Monday, August 31, 2009

Horses ... horses ... do you know how to pony

Ok, that shows how old I am that I just quoted a Patti Smith song. I fear kids today just don't get Patti Smith. Ok, so yeah - I really was thinking about actual horses. The mammals that weight about half a ton.

There's a horse I want to adopt from S.A.F.E. and I was showing a video to my 5 year old daughter, EJ, of the horse being ridden by a 7-year old boy. EJ's eyes got really big and she said, "Wow! I want to do that!" So far she has only been on lead line rides on my horse and on a couple ponies here or there. I want to start teaching her to ride but it's far too dangerous on my horse. Yesterday though, my friend, Judy let my husband ride her horse, Scandal, who is an Appendix Quarterhorse but who looks more like a Thoroughbred to me because he is so big and regal. JP did much better on Scandal because Scandal is a much calmer horse and hasn't been trained that you get lots of approval for running full-speed like a tornado. After Judy and I swapped horses and I rode Scandal and she rode Girlfriend, she offered to let EJ ride Scandal. I went off to get my bottle of water and when I came back, Judy wasn't leading Scandal, EJ was actually *riding* him. She was learning how to use the reins and how to kick him to get him to move out and she was even learning how to back him up. She was doing extremely well for a 5 year old, I thought! Even Judy said she was a natural. And I could tell she felt really proud of herself for riding a horse all on her own.

It was quite different to ride a calm horse who's been trained in dressage. It's been so long since I've ridden an English trained horse. I felt like I have really improved over the last year with the riding. I'm much more confident now that I've spent a "trial by fire" year of re-learning how to ride on an "experienced rider only" horse. Now I can't imagine having a horse who isn't hot like Girlfriend. It was nice to ride a horse like Scandal who does smooth transition between gaits but it felt like something was missing. He doesn't have that spirit that Girlfriend has. It feels like spirit just emmanates from her. Judy said to try cantering on the diagonal because she's been working on flying lead change with Scandal. So, I did just that and his gait got all weird and I felt like he was weaving all over the place for a moment, and it was because he changed leads in his canter with his back legs but not his front. I said I had no idea how to ride him to do that and it reminded me I am still a very green rider technique wise. I know how to hold my own on a hot horse and my confidence is a thousand times better than a year ago, but there is still a lot of technique for me to learn.

I was surprised watching Judy ride Girlfriend how hard it looks like she is to ride. Judy is a really good rider who has won blue ribbons in clinics we've had at the barn and at a few outside shows. She's been riding for her whole life and is older than me but she was definitely struggling with Girlfriend. I still think she's not as hard to ride as a spooky/nervous horse would be but then I'm not planning on riding any spooky horses. I'm too old to get thrown off a spooky horse. Plus, Girlfriend doesn't try to throw riders, she just tries to take off at a gallop and bucks and kicks a little when she feels like she can force her will.

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