All Four Legs

After my emotion packed lesson last week, my trainer and decided I should take a few lessons to get my confidence back and see where we go next.  I arrived to find myself assigned to an old favorite, “my” beefcake red lesson pony.  While he was never my favorite when riding him before I bought O (which seems like a very long time ago), I became very attached in past years since he hauled my pregnant butt around for weeks and kept us both very safe after I got back in the tack .

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He wasn’t quite as excited to see me as I was him, but obliged and let me tack him up and pull him to the outdoor.  He actually really warmed up nicely and seemed to appreciate having someone who knew a bit more than “up, down, up, down”.  I was feeling pretty good about myself, and we headed around to warm up over a little crossrail.

He gave the crossrail an unusually big jump (for him) and I am pretty sure I mentally squealed a little at how sweet this boy was.  The fun ended when he landed, and somewhere between putting his back legs down and cantering forwards, he seemed to lose track of his front legs.  Horses need all 4 legs, and unfortunately for us, this meant we were thrashing around in the arena dirt, as he desperately tried to get off his knees.  I thought for sure we were going to roll right over.

Somehow after a full 8-10 feet of knee sliding/thrashing he righted himself and halted.  He was blowing very hard and I immediately reached forward to give him giant pats.  I literally cannot believe we didn’t go over.  After swearing to red horse that I would personally take care of him for the rest of his life for keeping us upright, I trotted off.  Big red was obviously super sore on his knees, and we decided to cut my lesson off in exchange for a cold hosing.

So that’s how my second lesson in so many weeks, was cut short.  This time for a very different reason.  Regardless, I am very lucky and glad that my horse was able to get us both back up after his trip.  He got lots of cold hose time, then wrapped up and extra cookies in his stall.  My trainer reported that he was feeling so much better the next day and went back to his normal life. She also joked that she really is trying to make it fun for me.

Note:

Cathryn at Two and a Half Horses is sponsoring an awesome header contest.  I’m photoshop incapable, but someone else should try!  Great prizes and blog!

Why Lesson Programs?

Lately I’ve noticed a shift in local equestrian programs where the “lesson program” is becoming less and less prominent.  Obviously clients are still taking lessons, trainers are still training, but the days of operations having a whole string of lesson horses, and days full of lessons are waning.  When our facility hosts local shows, it’s obviously what programs in the area still host the full lesson program experience, with their half dozen lesson ponies and bombproof geldings, versus the smaller groups of client/owners.

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Bombproof hony – not a schoolie

My own trainer has been scaling back her lesson program in favor of really spending time with the clients she already maintains, many of which are showing or traveling on a regular basis.  She isn’t concerned at all about the change in process for her riders.  Most of her clients have owned before (like me) or already own a horse in her facility.  And while I understand time is money, and she needs more time, seeing the lesson program get smaller provokes a lot of feels from me.

As I’ve mentioned, I was a lesson kid and barn rat for years before I took on a “real horse” lease.  And now, I’m right back in that world of being a catch rider and lesson kid.  This is close to my heart, in my mind a vital step in the journey of horseback riding as a whole.  I just wonder how trainers are recruiting and gathering new riders without watching those people coming up through the lesson horse program.  Perhaps just my area fits into this need due to the variety of options, or the influence of our culture?  I’m not sure.

I feel like there is so much learned from riding many different horses, and having lessons on a consistent basis.  Not to mention the risk for a parent, or an adult re-rider based on whether they decide to continue in the sport and the sample size of time they’ve really spent with horses.  It was mentioned that if you want to run a successful lesson programs now, you have to teach all the time, every day – all day, to make the economics work.

Maybe I’m just witnessing a very small niche of the area doing this, but I had to ask.  What are you seeing in your area?  Are the big lesson programs still thriving?

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My favorite grey schoolmaster

 

I Had Forgotten

Since having my daughter, I've been in a consistent riding program. That all ended about a month ago when work priorities took over (for better or worse). After a week or two, I feel like my obsessive "must ride something now" kind of waned.

I was incredibly busy, and horses suddenly seemed like the one thing totally not worth it. Usually I have those moments while waiting on a vet bill, or after I couldn't catch my horse for an hour–the usual equestrian doubts. Having these doubts while just sitting at my house was a bit scary.

As I mentioned before, I'm attempting to revamp my priorities and get some time back for my goals outside of the workplace. Horses are the core of those. So back to lessons I went-no excuses.

Tacking up Cooper today, I actually felt anxious. Cooper had been inside for a few days because of all the rain, so naturally he would be a wild stallion right? (Spoiler alert-nope) Stupid thoughts. Sending my toddler with her grandpa, I swung up and warmed up the giraffe as usual.

The lesson was incredibly hard, a technical ride. Cooper was feeling spicy, but I don't mind a little play as long as it's not stupid. By the end I openly admitted that I was exhausted.

But then as soon as I loaded up the car, gave the kid some snacks, and headed home I could actually feel the buzz. Better than champagne, I kept thinking over my ride; how I could do better, what I can do in the gym to get my fitness back and so on. I realized that in the weeks away I had forgotten how much I love the smell of the barn, the satisfaction of patting your horse after your ride, or the sheer joy of sharing the place you love the most. Essentially I forgot that I do belong with horses, and on horses. It is a part of who I am, and while life is an insane roller coaster I am so lucky to continue to have horses in my world. So next time I forget, and am having all these insane-o thoughts about horses not being worth it, I should reread this post. Because they are.

Realistic Expectations

This post is inspired by the thoughtful comment that EquiNovice left on my last post, while I was lamenting about how I have been crying my way through recent lessons.  She mentioned that managing your own expectations were some of the hardest part about not being in a consistent riding program.  That was a huge ah-ha moment for me.

From an outsiders perspective, if you had been watching my last lesson on Cooper you would’ve seen a woman who is struggling to not pull on a more forward horse.  You might have seen a few awkward frog hop jumps, and heard said woman shout some angry words (bad habits die hard).  But generally, there was nothing catastrophic happening.  No one fell off.  No refusals.  No galloping away wildly.  Just ugly jumps and some flowery words.

But.

That was not how I saw it.  I went from owning O, to riding some sale horses, a few schoolies, to leasing Dee.  99% of the time I felt very confident on these animals.  I knew I was capable of riding them and looking (within reason) okay doing it.  Obviously there were challenges, but nothing significant that stands out to me now.  They helped me, and I felt good about myself as a rider.

The cleanest horse alive finally got some dirt on him.

When I hopped on Cooper those first rides, and it went so badly, I was honestly confused.  I’d seen much less experienced riders take him around without a single issue.  Why was I struggling so much?  My expectation is that I should not only be able to ride this dude, but also do it well.  Yet everything I did seemed to set him on fire. Our flatwork has improved, buuuuttttt I still manage to turn him into Seabiscuit over fences.  I couldn’t even stop him in a straight line.  Even with my confidence at a high I can feel how hard these rides have been on me mentally.  All because my expectations for the ride were “ruined”.


It made me question buying another greenie – was I even capable of bringing it up correctly?  It made me wonder what I was even doing riding?  I mean, after 15 odd years of riding, I probably should be able to direct my horse over a cross rail.

Please note that I am not saying I’m God’s gift to horsekind – but I truly felt I should be able to ride better than I have been.  Maybe Cooper and I just don’t mesh.  Maybe it’s because I have not been riding consistently.  Maybe it’s just been an unlucky few weeks.  In my opinion, it’s probably a combination of all of those.  Regardless of all of that, I’m trying to spend some time before my lesson really resonating on the idea that I am only riding once a week right now, and I’m in this for the fun part.  I must alter my expectations.  

I don’t need to be expecting to be the exact same rider I was in the past, when I was doing more.  That is going to lead me down a dark path every ride!  I just need to be able to learn, and manage my personal standards for my riding.    Maybe then I can learn to enjoy my rides more.

 

Third Lesson Not the Charm

Since he is apparently going to stick around the blog a bit longer (no one seems to ride him on my lesson days) the red giraffe, formally known as Cooper needs a bit more of a bio.

I like him in purple!


Cooper was purchased by my trainer in 2016 (I think) from his home where he was doing the equitation stuff at some of the rated shows.  I actually rode him right when he arrived and where I sort of blundered through our ride.  However, he was perfect, and didn’t put a toe out of line.  After joining the lesson program, a teen rode him and fell in love; so while he is technically a lesson horse, he only “teaches” randomly.  He’s a OTTB standing 16.2+ but all withers.  Very giraffe-like in appearance, but has fabulously easy canter to ride.  He’s quiet, but can get a little heavy.  Until last week I carried a stick just in case I needed back up.

Don’t let the sleepy giraffe fool you.


My first lesson was all peaches and cream.  Second lesson is discussed here.   Third lesson, this past week, oh HOLY HOT MESS. Cooper’s teen has been traveling this month, so his 5-6 days a week of exercise has ended up being more like 2 times a week.

Everything was so exciting!  Trotting circles, passing the broken arena door, the barn cat – the whole thing was pretty exhilarating to Coop. Points to my Roeckl’s for still sticking with me after the giraffe just went around and around.  I was also in tights for my lesson, which I almost never do (it was so humid) and I felt like my butt just slid everywhere in my saddle.

3 legged giraffe! 🙂


We made it through our warm-up, and at the trot, I actually had a few moments where I didn’t have to peer around his giant head to steer.  Yay?  I did have a big issue with the “whoa” this week.  It wasn’t much there.  Half-halts were turning into pulling fests, and I was losing ground.

We were both sweating extensively by the time jumping came around.  And even then, I couldn’t regulate his pace to save my life.  By the 2nd or third try to quietly canter a 18″ single I was pretty angry.  I know, anger has no place with horses and all that.  BUT.  It wasn’t that I was necessarily mad at him, but I was so angry that I couldn’t ride him. Sure, I did call him some…names…but what was most difficult to swallow was that I could not ride this mostly level headed, lesson horse who I have seen less experienced riders waltz around on.  Enter internal self-esteem tear down.

Was he rude?  Yes.  Was he dangerous?  Definitely not.  Was I so embarrassed and angry and wanting to scream?  Absolutely.

It’s been a long time since I felt as bad about a lesson as I did last week.  I know there were good moments, but it really did shake me up.  Change is hard you guys.

 

 

Lesson Kid Fails

I was apparently feeling a little big for my lesson kid britches after my lesson on the red giraffe.  This week I headed to my usual Wednesday night lesson outing, and after a rough few days at work, I was really excited to ride.  I listened to some jams to survive rush hour, had my riding clothes all packed up, leftovers were in the fridge for husband and child…I was feeling real good about life.

Except, you know, there were no lessons planned for that night.  But I didn’t know that.  Trainer was trying to get out of town to horse show.  I probably would known that if I had been a good lesson kid and checked the lesson board.  But that was a big nope.

Guys, it was so embarrassing.  Mainly because I kind of got choked up about it.  I wanted to ride so bad, but the show horses were all shipping out, lesson ponies had the day off, Dee was gone.  So you know, the smallest violin ever started playing for me.

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Thanks for the image google

Waving off my trainers apologies (because clearly not her fault) I made a mad dash to go hide in car in case I actually cried over my missed lesson.

I made it just about .5 mile down the road when I started getting texts from trainer.


This is why you pay them the “big bucks”. Because they get it.  They get how badly you might need to ride.

My trainer hung around until I got changed into riding clothes, tacked up her adorable schoolie, and hoped on.  Since I wasn’t sure what the plan was, I was even more excited when she stayed late for a private lesson for me.


This schoolie was new to me, and is such a classy gentlemen.  He was a tall, slim, flea-bit grey thoroughbred, who quietly loped around a little 2′ course with me, swapping his leads and happy ears the entire ride.  There were no great revelations from the lesson, other than to keep my leg on, but that wasn’t the point.  The point was that my trainer was right.  I needed to get on a horse.  To cool him out, she shooed us outside and we took a nice solo wander around the barn property.  It was exactly what I needed.  Trainer is on the road for a bit, but there are local shows to cheer on friends at soon and that will be the perfect distraction!

He got all the pets and treats for giving up his night off for me to ride!

 

February Schooling Show

Since our facility was hosting another show at the end of February, Dee and I were all set to go out and bop around the 2’6” classes again. The week of we had some good rides, some meh rides, and decided that schooling the morning of the show wasn’t worth the details.  I know that if I’d been on O again, I would’ve had a meltdown…and I’m guessing we would’ve had like 10 stops (one for each fence).  However, I felt pretty good about going in on Dee.  She doesn’t have a stop button, so I figured we’d be fine.

Okay so onto the media stuff: I do not remember the order, so I’m just winging it.  I believe there were 8 or so of us in these classes?  Also, my saddle pad does NOT fit Dee’s saddle.  I refuse to buy a saddle pad for her because I have no idea if we’ll show again.  So ignore the eye sore please.  Anyway.  Off we go.

We won this class (below).  The outside line by the crowd isn’t perfect, I avoided the chip, but had an ugly takeoff.  But I loved the way we rode this long approach green oxer and I think the diagonal rides really nice, even if we both got a little quick over the fence.

 

We got 2nd in this class.

It rode really nice, Dee couldn’t stop staring at the really bright sunspot in the corn of the ring, and cut it too close on the crowd outside line’s single.   But overall, happy with this round.

We got 3rd in this class.  I believe this was equitation, and  I was the only rider to ditch her coat for a sweater.  Worth it.  This round was fine, nothing glamorous, and I feel like maybe I couldn’t let off the gas pedal a bit.  I definitely had enough horse.

Dee and I also picked up a 2nd on the flat for under saddle, and a 5th on the flat for equitation.  The week before my trainer was calling this a sweater/winter coat affair…but then everyone showed up in jackets.  Except for me.  (wah wah)  It wasn’t a huge deal, but do feel like I was a little under dressed.  I guess I need to finally buck up a buy a new jacket eh?

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At the end of the day I was so pleased with Dee.  All of her family was there (showing/riding/cheering) so I was even more happy to give her a decent ride.  Trainer was happy, horse was happy, I was happy==big time win.

Dee and I had a quiet week last week because of my 3rd (and hopefully last) bout with the stomach flu.  Day care is atrocious sometimes.  Good think kids are cute, because they are little germ cities.  Fingers crossed this week we’ll be able to get back to regularly scheduled programming.