OT – When the Coach is Away…


There are some advantages to being a decision maker where you work.  People want to give you free stuff, or take you out to lunch.  We are shopping  for insurance, and a potential new insurance salesman offered to give me a riding lesson.  I had a problem at his farm a year and a half ago, when I scheduled a lesson with his mother, and she blew me off, so at first I wasn’t too enthused.  This was during the bleak days, before I discovered D & M.  Since they are off at a horse show, I decided to take Dave up on his offer. 

Dave teaches hunt seat, which I have scoffed at.  This is mainly because the first place I rode, a hunter barn, ripped me off, and because when I was so depressed that I couldn’t find a place to ride, his mother missed my lesson.  In retrospect, these were good things, because I found great trainers, a great place to board my horse, and, oh, yeah, I have the most awesome horse in the world!

I arrived at the barn a little late.  Stupid me, I got lost!  I had to call my boss, to get the number for one of his friends whose daughter rides there, since I didn’t have Dave’s number with me.  Thankfully, Mark answered his cell phone, and he told me how to get there.  Somehow I remembered 7 Mile as being 8 Mile.  Did I mention that I can’t find my way out of an open paper bag?

It’s been over a year and a half since I have  ridden in a hunt seat saddle.  I forgot how small they are.  Dave gave me a leg up, and I ended up on the back of the horse, with the saddle in front of me.  I laughed and hoped my lesson went smoother than that!

This was a really fun lesson.  Hunters travel very slowly, though, compared to saddlebreds.  I kept thinking Ginger was trotting too slowly, when Dave would call out encouragingly that I had her at a nice working trot.  I was having a problem keeping the balls of my feet on the stirrups; they kept sliding too far in, which is a problem I’m trying to work on.  With hunters, Dave explained, it’s even more important to keep just the ball of your foot on the stirrup because of how your lower leg is used. 

After trotting (a lot), we moved to the canter.  This is going to give me a problem.  In saddleseat, you bring the horse to a walk before asking for the canter. You never canter from the trot.  This is so the horse doesn’t tear its shoes off.  In hunt seat, you transition from the trot to the canter, back down to the trot.  It was really hard for me to sit a stride at the trot, and then give the proper leg commands to move forward at the canter.  There’s no vocal signal (maybe "canter" for some horses), no tipping, nothing that I’m used to.  I had the wrong lead twice, and I’m so confused how to get the correct one if you don’t angle the horse’s body.  I’ll have to ask more questions about this the next time out.

After he was satisfied that I could ride well enough, he asked I had ever jumped before.  I started freaking out because I wasn’t expecting to jump at all this lesson.  I’m a beginner!  What if I fall off?!  The only time I fell off a horse (the time with Harley doesn’t count!!), I was riding a pony that liked to jump.  It saw a roll top, and headed towards it.  Since I could barely ride back then, and the thought of going over the 3 foot jump almost made me pee my pants, I panicked, lost my balance, and fell off the horse.  Oh, and my foot got caught in the stirrup, so I got dragged about 5 feet.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, but the mere thought of jumping terrified me.

Dave arranged the poles so they were about 14" high, and he assured me that the horse would basically be stepping over them.  Ok, I guess I was game.  He instructed me to rise up to the two-point (which we didn’t practice prior to the jumping!), and to grab a handful of mane.  Grab mane?? After riding Blondie, I know how to do that!

First, we approached the jump at a posting trot, and Ginger trotted over it, picking up the canter on the other side.  I remember when that would have caused me to fall off!  Now, I was able to slow her back to a trot, re-steady myself on the saddle, and circle around for another pass.  We trotted over the jump a few more times, and then moved to the canter. 

OMG!!  What fun!!!  It’s like flying!  The first time I wasn’t steady at all, and Dave had me trot over it again, and lean forward more.  He pointed out that I was too upright.  Then he had me canter over it again.  And again.  And again, from both directions.  Then we worked on trotting and cantering again, and the lesson was over.

This was so much fun that I’m going to try to work more of these lessons into my schedule.  I’m really happy with all the progress that I have made in riding; after going over the jump the first time, I wasn’t nervous, and when I started to lose my seat, I quickly made adjustments and steadied myself.  I was able to keep Ginger moving, though I let her cut corners too much.  I think that if I’m able to have a hunt seat lesson every other week or so, I’ll become a better saddleseat rider.  And, I have that silly desire to do some eventing.  I have to hurry and do it before my bones become to brittle Smiley