Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who's The Boss?

One of the episodes we filmed was about an ill-mannered horse and her submissive owner.  I don't think that this is an unusual problem, though it is a dangerous one.  One of the things that we were told in our crew meeting was that we weren't supposed to correct the horses and that it was best for the horse owners to do all of the handling.  At first, it seemed like kind of a silly directive, but it made perfect sense; not a single one of us on the crew would have tolerated this kind of behavior from a horse and would have made a correction without thinking twice about it.

I know several horse owners who are excellent riders, but not such great handlers.  Over the years, I've known several people who were injured by their horses because they've allowed their horse's manners to slip - or they've never instilled manners in their horses in the first place.

This is not to say that Estes is the best mannered mare on the planet.  She's got manners, but just like letting my kids slide once in a while with theirs, I've allowed hers to slip somewhat.  It's easy to do.  Little things like letting her stop shoulder-to-shoulder with me instead of behind me where she belongs.  She can be pushy on ocassion when I've fed her one too many treats and she gets it in her head that it's okay to start snuffling at my hands and pockets. 

Linda over at Beautiful Mustang has written a post on how easy it is to raise a monster.  Go read it, it's definitely worth your time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Day After

Just like Sharon promised, I hurt.

Muscles I forgot I had (or maybe never knew I had) hurt.  Who would have thought that just doing something like move my toes 45* would cause my knees to ache so badly?

Now, I know I'm not in good shape.  Any semblance of good shape.  The fact that I haven't seen the inside of the gym in almost a year testifies to that. 

However, I ride.  I ride up and down mountains, across creeks, over boulders.  For hours.  And I do it all bareback.   I have better than average posture when I'm horseback.  My core is fairly strong.  In fact, that's the only part of me that doesn't hurt.  My riding muscles should have been in good shape.

Sharon managed to kick my arse.  Who would have thought that almost two hours on level ground going in circles could hurt so much?

Okay, okay.  A lot of you warned me I'd be sore and I didn't believe you.  For that I'm sorry.  I should have believed you all.

I've decided that my arms are going to get quite the workout, too.  I've always ridden Western.  Very little contact unless I needed to give the horse instruction.  After the few minutes I did yesterday of riding with contact, my hands hurt.  I'm not used to helping the horse hold his/her frame and it's going to be quite a change.  But I'm willing to bet my triceps will appreciate it.

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.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm A Little Afeered

One of my resolutions for this year was to take riding lessons.  I want to be able to use my seat better and purposefully give leg cues to Estes.  Sharon, who was the Key Grip on Horse Master, offered to give me lessons on her retired boy, Manassis. 

Photo by Heidi Nyland, The Whole Picture, LLC

Is he a handsome feller or what?  Sharon and I set my first lesson for this coming Saturday.  On one hand, I'm absolutely excited and can't wait.  On the other hand, I'm terrified.  I've never had a riding lesson (at least not that I can remember - my godmother had me up on Flame when I was just a young 'un, but I don't remember any lessons).  Anyway, I've never had a riding lesson - what if I don't get it?

Don't laugh.  I'm really terrified about being a totally uncoordinated doofus.  I don't speak the language; hell, I don't even understand English tack.  That God for Sharon during Horse Master.  We had three English riders and since I was the Horse Grip, I was supposed to be able to help with tack adjustments and such.  I know I looked like a deer in headlights.  She took pity on me and gave me some very, very basic lessons on the tack.

I really want to do this, and know that it will help me, but now that it's almost here.  Well, that's a whole 'nother story.

Mom's going with me to video tape and take pictures.  I just hope Manassis doesn't give his mommy a bad report about my attempt at riding.
Picture by Heidi Nyland, The Whole Picture, LLC

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Equine Resolutions

This year, I'll be taking riding lessons.  I want to learn to use my seat more effectively (and I'm sure that Estes will appreciate it too).  I don't need to be able to ride bridleless, but I'd like to use my hands less and my legs more.  Sharon, one of the crew members from Horse Master, has offered to give me dressage lessons on her super amazing gelding.  I have no intention of ever competing in dressage - EVER - but I've been told repeatedly that it will help develop my riding; dressage is the basis of all good riding, much like ballet is the basis of all dancing.  Wish me luck.

I'll also do my best to keep Estes' hooves trimmed properly (thanks, Mrs Mom).  For the record, the thought of doing it scares the crap out of me.  The last thing I want to do is screw up my horse, but I want to be able to use her all summer long.  For the last two summers, she's been either injured or lame for part of the summer.  I couldn't have avoided her injury, but I maybe could have figured out her lameness earlier and gotten her treatment sooner.  By doing her trimming and handling her hooves on a regular basis, I'll be able to identify the beginning of thrush and treat it appropriately.  I swear I'm not going to get lulled into the "I live in a mountain desert, we don't have thrush" mentality.

That's it for my horse resolutions; why about you?  Anyone have any they want to share?