Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Three Rides....One day!

So this morning, I had my private lesson with Kristy at CHC. She put me on Kinko and I told her I wanted to work on my two-point (or half seat or jumping position or what the heck ever you want to call it). It's always kinda been hit or miss with me. I never really got very far in learning to jump as a kid and then I stopped riding for about ten years.

Then, I started taking lessons this year in February. I was in one class for a while before I switched into Kristy's class. That other class had only just really started going over two-point when I got into Kristy's where they'd already been doing it for a while. So I never really got the basics down, I guess, though I know what I was supposed to look like and, according to Kristy, have sort of been forcing myself into that position ever since. "Muscling" it. And basically, not doing it properly.

So last night, when I was in my lesson and we were working on jumping and I wasn't getting it, it became pretty obvious I needed to work on that. Some days it's fine, but a lot? Not so much.

First, today, she had me just stand up (not straight but...I guess like if I went up to post and just never sat back down) while trotting. Which I couldn't get. At all. My legs were too straight and I couldn't find the right place to balance and just...stand. About then we figured my stirrups were likely a little too long to allow me to clear the saddle and still keep my knees bent, so we shortened them a bit. Back to the exercise, first just at the halt so I could find the right balance point. Then walking, so I could do it while the horse was moving. Only once I got that did I go back to trying it at the trot. Wasn't perfect, but it was better and after I seemed to be getting it, we went back to two point.

There, Kristy had me do it at a halt again so she could correct my position. She was telling me to put my hips back and I was, apparently, trying to push my knees back. Which, obviously, doesn't quite work. She also decided I could stand to bring my stirrups up a hole more.

Once I found the right position again and could feel it (knee relaxes, heel drops, and I remember to look up and keep my chest open, etc), she had me do it again at the walk. Once that was done, she had me do it trotting. Then over trot poles. Then over a crossrail.

Luckily, Kinko's a really good guy who, once I got him trotting, would just sort of keep motoring around till I asked him to do something different so I could really focus on what I was doing with me and less on what he was doing. (Okay, it wasn't luck, that was intentional on Kristy's part).

So anyway, I spent most of the 45 minute lesson either standing in the stirrups or in two-point. By the end of it, when she was telling me "just one more time!" all I could think was "I don't think I can make it one more"....but I did! And anyway, the lesson definitely helped. I just have to keep it up.

Kristy suggested I talk to the manager about working in some practice rides on my own. I still feel kinda weird thinking about riding there without an instructor. I could of course, make sure to work on this stuff at Gentle Giants though some of the horses there are less inclined to just motor around for me than the school horses at CHC ;). And there was an exercise she told me about a while back to work on it too (though obviously, it works better on a horse) is to stand on the edge of a step or something, drop my heels (so I'm balanced on the balls of my feet) and make like I'm going into two point. I can do that too.

So that was the first ride.

After that, I drove up to Gentle Giants. Nobody was there yet, so I killed time by cleaning stalls and taking pictures of horses out in the fields. When Christina (one of the instructors) got there was when it was time to ride. Christina's riding a horse for somebody else there right now (he's still kind of green, I think. Or just skittish. Or both.) and wanted somebody else there while she rode in the arena (he does better if he's not alone). And I, of course, wanted to ride. :)

I had figured on just riding Carley, but as I thought about it I considered riding Treadway again. Bareback, as I figured it would be easier to keep my leg off him and if he got too fast? I could more easily bail. Hah.

So that's what I did and this ride was sooooo much better than the other one. He actually walked almost sedately around the ring for me. And of course, when he trotted, he had a tendancy to get fast (mostly on the long sides of the arena) so instead of hauling on his face, I would circle him, or do zig zag serpentine=y things. He'd slow down, and we'd go straight again.

I think a big part that helped on my end was that I was more relaxed and couldn't brace with my legs on the nonexistent stirrups. :) I also didn't just keep a tight rein on him, but just had light contact on his mouth most of the time and kept reminding myself to actually do the "squeeze release" thing.

I will say he steers off of my seat very well (I barely used rein to ask him to turn) and his trot is wonderfully smooth, even when he's going fast, I never really felt like I was bouncing all over his back.

So yay. :) Now I get why people there say he's a fun ride.

The third ride was Carley, but not for very long as both Christina and I were pretty tired by that time (she'd gone riding this morning too elsewhere). Not much to say on that one, neither Carley or Big Red (who Christina was riding) were overly inclined to do anything that resembled work and neither of them wanted to pass the other. Hah. Still, not a bad ride.

Of course, I did fall off at the beginning of it.

I rode Carley bareback too, but unlike the other day when she stood pretty damn still for me to mount (from a block), today when she felt my hands tense on her back in order to get on, she would try to sidestep. Once, I got partway on (from just a little too far away), she started walking, and I tried to get the rest of the way up. I basically ended up losing it and coming off the other side *facepalm*. Christina said she'd thought I was going to make it up just before I came off. I hit my hip (and a fall from 17hands or so isn't overly fun) but not badly or anything. So I tried again and got on and all was well. I told Christina that was technically my first fall since I'd started riding again (the one where I came off Cameo the other week and landed on my feet totally doesn't count). She was surprised, saying that would be like her first fall this week. But then, she rides a lot of OTTBs (and, in fact, owns one and he's apparently...exciting. Yes. :) ). Whereas I've mostly stuck to school horses and pretty laid back drafts so far. ;)

Anyway, all's well that ends well and I learned a lot.

Oh, and the picture up top was taken at GG today. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hee, bareback

Following on my fabulous ride of the other night, I had a very good ride on Carley today, up at Gentle Giants. She hasn't been ridden in about a week and a half or so since she got kicked by another horse (right in the hoo-ha) so I wasn't sure if she was going to be wiggy or not. That said, I still had it in my mind that today I was going to forego the saddle and opted for bareback.

I haven't ridden a horse bareback since I was about fourteen. Ten years ago. Eesh.

That said, despite her 17-hand-something Belgian height? Carley's a wonderful horse for bareback. She's generally pretty laid back. And she's built like a laz-y-boy couch. I could've set a table for four on her ass. She was also nice and warm and fuzzy (winter coat has grown in).

The last time I rode her, she hadn't been inclined toward anything that resembled work (I was riding her that day without stirrups, actually, but with saddle, and it was a bitch). I thiiiink I've posted about that already. Of course, that time, there was no other horse in there with her.

Today? There were three other horses. So she was pretty good about going (I actually gave away my crop at one point because she was being pretty forward. A few minutes later she figured out I didn't have the crop and started getting lazy again so I eventually had to get a crop again because she wasn't listening to my leg.). We walked and trotted. She has a nice trot to sit to, but I did try to post a tiny bit. Which is a heckuva lot more difficult bareback than just sitting, so mostly I sat. We also walked over some ground poles, just to make things more interesting for her (I know I've mentioned before that Carley's not fond of the ring, she'd much rather be out on the trail).

I even managed to stay on when she shied.

That is, another horse (Gypsy, who was on her last ride at GG today as she's going to her new adopted home tomorrow) apparently decided the closed door at one end of the arena was OMGSCARYANDGOINGTOEATHER or something. So she spooked. All the way at the other end of the ring. Still, Carley apparently has a sympathetic link to Gypsy or something so she jumped to the side too. I didn't even slip.

I mentioned she's easy to sit on, right?

I told somebody I can add that to my list of "things I can sit". Along with "bucking school horse" I can now have "shying draft horse. bareback."


All in all, a good day today.

Another lesson tomorrow at Columbia (and not on Cameo, thank goodness. I have Simone. Who, now that I think about it, I've already mentioned. Hah! Forgot I checked that on Friday.). And Tuesday in the morning? Private lesson, hee. Not sure who I'll be riding then. Will have to ask tomorrow. And after that, I'm planning on going back up to GG and will likely ride Carley once more bareback. Hopefully, she'll still be in a good mood. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tonight was fabulous

Had a working student lesson tonight at Columbia Horse Center. They had me on Shroeder, one of the intermediate horses. I'd ridden him a couple of times back during the summer and liked him, though I didn't fall immediately in love with him the way I've done a couple of other horses there that I've ridden.

Tonight, one of the first exercises Carolyn had us do was ride with "handlebars". That is, the saddlepads we were using have these velcro/nylon straps that usually fasten around the billet straps for the girth and help keep the saddle in place. She had us un-velcro them and pull them out and hold onto them along with the reins while we rode, the idea being that it would help us keep our hands still.

It was an interesting exercise, but it made steering awkward. I'm not sure if I didn't have the reins at the right length or that was just Shroeder, though. Most likely it was mostly me. ;)

We did that walking and at a posting trot several times around the ring before she had us try cantering with them. Once we'd tried it cantering, she let us go back to riding normally and we did some more cantering around the ring, both ways. Shroeder was pretty easy to get to canter, though the transition I'm fairly certain wasn't very pretty. Mostly I think that was because he wanted to do this poky trot that wasn't likely to make it easy for him to transition up. Once I got him up there, he wasn't inclined to just motor along either, he'dve dropped (and tried) back into a trot given the opportunity but I just squeezed with my legs or gave him a cluck when I felt him about to slow and he kept right on going.

It was kind of weird because Shroeder kept drifting to the inside of the ring like Cameo, though he managed not to be as annoying about it. Partly because he seemed to really just want to go on the "inside track" of the ring (I guess so he could cut corners and not have as far to go) as opposed to go to the middle of the ring and stop like Cameo kept trying. And it didn't take much more than a twitch of the outside rein and me nudging him with my inside leg a few times to convince him to go back over to the wall, so I didn't really mind.

After cantering, we worked in some jumping which...Carolyn started us just going over trotting poles posting first and making sure our horses stayed straight going through them. After that, she had us do two point over the trotting poles. Then she made a really low crossrail (preceded by trotting poles) and had us post up to it and do two point over it, again with the idea of keeping our horses straight. Progressively, she raised the crossrails until it became something they might actually jump over instead of simply trot over and that's about when she had us choose at random whether we'd go left or right when we got to the wall after the jump. With the idea still being to keep the horse straight and also prevent them from anticipating which way they'd have to turn so they'd be listening to us instead. Shroeder performed like a champ (except still wanting several times to go through a little too slow for which Carolyn got after me to get more energy out of him).

Ended definitely on a good note and I was pretty pleased. I should've asked Carolyn how my two point had looked, though, I'm pretty sure it was kinda crappy. Or at least I felt like I was more hunchy than I could've been.

Though if I was, I imagine she would've said something, so it could be all in my head. I need to get somebody to agree to come out and tape me in a lesson or two so I can see myself. Or even just a couple of times like, posting a bit, cantering, and going over a crossrail.

Doing the working student thing tomorrow, should be fun. :) Going to also ask Kristy about working in a private lesson on Tuesday and maybe she'll let me ride Shroeder again.

Oh, and in other news, I am currently on the books to ride Simone on my Monday night lesson. Huzzah! No more Cameo! (for now) And Simone seems like a sweetheart, though I guess we'll see. I haven't ridden her yet, but I've wanted to since I first saw her.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Frustration. Level. Rising.

So I had Cameo (yet again. Kristy likes giving us one horse for several weeks before she switches us to someone new) tonight. Kristy wasn't teaching though, as she's on vacation, so we had someone else (whose name I can't remember for the life of me right now).

I didn't magically fall off on my feet this time (thank goodness).

But I did have a bitchy horse.

It's weird, because the first three or so times I've ever ridden her, she was pretty cooperative. Just last week she started with the "no, actually, I don't want to do what you want to make me do" routine. Tonight that mostly manifested in her popping her inside shoulder and doing the noodle-neck routine as she tried to move into the middle of the ring. Though I think she did get a couple of little bucks in, too, when I was trying to make her canter.

So yeah. That going to the inside of the ring thing kept happening for probably a good half of the hour or so lesson. I couldn't even cross the ring (to keep her from running up onto a slower horse in front of her) without her trying to stay in the middle of the ring and so on. And my first inclination (to pull with the outside rein and pull her back out) doesn't really work because she just noodle necks. Intellectually, I know I need to create a wall with my inside hand and leg and move her whole body over but actually putting it into practice is rather easier said than done.

So this kept happening. And I kept feeling like an idiot. And there was a new teacher (and someone else in there observing) and nobody else was having this issue. So the frustration was really there. For a minute there I was almost in tears (such a baby, I know) because she just wouldn't settle in and work (last week it didn't take nearly as long to get her going) and then there's this new person instructing and I just kept thinking she must've been wondering why I wasn't back in some beginner class or something (again, intellectually, I doubt she thought that, but who ever said I was always rational?).

Fiiiinally, she did settle in, though not after I'd worked at getting her to canter to the left several times around. But by the time we switched to going to the right, she was ready to go and that was just fine. I didn't really have any trouble with her after that (thank goodness).

I will be doing working student lessons again starting on Friday so the extra time in the saddle again will likely help. That and I'm going to try to set up an extra private lesson with Kristy on my day off next week and I'll ask her to work with that with me. Maybe I'll even ask her to put me on Cameo for that.

Though, honestly, there was a point in the lesson tonight I was tempted to write Kristy a note saying "put me on anyone but Cameo next time, please." But then I figure that's just giving in to the bossy mare and I want to learn how to ride the difficult horses (and I'm sure she isn't the worst I'll ever have to deal with) along with the easy ones. So the note will stay unwritten. :)

Substitute!instructor did say that this is a thing Cameo does a lot and if she's been in more lessons lately with kids who aren't ready yet (or strong enough or whatnot) to make her mind, then she's more likelLinky to be inclined toward thinking she can get away with it. Which might help explain why she was easier to ride for me before as compared to lately. Or it's possible it's the change in the weather (now that it's cooler) that is also at play here.

Anyway, I figure if nothing else, it's research for the novel I'm writing for National Novel Writing Month. I'll torture my main character with a horse like Cameo. ;)