Thursday was my first day of teaching students in private riding lessons by myself. I was a bit of a nervous mess all day but it ended up going pretty well. Then yesterday I had a full day full of classes, mostly private lessons but I did have one group lesson. The director had warned me I'd be exhausted at the end of the day and she was right. I wasn't so much physically exhausted (although I was on my feet all day and had bouts of having to run with ponies on a lead line to get them to trot in arena footing which isn't quite as easy to run in as say hard ground - although it's much nicer to fall off a horse on to). But my brain was fried.
I came home and no one was here - my daughter was a friend's house and my husband was out fishing - so I heated up some left-over Phad Thai plopped down on the couch and found a movie I've been wanting to see on Netflix. My daughter came home soon after and asked what I was watching and I told her and she said, "Can we change it to something else?" and I said "Hell no. I get tv time too," and she said "But it's rated R. I'm not allowed to watch it," and like a bad mom I said, "We'll turn it off when it gets to the R rated parts - whenever that is. You may have already missed the R rated parts." After awhile I realized I was being a lazy parent and that I may not be able to hit "stop" fast enough when the R-rated parts came on so we changed it to She Zow which was I was so tired I actually thought was funny. Especially when She Zow sneezed out a huge puddle of mud and it came with two pigs on the side. Ahem. Anyway ...
I liked all my students which is good because I have a very low tolerance for bratty kids so if I had any in my classes that would be a struggle. Luckily all of them were very nice and surprisingly patient with challenges that were presented to them. I didn't feel as lost as I thought I would either. I was surprised how using the tools from what I'd learned working at camp over the summer came to me, and then how easily I was able to fit in stuff that Trainer K. and Beth Glosten have taught me. With most of the kids I've decided to do warm-ups where they ride on the leadline with their feet out of the stirrups and hands on their knees with their eyes closed and just feel the horse moving underneath them while letting their legs hang, then I have them practice moving their feet at their ankles (toes up/toes down/rotating feet at ankles). The kids enjoy it and with one of my younger students who was precariously tipped to one side with her one leg really short and heel up/toe down - after that exercise for about five minutes she was balanced really well. Then she regressed back to the scary tipped over balance but at least I know there is an exercise that can help her achieve the right balance and if she does it long enough the safely balanced seat it will feel natural and will be second nature one day. It's a tough proposition when you get an ubalanced kid because you can say "Shoulders back" "heels down" until the cows come home and if they aren't used to doing it, the moment they stop thinking about (say to steer or just because they're little kids and have short attention spans) they go right back to the tipped-over posture.
So, I have the school director, Trainer K, Beth Glosten and now Trainer KL to use as resources for teaching. Trainer KL is a dressage judge I scribed for and who I work out with next to at pilates and she not only has students but also trains some instructors and said I could come to her with questions. What's amazing is that everyone except the school director rides dressage - she rides Western - yet they all teach the same things in pretty much the same way when it comes to basics. So, it's nice to have all these different people to go to for advice and they all give me advice that works well together. That says a lot. I've met dressage trainers who have told me to do wildly different things than Trainer K for example, to the point where their advice literally is so opposite of what Trainer K has me do that it would screw me up to try and do it their way because I would have to stop doing it Trainer K's way. So, it's not even what discipline people work in, it's literally their philosophy, education and knowledge - sometimes one person's is going to be polar opposite of the other's even if they both are "dressage trainers".
One of my students had come from taking lessons where they had taught her literally the opposite of what we teach. Thankfully, my mind ran really fast and I said, "Well, we'll be doing things a little differently because our ponies are trained to understand a different way of communicating," even though my gut reaction was "Whoa - that's totally wrong! Glad you're not taking lessons there anymore!" For me, the hardest thing in my continued learning to ride is trying to undo stuff I've learned that doesn't work for me - as opposed to learning stuff from a clean slate. I was so impressed with my student's ability to try something new and try to stop doing what she'd been doing before. I know that wherever she learned they would think what we teach is "totally wrong" so I have to keep in mind that just because I think our way is the end all be all best, doesn't mean that is the truth for someone else. The point is I was very impressed with her patience and perserverance. In fact I was very impressed with all my students and their great attitudes.
Along with being amazed that I was able to think on my feet during lessons, I also enjoyed these flashes of memories throughout the day. Just as a new student was walking up to their pony I would suddenly remember how that felt - the pure magic and excitement and the feeling like no matter how awful my outside life was, everything at that moment was so perfect because I got to ride a pony. Not saying any of my students are having difficult issues I had (they all seem very happy) but it's more of that magical feeling of wonder. The "this makes life worth living!" kind of excitement. I don't always feel that when I'm with horses anymore. I sometimes feel really tired and like I don't feel like getting out there and working my horse or my back hurts and I don't want to clean and put medicine on her feet, or I've got too much of an arthritis flare-up to be excited to ride. But I always push myself to do it and afterward I feel much better. So, it's fun to remember those first times with horses when it was always magical and exciting. It's impossible to sustain that giddy excitement day after day, year after year, and some days seem like drudgery, but in the end, remembering those feelings and knowing I'm a part of sharing those experience with other children who will also build memories of that great feeling makes it all worth it and reminds me I'm doing exactly what I should be doing.