I had a riding lesson today in completely English tack: English saddle, English snaffle bit, the works. I was actually very afraid to get on Girlfriend for fear she'd freak out and rebel against the snaffle. But my instructor told me to get over so I got on her and things went ok. Ok, as in I didn't fall off. The saddle I was using is a dressage saddle so apparently not the easiest English saddle. A couple times I lost my balance and pitched forward a little and my instructor said that in an all-purpose English saddle I'd be less likely to do that. I'm curious how the shape of two types of English saddle would be so different that my balance would be better. Since an English saddle is this little slippery piece of leather with tiny little metal bars that claim to be stirrups as opposed to a big suede seat with huge thick leather stirrups like my barrel racing saddle. But hey, I learned English as a kid so it should come back to me despite these teeny little wisps of saddles.
So, my lesson kind of kicked my ass especially after my run day before yesterday. I do fine except when Girlfriend starts freaking out and trying to run when I want her to do a nice slow posting trot. Mostly it takes its toll on my back from me trying to balance. I don't realize how much I'm using my back muscles until after I get off and feel very ... "ooof". There was one point where I lost my stirrup and Girlfriend was really fighting me - throwing her head up and down and snorting and breaking her trot to canter over and over, so I stopped her to a walk. My instructor got frustrated and said, "Every time something gets hard you get scared and stop! I'm sorry but it's true! How are you ever going to improve if you don't try to push past your comfort zone?" I know that's true riding but I also see how that is a struggle in all of my life. I do push myself past my comfort zone quite frequently, but there are some things I stubbornly hold onto my status of being afraid of them. One thing that is really encouraging is that every time my instructor tells me to push myself to try things in riding that are scary for me, I know she really believes I can do it because she's so blunt and will not say something "to be nice". And she has no problem saying, "You're not ready to do that," about something. Like jumping. I am definitely not ready to jump again yet. That wasn't actually an issue last year when I swore I was never going to jump again. It was one thing to fall into a jump when I was 11 years old, but it sounds very painful now that I'm 42 and have rheumatoid arthritis. But I've decided to work back up to doing that again. Not on my horse though. The crazed little Western girl that she is. The other thing that rocks is that after my lesson she said, "You did a really good job!" which means she actually thought that. I could not see how I did a good job so of course I think she meant "You did a really good job not falling off."