photo of the day (i try my hand at vaulting)
I’m cheating again. I took this picture awhile ago, but like I said, I’m not getting much photo time at the barn. This is Jorrit, one of the Friesians. At least, I’m pretty sure it is Jorrit. I don’t know the Friesians all that well and it’s hard for me to tell them all apart. I’m sorry, not a lot of distinguishing markings on an all black horse that I can see. I hope none of them take any offense at that but for right now, all those Friesians look alike.
When Clare and I entered the world of horses and riding, it was because of the rave reviews of a fellow homeschooler for a vaulting class that her daughter was taking. Back then, I thought that Clare would benefit from the class and it never even entered my mind that I would begin riding as well, let alone give vaulting a try. But I watched her long enough to know I had to do it for myself (the riding part, that is) and eventually, I even made a half-hearted attempt at a vaulting class. There wasn’t a separate adult class at the time but another mom and I thought we’d give it a go, so they brought in a larger horse and we got to have our turns.
However, the kids’ class was growing and the instructor was getting ready to have a baby. The barn owner said we could come ready for vaulting any time we wanted but it just never seemed to happen. I think the other mom and I were hesitant to take any time or attention away from the girl’s so I hadn’t vaulted except for that one time.
Clare’s instructor had her baby in March and now is back to teaching and riding herself. She and a couple of the other girls who work at the barn wanted to get more vaulting time in and so the adult class was formed. Another chance to get on a horse? How could I turn down the opportunity?
So despite the fact that I wanted to talk myself out of it, I headed down to the barn for my first official adult vaulting class. I keep telling Clare not to be afraid to stand on the back of that horse and now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and get on myself.
There are two things that make me nervous when I think about vaulting. No, it’s not falling off cause I know there are spotters there to watch my back (my head? my butt?) when I ride. The first thing is mounting a moving horse without a mounting block or stirrups. The second is being up so high, standing barefoot on the back of a horse.
We began the class just like the girl’s by practicing on the barrel. When Aurora, our instructor, asked who wanted to go first, there was a pause while everyone looked at each other. Well, I’ve been watching Clare and her class vault for long enough that I knew the drill so I stepped up to the plate. Just so you know, I’m not usually a “I’ll go first” kind of person. And there it was. Mounting. Jump three times and throw your inside leg back and over the horse (or barrel.) And I did it. First time! Yippee. My first hurdle mounted (literally.)
We went through the basics on the barrel. Easy peasy, even the standing part. After all, the barrel is not shaped like the back of a horse with that little dip and it’s not moving. Each of us got a chance to do some barrel practice before getting on Jorrit.
Then it was horse time. “Let’s go in the same order as on the barrel,”says Aurora. Oh. Great. So I walk up to the longe line and wait to be invited to walk over to the horse. Here’s where I wimp out and ask if I can mount in a halt. Walk, jump and mount? I can only do 2 things at a time for right now. And despite the fact that Jorrit is at least 3 or 4 inches higher than the barrel and I’m pretty sure I’m standing in a hole, I manage to get on him. He begins to walk around in a circle and I go into basic seat. No biggie. I even manage to kneel and get into part of flag position for a bit (didn’t get the extended arm yet, next time.) I wimp out again and ask to stand in a halt. I get pretty close to a stand while he walks but still not letting go. Now I know how Clare feels. I’m just less willing to give in the fear and plan on working through this by the next class.
I slip down to a seated position and then dismount, making darn sure my feet are facing forward as I land (did I mention we were barefoot?) I breath a big sigh and realize I did pretty good for only my second try at vaulting.
The others each had a turn on Jorritt and some did better than I did and were more sure of their balance (after all, that’s what it’s all about.) Then we all had a second chance to ride and do a few basics while in a trot and then, a canter. In my riding lessons, I’m trotting every lesson. But mostly, I’m doing a posting trot which allows the rider to rise and sit with the motion of the horse. I have done a sitting trot and at times, even well. But sitting a trot is bouncy stuff and not always that comfortable for both ride and horse. In vaulting, not only are you sitting the trot but you are kneeling and standing as well. It’s not easy. I haven’t started to canter yet in my riding lessons. I need to get my balance in the trot first and while I’m making progress, I’m not there yet. But since in vaulting, there is always someone else in control of the horse, you can progress to a canter much faster. So I sat and cantered around a few times. Not ready to let go of the surcingle (the large leather strap with handles that is fastened around the horse in vaulting) just yet, but getting used to the feel of the gait. So much more flowing and gentle than a trot. I can see why most vaulting techniques are eventually performed in a canter.
The other riders, all who have been riding much longer than I, were able to let go in a canter and even clap a rhythm while riding. I’ll get there, I know. But for now, I’m just pleased as punch and proud as heck that I did it.
I left the barn feeling high as a kite and wishing that next week didn’t feel so far away. Pretty good for an old broad, don’t you think?