Friday, December 23, 2011

My First Non-Robin Lesson

On Thursday afternoon my Mom took us to her huge hunter/jumper barn for a treat.  The three of us were going to have an hour long, semi-private lesson. On Thoroughbreds.  Going into this ride I was a little nervous.  Things have been going really well for me lately, but I really only know Bear at this point.  And I am not a confident enough rider to always handle different situations well.  So I had no idea what to expect.

When we arrived we poked around for a bit and then found out the horses we would be riding were tacked up already.  I had a dark brown guy named Chip.  I'm not sure exactly how tall he was.  My guess would be 16.1 or 16.2.  Certainly taller than Bear, but not enormous.  It took me a while to adjust the English stirrups, and I even had to get some help from the instructor after I was mounted.  But in the end I was fairly comfortable in the saddle.  It had a more generous cantle than I was anticipating, and the lack of horn didn't bother me in the slightest.

We walked around for just a few minutes, but really that was just for us. The horses were warmed up.  So we moved into a posting trot and stayed there for a long time.  I have not really been working on my posting since we've been indoors (Bear's trot is so much slower inside), but the loftiness of the Thoroughbred trot and the hunter saddle made posting feel like the most natural thing to do.  And it was really a lot of fun.

The instructor would give out little pointers to all of us as we trotted around.  For me these were mostly about my fingers on the reins (I like to lace my fingers in the reins when I'm softly collecting my horse, and I think the hunter/jumper school likes a firm, full hand grasping the reins) and of course my diagonals.  When I'm posting outside we are rarely making tight turns, so I have spent no time thinking about diagonals.  Thankfully I have been thinking a lot about where my horses feet are, so I picked up on the diagonals pretty quickly.  I didn't get any instruction about keeping my heels down or fixing bad posture, so I felt really good about that.

After maybe half an hour of moving in and out of the posting trot, we worked on the canter.  Initially we tried to get them all going together, but each of us were having different problems with our horses.  So we went one at a time.  This was good for me because the cues for getting into the canter were a little different than what I'm used to.  I was able to watch and listen as Robin and Mom had their turns.

When I was up it only took a couple of tries (mostly because I like to start by asking with less force than I think I'll need) to get Chip into a nice canter.  It was fun and easy to ride.  One of the big things I learned in the lesson was about moving down from the canter to the trot.  The instructor told us to collect them a little more and have a bit more pressure on the outside rein, then just move right into posting and the horse will follow.  Chip was great with this (of course, I'm sure much of that was due to his excitement to stop running).  It will be fun to work on this with Bear when I get back home.

So all in all, the lesson was really great.  It was fun to ride with Mom in her natural environment.  She was definitely the better poster of the three of us.  Unfortunately, she drew the short stick when it came to horses as hers was not so keen on the canter.  She was able to work through it and get a good ride, though.  She is hoping next time she can ride October, the horse Robin rode.  He was the most solid and speedy of the bunch.

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