Saturday, January 8, 2011

Excellent - but cold - horse day

My daughter had a sleep-over at her friend's house across the street last night so it was hard to get up this morning when the bed was so warm, the kitties were sleeping on us and the house was so quiet.

I'm trying to get into the mode of taking a weekly Saturday morning lesson with JG because we're about the same level (intermediate) and we're the same age and both moms and really click. It's going to be easier after we move to motivate to go out first thing on a Saturday morning when my drive is 10-15 minutes as opposed to 40-45 minutes.

JG and I were also joined in our lesson by S. and the horse she leases, Scandal and a younger girl who is still somewhat a beginner, I think. JG and I are both about the same level (intermediate) and even though S. is only 14, she is a lot more advanced than us. But it still worked out fairly well even with the differences in skill level.

One thing S. and JG and I ended up doing after our lesson was swapping falling off our horses story. We were all sitting on our horses at the end of the arena while the younger girl was "getting picked on" (meaning she was getting instruction from our instructor on canter work) and JG said she wished she could put glue on her boots to keep her feet in the right position in the stirrups. I said that she should try the opposite - just letting her feet float in the stirrups (or a better way to put it is just forget they're there) or our instructor was going to go after her and make her start riding without stirrups like she'd done with me. Then I told her about the time last summer when Girlfriend fell and I should've taken my feet out of the stirrups and rolled off, but I stubbornly pushed me feet as hard as I could in the stirrups to stay on and ended up getting thrown around with Girl as she fell and then stumbled back up again, and ended up really pulling a bunch of muscles.

That got JG and I talking about how much harder it is to be in our 40's now and riding, then it was when we were S.'s age. It wasn't just that we were braver when we were young because we "didn't have so much to lose" (like family, jobs, so much responsibility we need to be able-bodied for) but things just didn't hurt as much. Once again making me think about my previous post about maybe children are not as fragile as I feel like they are. Maybe it really is us parents who are so much more fragile? Well, in some ways. As far as facing fears goes I'm much better at that as an adult than I was as a kid/teen but that's a totally different tangent.

But riding wise today was good. All four of us had quite a bit of time to warm up our horses before our lesson and Girlfriend started out trotting fairly well, but then when we tried to canter I thought I'd signaled pretty well (not over signaled) but she got a few steps at a canter and next thing I know she does a little series of bucks and puts her head down and bolts. I got her to stop fairly quickly but she was pissed. I tried again and she cantered a little ways, bucked then tried to run. So, I did a lot of trotting with her until the lesson started.

Our focus for all of us on this lesson was cantering and JG and S. both went before me and I just walked Girlfriend and tried to concentrate and watch their instruction but for some reason my head was spinning with horror stories ... "this could be your last few moments and when you try to canter Girlfriend will buck you again and it will break your back and you will paralyzed for life and you'll wish you hadn't taken this lesson ... oh shut up, that's so mean to even think about ... but maybe it's a premonition - I've been feeling anxious all morning about cantering in this lesson and last lesson went so well so this one will be awful ... that's ridiculous ... but what if it's a premonition???"

Finally when S. was done our instructor yelled, "Who's my next victim?" and I said, "Me!" because I didn't want to drive myself crazy waiting through another student's instruction. Girl was riled up and our walk/trot and trot/canter transitions were not going so well so we had to do them over again a few times. We did a lot of cantering and Girl was going so fast that I felt like I had to constantly be pulling back on the reins. I'd do a half halt and the second I'd let up she'd speed up. At one point my instructor yelled, "At some point that half halt will have to end and you'll have to give her back the rein!" so I relaxed her reins just a little and she started to gallop and my instructor yelled, "But not that much!" and that loosened me up a little because it made me laugh.

We were going so fast and I was having trouble not bouncing in the saddle from the rough gait of Girl's fast canter and my instructor was yelling "Sit down! Stop holding on with the stirrups. Be willing to lose your stirrups!" and I thought, "Crap, that's what she says before she tells me I have to lose my stirrups," so I leaned back as best I could and focused all my energy in a line down my butt bones imaging it going down through the saddle and through Girl like I'd be stuck on top of her like a peg in a hole and my feet let go of the stirrups. It was very cool! My balance got better and it just felt right. But we were still going really fast which was scary. But then we got to work on starting to do flying lead changes and the third time we tried it actually went smoothly and I could feel how it is supposed to be done. After all of this when my instructor said, "Good job, take a walk break," Girl was so amped up from cantering for so long that even though I did my usual quiet, "Whooooa," and sit back and gently give a half halt on the reins, she did one of her stop on a dime, skidding reining stops. Not too extreme so maybe my instructor didn't see it because she didn't admonish me for over signaling, but I could tell Girl was feeling like she was six years old and ready to race again.

Then we introduced the polo mallets to the three horses that are going to be in the polo class tomorrow. I thought Girl would be just fine with it but as soon as our instructor walked up to her with a mallet she tried to turn her body into a "C" in order get the middle part where I was holding the mallet as far away as possible. And she started jigging away from it and exuding terror. Now that I think about it, this is the same horse that I have "not a monster towel" and "not a monster sweater" and who earlier in the lesson spooked when Texas snorted behind her. She is a very sensitive girl.

With my instructor holding on to her reins along with me and with some desensitizing exercises she did calm down a bit about the mallet. But then came hitting the balls. She had seemed uninterested and unphased by them until they started moving. Then she was very concerned. But she did calm down some and start to get used to it. The other two horses were not at all concerned about the mallet, the balls or anyone hitting or kicking the balls. I did walk around with Girl holding a riding crop and she wasn't concerned about that at all. And I rode around at a walk and tried to hit the ball with the riding crop and that was actually kind of fun. A little frustrating because the crop was too short, but still kind of fun. I think it's probably a lot of fun with the mallet.

I was planning on going to the big polo clinic tomorrow but I just got an email from work with stuff I need to have ready for Monday morning. I said to my husband that I could do it tomorrow afternoon/evening when I get home and he said, "Do you really think you'll do that?" and sadly, I have to say that I don't think I'd do it. So, I'm wondering if I should go or not. I may not go this time and hopefully they'll have another one because it sounds like most of the barn is going if they are intermediate riders or better.

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