. I know I used to be really bad for leaning forwards, though, so it might be that I have over-compensated for this and gone too far backwards now!

Unfortunately, when we got to the canter, although Dan had woken up and was responding to me nicely by that point, I was a bit thrown by everything and I reverted to my usual position of having too firm a contact on the reins and not letting Dan have his head so he could just strike nicely into it. I did get it eventually on both attempts, but Dan being Dan, although he went into it nicely, he didn’t maintain it for very long. Oh well!

As soon as I dismounted he was back to being friendly, harmless, kissy Dan. He was so slow being led back to his stall I wondered if he didn’t actually want to go to bed at all, and when we got back there I was amused, as I was untacking him, by his tossing his own hay net (strung up on the wall) around with his nose, looking unimpressed as he did so, but then when one of the staff came in with Maddy’s half-eaten lunch net and emptied it on his stable floor he stuck his nose into it and chomped away with relish. It must just taste better if it’s someone else’s.




4 responses

5 11 2013
The Dancing Rider

You are so much like me with the wriring! I really enjoy reading every word of your detail!

I used to be behind vertical in the saddle also….

Got a chuckle out of Dan’s loving that leftover lunch.

6 11 2013

He’s a very funny horse. We like Dan 😀

13 11 2013

Isn’t it just horrific when you see yourself on video and you see all of the faults you weren’t even aware of! At least you can correct it, good call on the part of your instructor to video you. Do you have a personal video camera that you can just set on the side of the arena and let run during your lesson? That would be fun to watch. 🙂

13 11 2013
Soapy Photo Girl

Unfortunately, I don’t! I only have the camera my phone came with, and I don’t think I have enough memory. Plus, the thing would be drained of charge by the end of the hour…

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