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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Good, The Not-So-Good, and The Ugly, Part 2

One thing I noticed right away, which caused a bit of internal laughter, was the trainer was looking at her cell phone during my lesson. This continued for most of it. I was thinking, "Uh-oh, red flag here. That's a bit rude." However, I have to be prosaic about it. It's not like she's prepping me for the Maclay finals, after all, and she knows I haven't lessoned in a while, and I can kind of understand if she does not feel the need to knock herself out. So while it's not really okay I decided I could live with it. She did give me constructive criticism and appropriate praise at the right times, so she was paying attention when it was important (I also managed to slip in a little posting when I was supposed to be 2-pointing and vice versa, to give myself a break, so the lack of 100% scrutiny certainly wasn't all bad, LOL!).

Speaking of criticism: I was told almost immediately to put my hands further forward and lower down. My reaction was, "Say WHAT???" I never, and I mean never, in all my years of riding, have had a trainer tell me to do that. Well, that I can remember, anyway. Maybe when I was five or seven but seriously, I feel that I have a pretty accurate mental log of all my riding faults as they have been cataloged by various instructors over the years and I honestly do not recall having heard that before. Raise them higher, yes, but that was when I was riding the 18hh Percheron. But lower them, and move them forward? Nope. I thought this very interesting, indeed. I didn't argue, of course, and did my level best to comply but it felt most odd. Maybe I have developed a bad habit that I'm completely unaware of? I meant to ask the trainer about it afterwards, in a non-complaining, please-explain type of way, but I forgot, so this is a mystery I will have to pursue next time.

I surprised myself by doing fairly well endurance-wise with the trotting. Thumper continued to have the drags so I spent a lot of effort squeezing, clucking and occasionally tapping her with my stick. She was smooth, though, and really very sweet, so I cut her some slack because I know schoolies get tired. I did begin to think I would have my hands full when it was time to canter. Fortunately, we were good! The trainer told me not to let her trot and I'm proud of myself because I didn't, we went right into canter. Picked up the wrong lead at first in the second direction, but I asked her again in a corner and got it. I did get worn out in a hurry cantering - more squeezing/clucking/tapping required - so I we only went about one and half laps around in each direction; I start to collapse my chest and round my shoulders something awful when I get tired, so I try to quit while I'm ahead. (I have to admit I was thinking about someone's comment on a COTH thread. She said her trainer used to tell her students, "Tits to Jesus, ladies!") I apologized for my lack of fitness but was pleased when the other trainer, who by this time was hanging out in the ring, too, said, "Oh, that's nothing. We see a lot worse, you're fine!"

I took a nice long walk break after that and then the trainer asked me if I wanted to be done, or if I felt like doing a little jumping. I did, crazy me. She wanted to know if the little jump across the diagonal was okay, or if she should build something smaller. I said no, I would tackle the little jump. Of course, the minute the words were out of my mouth I was thinking, "WTH is WRONG with you, you've never jumped anything like that in your life! Why now, you idiot, when you've jumped nothing at all for freakin' years?!" So why the distress? Because the jump in question was this, only smaller:
Yes, the famous "blue wave" jump, bane of the equitation ring back at the Charity Horse Show! You can just see the end of this scary structure in the photo of me on Thumper in Part 1. I meant to take a picture of the whole thing after my ride but  naturallyI forgot. It really was tiny, they had the the waves as low as they would go, but good grief... I gathered my courage and did my best to move Thumper into a forward trot. The trainer emphasized this and said I needed to get up a head of steam or she wouldn't jump well. I did know that so I tried hard. Boink! We went over, I guess sorta to the right of the middle bump. I wasn't exactly sure where to steer, to be honest. You see how I titled these posts? Another "ugly" besides my lack of steering definitely is how I landed after every jump. I have absolutely no idea what my hands were doing but I know it wasn't elegant. Thumper cantered away and I inwardly cheered that I'd survived.

We trotted the fence twice, with roughly the same results - more speed needed going in, alas. Then the trainer said, "Let's do it again from a canter." OHBOYOHBOYOHBOY. Let me explain why I think this instantly threw me into panic mode. It's amazing how one bad lesson can have repercussions for years, isn't it? My old trainer always started us out trotting to a single crossrail in a lesson. Then she'd build another jump, either a bar or an oxer, about two strides away, and we'd trot in/canter out that combo. Sometimes we would keep going and canter to another fence, or a couple of them. That was it, the only time I really did whole courses was in shows. One day, after I'd been at the barn for about nine months, she built a two or three stride combination. We had to canter in. For some reason, I just Could. Not. Get. the distance to the second fence that day - I bungled it over and over and over. Trainer and I both got very frustrated! So do you know, following that lesson, trainer never once - for another two years - had me initially canter any jump or combo? We always trotted in during lessons, I kid you not. Somehow I got around some courses during the show I did after that, but in lessons - trot in it was.

So I had that swimming around in my head, and I guess that's why I freaked a bit when new trainer said, "Canter it." Yes, it was only one lousy teeny-weeny jump, not even a combo, but put it this way, my heart rate definitely accelerated and my hands starting shaking. Poor Thumper! God bless 'er, the little mare got me through. I asked for as energetic a canter I could manage out of her and we didn't totally botch things. Again, I'm quite sure I landed in a heap but I wasn't jumped loose, at least. The trainer was laughing at me a bit, because afterwards I was like, "WOW. Geez, I was scared." I probably was a little pale... She said I could quit then, but I thought to myself, nope, I am not going to end things like this. I asked her if I could do it one more time, just to prove to myself I could. She said okay, so over we went. Not graceful, but by golly, I did it. Yay, me!

After that I really was ready to be done, and we just walked around. Gabby Me kicked in and I chatted a bit with the girl on the B/W Pinto. I asked the trainer to take a picture of me and she was kind enough to comply. She also said, "If I'd known you had your phone I would have gotten some more of you, even jumping!" Uh, that's okay, I don't quite want to know what I look like doing that yet. Somehow I doubt GM would be pleased. :-/

I finally climbed down, and it was about then that I realized something miraculous had taken place: I had not a single, solitary pain in my shins. No rubbed-raw areas, at all! You have to understand, I have suffered, and have the scars to prove it, from horrid shin rubs while riding ever since I was a teenager. I have tried elasticized leg covers, Band-Aids, taller socks, etc. in an effort to avoid these but nothing has worked well (except tall boots, which I don't want to fool with for lessons, esp. not my antiques) - until now. I'm not sure if it was the new, narrower stirrup leathers or the new half-chaps, but something did the trick and boy, am I grateful. I used to keep on ridin' and ignore my bleeding legs but not having that going on is much more pleasant! (Incidentally, I have had no problem with the Wintec leathers on the dressage saddle while riding LiRoi.)

The not-so-good side of this is the new half-chaps also made some lovely bruises, right where my knee joins my leg on the inside. Where that big tendon comes in, but on the calf, not the tendon. I can't quite figure out what's causing this; it may actually be from bunching up of the Clarino knee patches on my breeches. Or, maybe the half-chaps are too tall.... I don't know. I've heard new tall boots can be a nightmare to break in these days so I guess some degree of suffering from half-chaps is to be expected. They aren't SUPER-bad and didn't bother me that much while riding so I'll continue to stick it out for a while.

I untacked Thumper and was not too embarrassed to ask Katherine (she really was nice, and turned out to be the niece of the human/dog/horse chiropractor my dog has been seeing, of all things) if she would show me how to properly apply the Miracle Collar. The mare got some scritches and pats and put in a stall to eat her much-deserved dinner (she actually lives outside, hence the blanket), and I headed back to the other side of the barn to set up another lesson. Yes, what a wacko, half kill myself and I can't wait to do it all over again! :-) I'm going back next Saturday afternoon. I will be happy to ride Thumper, or maybe they'll assign me someone with just a bit more oomph, which would be okay, too. All I know is that getting on a horse still feels like coming home to me. If/when that ends, I'll know it's time to hang up my saddle, but for now the view between a set of furry ears is all I want.

Oh, and the soreness? Not that bad, amazingly. I think I've discovered the secret, and since I love my readers, I will share it with you. It's just one word... *looks around to see if anyone's listening*... and it's, "Gatorade." Yes! I drank it before the lesson and afterwards, and I'll tell you what, I've never done better in following days. Something to be said for that football coach who thought of putting electrolytes in sweetened water! (I'm sure the Advil has helped, too... ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Isn't getting back to riding a great feeling? I came back to riding about 4 years ago after a 15-year break (since I was a teenager). Started off doing a lesson a week, but now I have a half-lease on a silly OTTB gelding. I truly think there is no other activity that improves my mind-body connection like riding. Good luck with your lessons :)


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