Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Second Equitation Lesson

Today was my second riding lesson with my new instructor. I'm in a tight spot because he's only here for an hour and I want to spend that time riding as opposed to hosing down the arena, tacking up, and lunging. However, because he can only come on a weekday when I have to work from home, and because I only get an hour for my lunch break, I only have a few minutes to get the preparatory work done. Today I sent my son out to hose down the arena ahead of time. Still my instructor arrived before that was complete. It was so hot that the water was evaporating as quickly as my son could spray down the dust.

My instructor had previously shown me how to do a half-hitch to attach the reins to the saddle horn while I lunge the horse, but I had forgotten. Like any good teacher, he demonstrated three times and then had me do it three times. You hold both reins together, make a loop, turn it upside down and lay it over the horn. Then you do it a second time and pull it snug. It makes a nice little X in front when you are done. For years I had been stringing the reins through various D-rings on the saddle to get them to stay, but it didn't work very well.

He immediately asked me if I had been riding since our last lesson. I said I got in four rides and had been practicing what he taught me. After a few spins around the arena I asked him if he thought I had been doing my homework. He said I had. He said my overall riding position had improved a lot since last week.

He was still impressed with my understanding of posting at the diagonals. He said I picked up on it in one lesson where other students didn't get it until 20 lessons later. I'm having a hard time getting the horse's rump to push me up. I try to sit for a split second to feel it, but sometimes I sit too long and that puts me on the wrong diagonal. I'm using my stirrups to push up instead of my knees when I get tired, and can't figure out how other people can push up from the knees for long periods of time and just let their lower leg dangle. I suppose your success may depend on how the horse is built to some extent. Being physically fit helps too. Visit Healthy as a Horse so see how I'm doing in that department.

I thought I had the lower leg position down pat at the walk and jog, however he said my toes still aren't turned in enough. The way to get them to turn in comfortably is by rolling your thighs inward and gripping harder with the knees. Once I started doing that, it made more sense. Now I just have to maintain that upper leg position and not let my mind wander.

Here are a list of items I learned today:

1. Lay the inside of your calf against the horse's girth when giving leg cues -- not the back of the calf. (I'm going to require some serious retraining here.)

2. Hands that hold the reins exactly horizontal are called "Piano Hands", while hands that hold the reins exactly vertical are called "Fists". You want your hands to be in between so that you see your thumb, index knuckle, and middle knuckle. (I have a tendency to revert to fists when I pass my crop from one hand to another. )

3. Keep feet still in the stirrups when halting your horse. (I have a tendency to lean back and kick forward.)

4. Hands can hold the reins over the pommel with the horn in between if that's what it takes to bring your upper arm back and bend at the elbow. (I was riding with my arms a little too straight and holding the reins down in front of the saddle by the horse's neck.)

5. Post up into my head and not over the horse's head.

6. Shorten the reins before transitioning up to a faster gait. That allows you to get a smooth transition and keep the horse moving in a controlled manner. (Bombay has a habit of launching into too fast of a gait.)

7. If your horse transitions too quickly, lay less leg against his girth. Slight adjustments.

8. When turning, hold with the outside rein and pull slightly with the inside rein.

9. When turning, push with the outside leg. If the horse keeps side stepping, move your outside leg in front of the girth.

10. When turning, aim for a smooth, quiet turn without changing speed.

My instructor had me ride at the walk and jog without my stirrups to practice the foot and leg position. It was a lot easier without the stirrups. It also forced me to hang on tight with my knees to maintain my balance. I didn't realize how much those stirrups were catching me and correcting my balance. He then had me pick up the stirrups with my feet at a walk and jog without altering the horse's pace. That was easy on one side, but hard on the other. One of my stirrups tends to turn itself so that it is horizontal to the horse's girth and my toe can't find the opening.

My instructor did not want me to canter Bombay very long in my tight, little forty-foot round pen. He said that the horse has to take short steps because he's always turning, and that results in my bouncing hard in the saddle, which makes him even more jiggy. He said we have to get me and the horses out of that round pen if I am to make some serious strides in my learning.

He wanted to meet me at the Fairgrounds next week, but I explained that I'd have to get some approval to take time off from work since trailering would add an extra hour onto the lesson. My employer requires two-weeks notice to take off anything from a couple of hours to one week. We decided to ask my neighbor if she will allow us to use her paddock. His only concern was that it is next to some llamas, which might make my horse spook. Bombay bolted when my instructor clapped his hands. He said, "I guess that means he'll get nuts when people applaud in the audience at a horse show." Probably.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Sounds like your lessons are going really well and you are learning alot from this trainer. It is harder to learn in a small space like the round pen, hope it works out for you at the neighbors paddock,even with the llamas.

Andrea said...

Sounds like you have a wonderful instructor. I used to ride with out stirrups all the time, but now as I have gotten older and have had kids and don't ride as often, I too have come a little dependant on my sturrips. I watched a girl ride yesterday with a bareback pad. She didn't move. She looked so strong. I would have been bouncing all over the place. :) Sounds like you got a lot done in one hour.

Twinville said...

I'm so impressed with all that you take away from your lessons. You are truly soaking it all up and learning alot to help make you a better horse rider.
Sounds like Bombay is probably not the best horse to be learning how to ride on because of his nervousness, but if you can work him through it, it will probably make you a better rider.

I have to laugh a bit about the llamas because I never would have thought I'd be able to get my Baby Doll to relax around our two llamas, nor go into the barn when the llamas are inside, too.

But Baby Doll not only goes into the barn with llamas in the stall right beside her, but she rubs noses with them and sleeps laying down in the stall, while the llamas sleep laying down next door.

Horses really can learn and adapt quite well.

Keep up the good job with the lessons.