As you know, I was all sorts of nervous about my first lesson, thinking I'd make a total and complete fool of myself (which I only did a couple of times). The important thing is that I managed to keep Manassis between me and the ground, and on any ride, that's a good thing.
I first learned that I turn my toes out too much so that I'm gripping with the back of my calves instead of the inside of them. Learning to keep my toes forward is tough. For too long, I've ridden with them at about a 45* angle from the horse. Sharon was patient and spent some time going over proper positioning with me.
We then started at a walk, just so I could get the feel of the big boy. Estes is only 14.2h and Manassis is much bigger, so I think Sharon was worried that I'd be nervous riding such a large horse. I used to pick the biggest horse around to ride B.E. (Before Estes) - probably a little bit of short-person syndrome. Then I switched to smaller horses - Estes and Meeker - and realized how darn agile they are and fell in love.
I was familiar with the exercises we did at a walk and was comfortable with them. The hard part was remembering to keep my darn toes facing forward.
My first trot was not pretty; I kinda look like I'm flopping around up there trying to pick up his rhythm.
Then it was time to add in the arm exercises at a trot. I actually felt much better not holding on to the cheater strap. I felt like reaching down for it threw me off balance, so I was more than happy to go to arms.
Just to make it a little more difficult, Sharon had me do it without stirrups. I actually preferred being without stirrups, because I could feel myself bracing in them when I was posting. Gave myself a heck of a toe/foot cramp, too. This is where all the bareback riding I do paid off. I find that stirrups now are a distraction and I drop them every chance I get. Heck, even when I do ride in a saddle, I only use the stirrups for mounting and dismounting.
After a few rounds without stirrups, I went back to them and felt a difference. I was much less inclined to use them to help me post. I think that it's pretty easy to see that just the few minutes I did without stirrups helped.
Sharon had told me that she was going to have me ride three gaits today, so once I got comfortable with the posting trot, it was time to face my nemesis - the canter. I'm not quite sure why I'm so afraid of the canter - I know it's an easy gait to sit. It's a lot more comfortable than the trot, but I'm still not comfortable with it. I think that part of it is the fear of falling (always), but the other part is that Estes is so quick. She could leave me behind in a heartbeat if I'm not paying attention or off balance. I know this and she knows this. Another part is where we ride; there's not a lot of room to canter, but I'd like to be able to do it with confidence in the areas where it is safe to do so.
Please disregard the arms flapping like I'm a bird trying to take off. I was so focused on trying to keep all of the leg stuff straight that my arms just kind of did their own thing (That whole making a fool of myself thing? Yep, here it is.).
I had a blast! I learned that I'm going to be able to do this. I don't have too many bad habits to break; essentially my position is okay. I wasn't quite as big a dunce as I had anticipated, either.
Sharon told me that I had a lot more confidence up on the big boy than a lot of riders who have a lot more learnin' under their belts; even riders who are competitive dressage riders. I can chalk that up to having to ride so many different horses when I was working at the livery. It's not hard for me to get up on a strange horse; if I wanted to ride, I had to ride what was available. And maybe Mom and Bill should get some credit for dragging me out of my slump of riding only "easy" horses when they made me ride Estes the first time.