I've been talking so much about Sinatra lately and not a lot about my horse, Girlfriend. I will say quickly that Sinatra really pissed me off today. I was visiting with him in his stall and he kept trying to nibble at me and I raised my hand to push his nose away, wasn't paying close enough attention and he grabbed my forefinger on my right hand in his mouth and bit down! Ouch! I of course yelled really loud at him and tried to pull my finger away and for a split second he wouldn't let go and I was afraid he'd bite it off. Then he let go and ooops ... I smacked him really hard on the side of face with my left hand. I was so angry that I had to forcibly restrain myself from hauling off and beating him - which would be counter-productive and abusive. I took a couple minutes to try and just pet him and set firm boundaries with him about not nibbling my hands but my finger was throbbing and the desire to pummel him was too strong so I had to just leave his stall. I remember reading somewhere "If you are that angry you have lost and nothing you do will be productive until you are no longer so angry" and I agree with that. My finger is a little swollen and I have the tiniest tear on the skin but now a few hours later it's like it never happened. So I was lucky! And it is a reminder to always be very careful with where my fingers are at around his head.
So, on to my "when pigs fly" story. I had my first lesson in two months today and as I figured it kicked my butt. We are working on my dressage seat which means my stirrups need to be longer and my legs need to be back farther and my toes need to face straight forward. Sure, doesn't sound like a big deal, huh? Aargh. It's like doing isometric exercises on a moving horse. Holding my body in that position even at a walk for ten minutes made me break a sweat. It's like ballet - you would think it wouldn't hurt so bad to hold those positions but it does. This is what I'm aspiring for and believe me, unless you are my instructor reading this, you or I could not make that horse move like that if we were the ones on him. It takes a lot of work to ride like that.
Anyway, we worked the beginning of the lesson on my legs and then Trainer V. said that my reins were way too loose and this is not a Western class so I was going to ride Girl like a dressage horse. Normally, my experience with my super-hot-ex-gaming horse is that the shorter the reins, the faster she wants to go. But with my legs in this new longer, extended (painful) position she was so incredibly quiet and calm that I was willing to give it a try. So Trainer V. had me shorten the reins way freakishly shorter than I've ever ridden girl and showed me how to move my hands to encourage her to collect and next thing you now Girlfriend is on the bit and collected and moving at this smooth, prancing walk! Oh my god! ("on the bit" and "collected" refers to holding the bit comfortably in her mouth and responding to it and not straining on it and moving her body is an ergonomically correct way). Then we worked on keeping her like that transitioning from walk to trot and back to walk. That was pretty hard because as soon as she'd trot my legs would go forward, Trainer V. would tell me to keep my leg back, I'd try to move my leg back and sit back on my butt instead and that is one of my aids for telling Girl to stop. So for the first time ever I was having trouble keeping her moving instead of slowing her down! For the first time in the whole almost four years I've had Girl, she felt like one of the beginner dressage horses from my old barn!
Then the issue of my locked shoulders came up and Trainer V. told me that she was going to lead Girl while I worked on my position and relaxed my shoulders. She told me to shake my whole body out and pretend I was drunk and about to pass out and flop right off the horse. I was having trouble at first because she was barely holding the reins and I thought for sure Girlfriend was going to bolt with this stranger holding her reins instead of me. But she assured me Girlfriend was still listening to my seat and my leg aids and that all her body language showed she was relaxed and obedient. I had to close my eyes though in order to really relax and when I finally did Trainer V. gave me back the reins, which caused my shoulders to immediately lock up again. I said I couldn't seem to fully relax unless my eyes were shut and Trainer V. said, "Well, shut your eyes then. I will walk right next to you and tell you where to go so you don't run into anything," So I did! Girlfriend was being so incredibly good that I just shut my eyes and rode in a circle with her with Trainer V. telling me when to turn! I was just so amazed! You'd have to know my horse to realize what a huge change it is that she was so calm and relaxed and not hot. Of course, I worry now that something is wrong with her because that's so not like her. But just last week I got on her and galloped around the arena a couple times so I know she's still her old self.
I need to remember that this is just with me though and also T. who leases her. It's tempting to let beginners ride her now but after her throwing one of my friends who didn't really know how to ride a couple years ago I just don't want to risk it. It could actually be that my riding is improving too. Trainer V. has told me I'm a better rider than I think I am. Perhaps she is right. Regardless, I'm going to need to take some naproxen and maybe take a