I finally had a chance to go riding today after three weeks of not getting to because we have been dealing with house selling stuff. I thought I would do worse than I did. I also didn't think I'd be able to squeeze in a lesson but I got there right as one of the teens was starting a beginner lesson and they said it was OK for me to join in. IH said she didn't want a lesson but ended up having one anyway somehow. Not sure how that happened. She was having an off day and her horse, Dallah was not helping and being bratty. Girlfriend on the other hand was being really good.
I was doing pretty well at the beginning of the class when we were walking and trotting. Then we started trotting in serpentines and Girlfriend was getting very excited about that because we were trotting in a pattern similar to the barrel pattern and there were three other horses and she apparently started to think that we were going to race. She kept breaking the canter and I was getting unbalanced trying to hold her back and doing the sharp curves. Finally one curve I lost my stirrup right as she turned and tried to break a canter and slipped to the right and lost my other stirrup and was actually starting to slide off and somehow I caught myself and scooted back on her back. But we had to stop and walk in order for me to compose myself. Of course I had the embarrassment of our instructor saying, "J. what just happened there? What *was* that???"
So, I wasn't very confident by the end of the lesson when she wanted us to all do some canter work. Plus, it was really cold. The thermometer in the barn said it was 30 degrees which made sense because the ground was frozen solid and wasn't even melting in the sun. Everyone was bundled up but our fingers and toes were still cold. And the pipes to the toilet in the barn bathroom were frozen so I had to get a bucket of water from the outdoor pump to flush the toilet. But there was a sponge frozen in the bucket that IH had to get out by stomping it out.
Anyway, I was the first to do canter work and Girl has a really bouncy trot and canter and I was having a lot of trouble sitting while she was cantering because my butt kept bouncing up and down. I was trying to just sit but was not achieving it. My instructor said I had to stop standing in the stirrups and using them for balance so I tried relaxing my legs and sitting back in the saddle but that still wasn't working so my instructor said, "Are you willing to let go of your stirrups?" and I said, "No," and she said, "Why?" and I said, "I'm scared. I'll fall off." This whole conversation was going on while I was cantering around in circles way too fast and having trouble slowing Girl down. Sheryl said, "You're holding yourself back. You're keeping yourself from moving forward and moving forward in your riding," but I was kind of blocking her out because I was concentrating on trying to keep Girl steady and trying to relax my legs. Finally I heard her say, "Repeat after me! Yes!" so I said said (well yelled because you have to yell back and forth while riding in the arena) "Yes," and she said, "I am willing to give up my stirrups,' and I yelled back "Fine! I am willing to give up my stirrups!" Knowing full well I was not.
Then the weirdest thing happened. I looked at her as we were cantering by and thought, "You are bringing me coffee and movies every day when I end up in the hospital!" and suddenly my feet were out of the stirrups and I was sitting back in the saddle and not bouncing at all and my legs were firmly on Girlfriend's sides but she wasn't speeding up at all. In fact she seemed to calm down even more and we cantered around the circle a few times in a much better rhythm. Then all the sudden I came out of my fog and thought, "Oh my god! I'm cantering on Girl without stirrups! Aaaack!" and stopped her. Then I had such a rush and yelled, "Oh my god! I did it! I can't believe I actually did it!"
It felt so good to be able to achieve that. I really didn't think I could do it but something in my carried me through to try and I am so proud of myself! I know for you non-horse folks it doesn't sound like a big deal but it really was. And I was validated that it was a big accomplishment when I told a couple advanced riders who have also ridden my horse and their eyes got big and wide and they actually looked surprised and said, "You did? Wow! Good job!" In fact JG's eyes got wide and she said, "I would've fallen off!" and I said, "No you wouldn't. I totally thought I would too but I didn't!" That did so much for my confidence! I'm hoping this is a sign of what 2011 will hold for me and my family - having the courage to move forward and prove to ourselves how much we're able to achieve if we believe in ourselves!