photo of the day (i learn to ride)

When I was a little girl I loved horses. I read about horses, I drew horses and I daydreamed about horses. But I was, as Eloise says of herself, “a city child” and my mother would respond to my requests for riding lessons with, “Do you know how much money riding lessons cost?” So while I kept on daydreaming and reading and drawing, I never did learn to ride.

Flash forward to me as the mom, with a daughter who loves horses (well, all animals really) and wants to learn to ride. We do not live in the city. We live in the country and there are horses all around us. I keep finding excuses not to let her start riding and finally, one day when the perfect opportunity presents itself, I realize I am out of reasons not to let her learn.

We venture over to Gray Friesian Farm and not only does my daughter start to learn how to ride, she takes vaulting lessons and stands on the back of a horse. I watch her at her lessons and see how brave she is despite the fact that standing on the back of a horse can be a very scary thing to do. And that is when I realize that right in front of me is the chance to do what I wanted to do all those years.

So today was my first lesson. I arrived at the farm a little bit early but since Kirsten had nothing to do, we started right away. First, we walked out to the pasture to pick up Texas, a Quarter Horse, and bring him out for my lesson. Kirsten attached his lead rope and handed it to me and we proceeded to walk towards the barn. But apparently, Texas would have preferred to stay in the pasture and eat grass instead of being led by me so he gave me a nip right on my arm. Lucky for me, I had my jean jacket on and a couple of layers underneath so I didn’t feel it too much. But Texas got his nose pinched for being naughty.

After that, Kirsten helped me lead him out and get him saddled up. I brushed the dirt off his back and sides and underneath his belly before we put the saddle on and he relaxed a bit under the brush. Then we led him into the ring for our lesson. First we just walked and Kirsten showed me how to sit. Then after she let me get used to the feel of being on Texas while he walked around, she told me how to hold my legs and pelvis to get him to start walking and then to stop.

Next we went into a sitting trot and soon after that, she showed me how to post while trotting. I wish I could put into words how amazing it was. There was so much to learn. It seems to me that so much of riding is all about subtle cues between the horse and rider. How does the horse know that I’m holding my pelvis one way or another through the saddle and the blanket? And they do know because the difference between sitting one way or another is the difference between a walk and a trot.

Learning how to post was fun and it was all about picking up the horse’s rhythm and being able to rise and fall with the rise and fall of the trot. Not easy if I tried to put it all together in my mind. But if I was able to stop looking down at the horse and look ahead of me and feel what he was doing, I could match my ups and downs to his. It seems to me that a lot of riding has to do with learning to trust your horse. And learning to trust your body. And then putting the two together.

My only disappointment was not finding someone I could tell about my lesson who would “get” how unbelievable it was to me. I mean, here I am at forty-eleven years old and I’m finally learning to ride. How flippin’ cool is that? Really.

After the lesson Texas (that’s him at the top of this post) went back to being his bratty self and wouldn’t come to the fence for a picture even though I made it a point to give him a treat after the lesson. But Oso came to say goodbye and see if I had any food for him. I didn’t want to leave but I had places to go and things to do and miles to go before I slept.

Kirsten said I could participate in Clare’s Vaulting class and I may even do that on Sunday. At least I will be prepared. I’m not so sure about the standing part but hey, stranger things have been known to happen.

~ by photobella on 24 September, 2008.

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