I haven’t taken a proper lesson in about 4 months. A proper lesson being one where I am riding a horse that can do more than trot in a side pull. What this means is, I am out of riding shape, and have gotten used to a life of plodding around and not asking much of myself physically.
It’s been kinda nice, but I’ve missed getting my butt kicked and improving my riding. I’ve been riding school horses, and running a bunch, so I hoped that when I did take a proper lesson again, it wouldn’t be too disastrous.
And when I got the opportunity to ride a barn mates horse in a dressage lesson, then a school horse in a jump lesson, I said “YES!” Even though the lessons were on two consecutive days and I knew that would be a lot for this out of shape rider.
I was eager to get a chance to ride Max, as he’s a fancy prancer in dressage and while he can be opinionated and quirky, I hoped Macy had prepared me for him. I hopped on him and my first thought was “Oh my God this is a lot of horse.” I felt Sarah said it best “it’s like every vertebrae can move, and can move in a different direction.” I didn’t have much time to think about it, as we got right to work. And we just kept working. And working. Overall, the lesson went pretty well, especially the trot work. I was shocked at how behind the leg he was- I had to really work to get him forward. REALLY work. I had just figured that this nice moving horse was self-propelled, but it takes a lot of work to get him moving the way you want. But once he does, it is really, really, lovely. When I got him moving straight, and forward, he was super fun.
I wasn’t as strong in the canter work, but we would get it for a few moments, and when I did it was really lovely. I have such trouble moving my hips, which is essential in the canter, and at this point in the lesson I was getting tired, Max was getting a bit tired of me, and it wasn’t happening as magically. But it was ok, and honestly I was proud of myself for riding a new horse and having a productive lesson. Sarah had some really positive things to say about my riding and I felt exhausted but good. I’m very grateful to his owner for letting me ride him.
The next day was pretty much the complete opposite. I would be riding Deputy, the fun little QH I rode in the Gary Mittleider clinic. (I can find ZERO media of him, sorry!) Hopping on Deputy, my first thought was “Oh, it’s like sitting on an Easy Boy recliner.” But this wasn’t the only place Deputy differed from Max. Deputy is actually very forward. He has a go button. And with this go button comes some reactivity and opinions. I had to ride him basically the exact opposite way I rode Max.
Which was tough for me. I wanted to react back. I wanted to pull and insist. I wanted him to stop spooking at the cow roping dummy and got angry when he wouldn’t. Yeah, this ride was starting out really well.
We worked at the walk for a while, then the trot, then the canter. I felt pretty good about 30 minutes in and Sarah set up a 5 stride line.
At cross rails. Spoiler alert, we stayed at cross rails for the entire lesson. Not because Deputy did anything wrong.
We worked on me, my position, and getting through the corners and the line the same way. I was unable to stay consistent with my arms (mainly my elbows) and have a lovely, light, following, forearm. I was unable to keep my chest up over the jumps, instead I jumped as if it were a 3’3 oxer. I couldn’t half halt in the 5 stride line while also keeping my leg unlocked and useful.
Deputy was a good boy, and dealt with all of it. The lesson left me feeling the way I do after SO MANY jump lessons. A mix of “why do I do this, I hate stadium jumping” and “just let me go cross country and have fuuuunnnnn.”
But here’s the silver lining. As I bring June along, I’m essentially bringing myself along too. it’s almost like I get to start over. As she learns, I’ll get to restart jumping from ground poles up. And I can start to fine tune things. And ride one horse and work on my position and learn what works for us.
And sure, I want to ride other horses and continue working at becoming a better rider. Which, in my opinion, happens a lot faster when you’re riding lots of different horses and learning what works and what doesn’t. Having as many tools in your toolbox is helpful, and I want to keep collecting tools.
So, I guess I’m back at it- not just having fun with my young horse, but back to getting my butt kicked and trying to figure it all out. And despite how drenched in sweat and exhausted I was after my ride on Deputy, I immediately asked when I could have another lesson.