Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Lesson (warning: lots of videos)

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.


Allenspark Lodge said...

I got to be the cameraman/person today...and I learned a lot, too. Sharon is great with her explanations and I think I now understand my fear of cantering bareback. I have the bad habit of leaning forward into the canter, which is all wrong. No wonder Jesse does a little crowhop; I'm pinching her shoulders! I loved watching GunDiva on the big 'M', and was very proud of how she rode her first lesson. A bunch of different horses will eventually make a 'rider' out of you, even if you don't know technique. Knowledge of technique can help make it easier for your horse, which is why dressage is great for any discipline.

Looking forward to more....

Funder said...

Hey Tel, if it makes you feel better, it's perfectly correct to ride toes-out Western. It's only wrong for dressage. The toes thing eventually gets easier - mine are instinctively forward-ish now. You will get used to using different muscles to wrap around the horse, I promise!

Lunge line lessons are so cool! It's all about you, not your ability to steer or the horse's behavior. Your posture looks great.

Once you start using reins, you'll be in for a world of awfulness. It's unbelievably hard to hold your hands "right" and keep contact with the bit. Much much easier to ride Western with loose reins.

Now, here's the obligatory yelling: Where is your helmet? Estes is probably the best horse is the whole universe but you're riding a strange creature in a dinky English saddle and you should wear a helmet!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Yaayyyy!! (standing and clapping)

K-I now you well enough to tell you that the first video cracked me up...You had this total..'Okay, I can ride, now let's do something' look on your face. I love it! Would have been wearing that same look on my face as well.

But really, looks like you did great and obviously had a great lesson. I have a feeling this is all going to come together for you in no time.

Sooo...maybe one of those black fillies will be in your future after all. ;-)

Mrs Mom said...

Hot DAYUM Girl!! For the record, I always get yelled at for my toes too, so you aren't alone there ;) (I have a reason though-- it's called being busted up far too often- the left leg does not turn that way anymore!!)

Totally second BECG's observation on your facial expression.

And not once did you look like you had to make a Butt Fist!!!!

Handsome big horse too!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I think it's fairly common to have your leg position and posture corrected in the first lesson. Riding with toes out, backs of calves against the horse, and legs in front of us what I call the natural way to ride. Once I was corrected to put toes forward, sides of calves against the horse and to line up my heels with my waist and head, I felt a lot of pain for having to contort myself at first, but eventually I realized my balance was better and my seat more secure. I stuck to the saddle through a lot of bucks, spooks, and even some rears in that position. You look like you have excellent balance.

Linda said...

I had the same issue with toes out, but my saddle kind of put me in that position. It's really thick leather and the fenders have been bent out over time. The English saddles really help get in the right position, but I ride with a western. Looks like you have a really good teacher--you should learn a lot!

Tj and Mark said...

WooHoo. You are inspirational. Sign me up too. Keep the videos coming, I learned/relearned a lot. You looked great and what a nice horse to ride too.

wilsonc said...

Hurray for you!!! Loved getting to see the videos of your lesson. It took me back to my first lunge-line lessons. I need to do them again for a refresher. I can't tell you how much confidence I gained in myself after doing them. Confidence doesn't seem to be a problem for you though. I, too, have the turned out foot and am always being told not to use the back of my leg for cues. Glad you had so much fun. Your instructor is a good one!

GunDiva said...

Thanks, all!

Hmmm... the helmet. I had a very nice Troxel helmet from Horse Master. It gave me horrendous headaches, so I gave it to a wrangler last year who loves it and wears it religiously.

I love this whole longe-line thing. I've never done it before, even if it does feel a bit like being on a pony ride. I like that I can concentrate on my legs and not worry about my hands or steering. In fact, I concentrated so hard that the inside of my lips are raw. I had no idea I was biting them while I was trying to ride.

BECG and MM - I was not making that face! It was cold. I was concentrating. :)

Shirley said...

You look pretty darn good on that big black horse! Having lessons is the best way to improve our riding; I learned so mush on the few lessons I took last summer. I never knew how much I was moving my shoulders till I got told a few times!

Rising Rainbow said...

If you were biting your lip you probably weren't breathing correctly either. Breathing will affect how you ride.

I got a new helmet that is adjustable. It feels much more comfortable that ones I've had before. It fit to the shape of my head better while still giving me protection.

Your balance does look awesome. You'll find this position once you get used to it will really help you build confidence at the canter.

You go, Girl!

Momma Fargo said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing all of this. She seems like an amazing instructor and you are doing great!

Rachel said...

Ignore my other comment about Estes - I assumed y'all were gonna take her riding ;)

Thanks for actually putting the info in text too - so I could watch for it in the vids. I am learning right along with ya.

Awesome job on the big M - he seems like a sweetheart!

(FYI - I can't even do the correct facing feet - too many years of ballet!)

allhorsestuff said...

I am trying to catch up with you...

YOU did a Great job on that big(very ouchy) gorgeous horse!
If you can ride a horse like that, who's gates as are severly altered by his sort feet. You will be excellent on one that has a smoother, uninhibted gate!

I am so very impressed and jealous too! I love lunge lessons. You totally looked to have done that before..very confident.
Good job...hope the weather will clear for round two!
Bet you were sore sore!

QHHaflingerGal said...

Wow! I think you did an amazing job. I've been there and bumped around like a piece of wood. You ride very well! I can see a natural sense of balance and a great seat. By the way, I'm new to your blog, is your saddle a Duette?

GunDiva said...

QHHaflingerGal - welcome to my blog and thanks for the compliments. As for the saddle.'s a black dressage one...that's all I know about the saddle.

The saddle belongs to Manassis and Sharon; I usually ride bareback on my own horse because I don't have a saddle that fits her.