photo of the day (yes, i’m still riding)
I’ve considered myself really lucky this winter to not have too many riding lessons canceled due to the weather and better still, to have had relatively mild temperatures on most Thursdays so my winter riding experience has been a good one. I’m pretty happy in the indoor ring when the thermometer reads 35 or above. If it’s in the 40s, I peel off layers as the lesson progresses. Maybe the extra layer of fluff I’m carrying around is working to my advantage. Or maybe it’s just that my thermostat is always set on high. Clare complains about being cold after our lessons. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and get her a warmer pair of boots and maybe a pair of glove liners before the winter is over.
I had a good lesson this week compared to the last one. Last week Oso had an attitude that I couldn’t get past. He started the minute I began to tack him up. First, he tried to make a break for it as I was taking off his halter and getting ready to put his bridle on. I had him facing out the door to the barn but he had never done anything other than just stand and wait before. This time, he was heading for the hills with me hanging on to his reins for dear life. I got him back in the barn (with the help of my instructor) and faced him in the other direction. He fussed and fidgeted as I started to get his bridle on and the leather piece on the side of his bit (I’ll bet there is a name for them but I have no idea what they are called, just that they are annoying but I’m getting used to dealing with them) ended up in his mouth. I had them situated perfectly but he was being such a pill that by the time I got his bit in and was working on getting his ears through and arranging his thick mane, he had a piece in his mouth and was chomping and fussing big time.
Then I started to tighten his girth and every time I did, he’d start walking away from me. Oh, Oso! Bad boy! Ok, finally, with his girth secured, we head into the indoor ring to start our ride and the little rat fink will not trot. Just plain out and out says no. On to plan B. Let’s work on something that will require his attention and not frustrate the heck outta me and make me feel like a complete and utter failure. So we worked on flexion and me getting the idea of what the right amount of contact feels like. Lesson ends well, with me feeling like I learned something and him not smirking and thinking he got the better of me. (Just so you know, he’s not usually like that. But someone must have put something in his hay that morning!)
This lesson was pretty much back to our normal routine. I tacked him up (if I may say so myself) quickly and easily. Last week’s attitude was a thing of the past. We rode, he trotted and for the most part, I had good contact. Then towards the end of the lesson, I started over-thinking everything and while things didn’t go completely downhill, they didn’t end as well as they started. But it was a great lesson.
Why didn’t anyone tell me how subtle riding cues are? Really, when I started I thought it was all about the balance. You get on the horse, you learn how to stay on the horse, you ride the horse. But it’s more than that. As a fairly new rider (gosh, when do you not feel like a new rider? I’m going on a year and a half now!) I am constantly going through that check list in my brain: head up, shoulders back, hold in your abdomen, heels down, legs back, hands down, elbows bent. Whew! And there’s more! I am only scratching the surface. I think I’m only scratching the surface of the surface.
In a perfect world I would have started riding when I was small. Or I would have the chance to ride more than once a week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. After all, I never thought I’d ever get the chance to ride at all. But I’m riding. And vaulting. And going to the barn and coming home smelling like leather and horses. Not bad for an old broad, if you ask me!