Saturday, November 27, 2010

With some snot for insulation ...

Ok, that subject line will probably drive folks away from this particular entry, but you won't be missing much because I will just be babbling on about horses again as per usual. I was just not able to think of anything to use as a subject and that is something that slipped out of my mouth before I realized it this afternoon. I had asked my instructor's boyfriend to microwave my little diet sandwich for me (so I didn't have to walk in her house in my muddy boots) and he handed it to me on a plate and I said I was just going to eat it in the car and he said, "Careful it's hot," and I said, "I can wrap it in this napkin. And it has some snot on it for insulation to add to that." Then as soon as I said it I thought, "Oh my god - did I say that out loud?" Sigh.

I haven't had a riding lesson for two months now. It started with my daughter having her tonsils out and a long recovery from that, then I caught a cold, then I got very busy, then it snowed and the roads iced over. So, I made a point to go today for a morning group lesson even though I have another cold and I felt pretty crappy when I dragged my butt out of the house at 9am this morning.

I picked up IH since her parents were out skiing all day and she had no way to get out there. One day when I was heading out to the stable with IH and my daughter we stopped at an espresso stand to get coffee and milkshakes and it turned out to be what I call "titty espresso" with the barista wearing a see-through lace bra and a g-string. I had instinctually put my hand over IH's eyes and she swatted it away and said, "Oh, knock it off!" But their coffee and milkshakes were so good that we stopped on the way again today so IH could get some hot chocolate. The barista was acting casual and asking if we were going shopping and I said we were going out to ride our horses and there was a moment where the barista (who was probably only a few years older than IH) looked super uncomfortable like she wanted to explain that she doesn't normally wear g-strings and see-through bras and she wanted to just be in clothes like us just until we were gone and she could put on her sexy persona for the guy behind us, then she seemed to compose herself and relax again. How awkward for her. At least in strip joints normal mom-types with their adopted teenage babysitters don't come through and put a weird twist on everything. But their hot chocolate is so good we're just going to have to keep going there. And hopefully not tell IH's parents.

I was initially signed up to have a lesson with J. - who is another mom about my age and has a horse named Stryker and her teenage daughter has a horse named Cody. But I wasn't ready to ride until 11am (our lesson was 10:30) and then our instructor didn't show up until 11:30am (when three of the advanced riders were scheduled for their lesson). S. was scheduled to ride Sparky in the 11:30 lesson but had plans for the afternoon and asked to join our lesson. I was kind of excited to ride in a lesson with her because rumor has it she is really advanced, plus I am friends with her mother (who was the inspiration for my mom to start riding).

I was already a little tired for a half-hour warm-up and being a little out of shape from not riding more than once a week for the last couple months and having a cold, so I didn't have high hopes for the lesson. Plus, Girlfriend was all amped and uber-hot and fighting me about trotting. When it was my turn for our instructor to "pick on me" (as she calls it) I was messing up all over the place. She gave me a lot of correction then sent me to the other side of the arena to work on it and then things did start to improve. I actually just read an article by Stacy Westfall last night about how to calm a hot horse and it was all similar stuff our instructor was telling me. A lot of giving her more rein - which is really unintuitive when a horse is trying to run off with you. But to give her firm, but gentle half halts but then when I'm not doing that to give her back the rein and not pull on her mouth. It did end up starting to work after a lot of practice and quite a few times of her running off with me.

After we'd each worked on our rising trots twice on an individual level with our instructor, she announced, "Everyone come to the center and dismount. We're going to play musical horses," to which I exclaimed, "Are you kidding? Do I get to too?" and she said, "All of three of you. S. will ride Girlfriend, J. will ride Sparky and you're going to ride Stryker." The last time I was in a group class where they played musical horses everyone got to switch horses except for me because Girl is so hot. I've had to try to convince two of the advanced riders to try riding her, but S. actually hopped off Sparky and said, "Oh yay! I get to ride Girlfriend!" And she did really well. It was also validating to see that she could barely get Girlfriend to trot and struggled a few times just to get her to walk instead of cantering. Part of that is not that I'm better at riding a hot horse than she is, but just that Girl is a one-woman horse and she doesn't focus as well with someone she doesn't know and she knows me really well know and I'm family.

Stryker was sweet but a lot of work to ride. First though, it was luxurious to get on my because he just stood there. Girl at best starts walking as soon as my foot is in the stirrup and before my leg is even over her back and at worst starts trotting really fast. But you really have to push Stryker to even walk faster than a slow plod. And if I don't keep on him he will drift all over the arena. And he doesn't listen to leg aids well at all, and I've gotten used to how well Girlfriend and Atlas listen to leg so I rely on those aids more than anything else. When we were supposed to canter it was hard to get him to actually pick up his feet and canter and he kept breaking a trot, so I finally gave him a whack with the crop and he let out what felt like a huge buck. Last time I was riding a horse who bucked was Atlas and I didn't realize he had bucked - I just felt like I was flying in the wall then righted myself and M. had to tell me that Atlas had just bucked with both feet in the air. I don't know how much of a buck Stryker did, but I really felt the whole front go up then his butt go up which felt like a double big slam on my butt and spine. That kind of pissed me off and made my resolve to ride him well stronger. Our instructor said it was great timing because I forced him to listen to me and he showed me that I could ride out a buck well. I'm not sure knowing I can ride out a buck well is something I particularly wanted to know.

By the time it was my turn to ride Sparky I was exhausted and just wanted to sit and watch how J. did riding Girlfriend. S. was all excited and exclaimed what a great and fun horse Girlfriend is. J. was having a little trouble with her on the ground initially because Girl was a little anxious getting shuffled from one rider to another and J. suddenly asked (which sounded like me and it surprised me) "Is there anything I need to know? Is she going to throw me?" and our instructor said no, she just likes to run and I assured her that Girlfriend is the sweetest horse ever and wants to do whatever you tell her, she just has to hear you over the loud noise in her head telling her to run. But J. got on her and even though Girl started to trot away with her immediately, she did pretty well. Although within the first couple laps around the arena, Girl suddenly bolted at top speed for just a couple steps, then J. had her contained, but not before letting out a bit of a surprised shriek.

I used to be afraid of Sparky because he's a really big, high-strung Thoroughbred who spooks easily. But he did really well. And he has a beautiful canter and is actually really easy to ride compared to Styker, because he's such a well trained dressage horse and so much easier than Girl because I wasn't constantly trying to contain him. It was a lot easier to get him to canter, then when he canters it is so smooth and his gait is so long that it feels like that kind of canter that every little girl dreams of - like you're flying around the arena.

After the lesson was over and we all dismounted and were giving each other back our respective horses S. said, "You know, when J. rides Girlfriend she doesn't look like a particularly hot horse. She looks energetic but she looks calm. Then I got on her and I realized how incredibly hot she was. It was like I wasn't riding the same horse J. was riding. It was amazing." That made me feel really good because S. is such a good rider! Our instructor pointed out (which is true) "J. has done plenty her own time though. She didn't do anything but walk with her for months. It took a lot of work to get here." I was glowing all the rest of the day after that compliment. I do think a lot of it is Girl knows me and knows what I want her to do - which is be a dressage horse. I'm not sure I would be able to ride an equally hot horse that didn't know me as well as I can ride Girl.

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