Friday, April 5, 2013

Emergency Dismounts

My way of relating to life has always been such that I've been ready to bail at the first sight of danger (emotional, physical or otherwise) and in most instances have had one foot out the door "just in case".  So,  you could say I practiced the used of the "emergency dismount" frequently in my life whether it was warranted or not.  And emergency dismount is when you jump off your horse before you are thrown off your horse.  And belief it or not with my track record of using emergency dismounts in all other aspects of my life, I have never been taught to do one on a horse.  I have thankfully, learned how to let go and allow myself to fall off a horse when it's obvious there's no way I can stay on (as opposed to hanging on and possibly taking the horse down with me).  But this is different.

I was riding Maiden in my lesson and Trainer K. was exercising T.I.'s horse, Temple while giving me a lesson and the wind kicked up.  I've never noticed what the roof in the arena is made out of on the outside but on the inside is a layer of thick plastic nailed up underneath to keep the roof leaking to a minimum.  When the wind kicks up really hard the plastic blows and crackles a little and when it's really bad branches go "clunk clunk clunking" across the roof which sounds like predators running over our heads.  Except for one horrible storm where big branches fell on the roof and it sounded like a war zone.  So, the wind picked up today and both Trainer K. and I stopped our horses and took up contact on the reins to be prepared in case they spooked.  Maiden didn't even blink an eye (Yay!) and actually Temple seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing.

Trainer K. said, "Look over here and see what I did that you didn't do," and I said, "Dropped your whip?" and she said, "No, I don't carry one with her," (Temple is phobic of dressage whips even though we don't ever hit the horses with them - we just tap them lightly as an aid - but she had a bad experience at some point in her life).  I said, "You took up contact (tighter reins), but I did that too," and she said, "No, look at my feet."  I said she'd dropped her stirrups but I didn't know she's done that when the wind started, I thought they'd already been dropped (ie: took her feet out of them).  It seemed to me you'd want your stirrups if you think your horse is going to spook and try to throw you so you had a better chance of staying on.  She said it was the first step to preparing for an emergency dismount to which I had to admit "I don't actually know how to do one."

So she showed me - she put both reins in one hand, took hold of the front of the saddle and straightened her arm, then pushed herself up with that arm, and all in one movement swung her leg over the horse and pushed herself off.  I said "Ok, I see. Got it."  To which she stood there staring at me until I said, "Well, I can't do it now. I'll fall on my butt and I'm not supposed to do that till at least June,"  to which she just stood there staring at me in that way she does that says "You're kidding right? I'm going to stand here and bore holes in you with my eyes until you do it."  And I said again, "I really can't do it.  I'll fall down."  And she said, "Not if you do it right. You're not going to fall." To which I didn't bother arguing my point of "But I doubt I'm going to do it right!" 

So, I did it.  And I didn't fall.  And I have to say it was a fairly graceful emergency dismount.  Now I just need to practice it a hundred more times so that I can perfect it enough to do it if my horse suddenly loses her mind and goes rogue. Sigh.

On a happy riding note, I'm starting to build up enough trust with Maiden that I can ride her with a loose enough rein that she can stretch.  It's incredibly important for her to stretch her neck down and engage her back and use her body so propulsion is coming from her hind end and she starts to build up the proper muscles.  Right now her back is really "hollow" meaning she doesn't have a lot of muscle in her core and that makes her back looked sway-back or as one trainer calls horses trained to use their bodies incorrectly like that "a U-backed horse".    Riding at a walk and trot with almost no rein in order to exercise and train the horse effectively is really no biggie for someone like Trainer K., but it is very hard for me - still a beginner and not at all confident.  Especially post-accident with Maiden a few months ago.  My riding lessons focus on both my posture and using correct aids but also on riding Maiden as though every day I ride her I am training her just as Trainer K. is.   So I spend my whole lesson riding like the woman in the first photo on this page.   Which feels like I'm not completely in control and is also a challenge for balance.  But I'm starting to get used to it and trust Maiden enough to relax and focus on my posture and how I'm posting while she's trotting with her back engaged and her neck stretched.  So we're able to both get a good work-out - as opposed to me refusing to let the reins out so she can stretch and fearing every sound I hear will spook her and every flick of her tail means she's going to spook and spin off somewhere.

I also have a new job starting in a couple weeks.  I would be really excited about it except I am still hesitant and bitter after this last job ending up in the flopper.   So, I am cautiously excited about it. In theory it sounds like a perfect situation but the last job sounded like a really good situation too and that turned out to be a bust.  I'll be working as a trainer's assistant/working student for a dressage trainer in exchange for horse boarding and lessons.  So, my desire to just "work in the barn" all day has been fulfilled.  I hope it works out.  I don't see any reason why it wouldn't but like I said I'm a little bitter and jaded right now so I'm only cautiously optimistic.

And it's time to plant my starts.  I was feeling really behind until I remembered that Spring doesn't really hit our area until June so it's ok to get my starts planted mid-April and outside early June.  Another nice garden development is that the bird feeders I put out three weeks ago are starting to be discovered by black cap chickadees and woodpeckers.  We also have a lot of robins in our yard but that happens every year because of all the tiny little black spiders that infest our area right down by the creek.  We also have an over-abundance of frogs (they're out in force this year - unlike last year) and the little black salamanders I'm already running across now that I've started weeding the garden beds.

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