I took riding lessons yesterday and today since I can't work on Toad training with Trainer K. for the next two weeks. I'm supposed to take a lesson on Friday too but that may get pushed back depending on when my daughter and I have to go catch the train to go out of town. Next week will be three to four lessons too. Yay! In my dream world I would not have to have a job and would just go every morning and take riding lessons.
Yesterday's lesson was sitting trot without stirrups on Misty - who is a very bumpy little Quarterhorse. But her foot was bothering her today (when the farrier came this morning he found a little stone embedded under her shoe where we couldn't have gotten it out without him removing the shoe). So, I rode Tasha, the big ole Quarterhorse/Arab my daughter rides. But she's so old that us adults just ride her bareback instead of making her deal with a saddle. I thought yesterday's lesson was challenging because sitting the trot without stirrups on Misty can be a little nerve-wracking for us who aren't super experienced riders. Just because you're bouncing all over the place and Trainer K. kept telling me to stop gripping with my knees and to just balance with my legs totally relaxed and hanging straight down on either side of her. Surprisingly, that did work and I managed to stay on the whole (bouncy time).
So, today I was a little surprised when Tasha and I were at a walk and my instructor said to drop the reins (she had me on the lunge line though) and to do some arm stretching exercises. But hey, no biggie, I can do that. But then she said, "Ok, leave your reins down and we're going to do some trotting. Just keep your hands at your side." My response in my head (I'm not sure if it came out as a mutter or not) was "Are you fucking kidding me?" It's not like having reins helps your balance at all - I wasn't worried about that. I was worried because without reins I feel completely out of control of the horse.
We made it a couple times around the circle with me trying to relax and feeling like, "God this is terrifying. I'm totally out of control of this situation. Surely I'm going to die," then Tasha decided to speed up a little and I yelped and grabbed the reins before I could stop myself. Trainer K. told me not to do that but it was instinctual - I didn't even realize I was going to do it. I believe it is because for five years I primarily rode Girlfriend and when she starts to speed up unless you tell her to slow down she will just keep accelerating until she's galloping. So, it is an ingrained response for me to grab the reins to control the horse when they start to speed up. Regardless, that is what the exercise was and there are no excuses and I was going to do it correctly.
So, we spent the first half of the lesson with me trotting with no reins and my hands at my side while I tried very hard to not grab the reins. I didn't grab them again but every time that Tasha started to speed up her trot my hands would start to jerk forward to grab them but I was concentrating so hard on not grabbing them that I was able to stop myself. The more times she sped up, but never actually broke into a canter, the more I started to relax and get it through my subconscious that her speeding up at the trot was just that - her speeding up at the trot. Not her accelerating until she was galloping. So the end of the lesson we did different little arm exercises where I'd put my hands on my hips then put them up in the air and do "propeller arms" which is actually kind of hard to do when you're trotting in a circle if your arms are not going in the same direction as the circle. I was quite proud of myself for getting over that control freak hump, but also a little surprised at how much of a control freak I still am.
Yesterday's lesson was very hard on my legs because they were so stretched out at the hip, and today's lesson was very hard on my brain! I realize that people who do not ride horses can't imagine how hard it is to let go of the reins. I would think that if someone had never been on a horse they would like their hands free to grab onto the mane or whatever. But for someone who has ridden horses a lot it is horrifying to let go of the reins because it feels like you are letting go of all of your control of the situation. Of course, the reins were right there, I could reach down and grab them at any time if I *had* to. But that was cold comfort in the moment. At least Trainer K. didn't do what her old instructor did. She kept grabbing the reins so much and refusing to let go that her old instructor tied her hands behind her back! I told her if she did that I would cry the whole time. But then I also stopped grabbing the reins after the first time too (to ward off Trainer K. getting any ideas!)
Meanwhile, the Toad is on modified stall rest. Her vet said she should be on full stall rest for two weeks with no turn-out and only five minutes a day of walking, but I pointed out that she would do a lot more damage to herself stuck in her stall going crazy than standing lazily in the paddock with her friends. So, my vet acquiesced and said, "Whatever can keep her the most quiet is what you should do." So, she doesn't get to do any work, but she can go out in the mornings and stand in the paddock and talk to her friends. Which is exactly what she does. So, I've been trying to come up with "work" we can do so that she doesn't lose her mind without her usual structure.
Today was structured because she needed new shoes. She was actually really good today for the farrier to the point where he gave her a treat afterward for the first time ever. The last couple days after grooming her I've been taking her for walks and working on something I saw in a Buck Brannaman video where you teach the horse to follow your lead at whatever pace you are going, so you go slow, the horse goes slow, you speed up the horse speeds up, you stop, the horse stops. I wish I had a clip of that part of the documentary but this one will have to do.
Today we ramped things up a bit and put her surcingle and bridle on for our light groundwork. Toad was so relaxed today that she didn't even look at me when I tightend up the surcingle. I think she was just glad to be out and doing something. We did some leading exercises, then we stopped and did some exercises with the reins to soften her jaw, then we did some more leading exercises, then some more softening the jaw exercises. She did very well and I could tell she was a little disappointed we didn't get to do more work. The other thing we did - that I hadn't planned on doing - was to put the reins over her head and take them off again. When I was taking the reins off over her head when we were finished, one of them caught on her ear and it freaked her out and she reared a little and scooted backward until it fell off. I sighed and said, "Was it really THAT scary?" and then we spent awhile putting the reins over her head, taking them off, putting them over, taking them off until she had relaxed again and was lowering her head like a sane horses again.
Well, I must go get to finishing some of my work and getting some chores done that I can't do this weekend cause we'll be out of town. Plus, I must go find Nermal because there is a Raven circling our house and I'm not sure if they eat kittens, but I imagine they do.