Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is there an opposite of wordless Wednesday?

Words-only Wednesday?  Well, that's what I'm going with. So Wednesday is normally lesson day for me.  With Jazz just having had her teeth done, and her ulcer healing, and her ouchy toes, I wasn't sure about my lesson this week.  That is, I wasn't sure until Monday night when I was getting ready to let Jazz go and I ran into my instructor.  I explained my reservations that she'd be ready to ride by Wednesday, and having already cancelled last week's lesson because of Jazz's teeth, I was a little bummed about missing again this week.  My instructor suggested the obvious solution, that I could ride her lesson horse (who does the walk-only lesson immediately after mine normally anyway) for this week.

So today I followed the instructions she had texted and went out into the gelding pasture to get the big bay.  The real struggle was knowing which big bay was the one I wanted.  The lesson horse, Duper, is one of the "triplets" (affectionately nicknamed so by the barn manager who spent much of the winter bringing in the three nearly identical big bay horses with no white markings and attempting to get them in the correct stalls). Luckily, because of the drizzly weather we've been having lately he was wearing a rain sheet.  The instructor said Duper would be the one in the navy shedrow.  So, I ventured into the strange pasture (by which I mean any pasture that isn't the one and only pasture Jazz has lived in in the two years we've been at this barn), confident and looking for the big bay in the navy shedrow rain sheet.  Mickey, another of the triplets, was closest to the gate, wearing a green rambo blanket, so I knew from forty paces he wasn't the one I was looking for.  As I kept walking, I saw the fourth bay gelding in the pasture (he's one of the "quadruplets"), with no rain sheet.  Then I saw the bay in the blanket I was looking for... or rather, I saw two.  Two identical bays with no white markings wearing the exact same navy shedrow rain sheet.  After staring at both of them, and, despite feeling a little silly doing so, calling out Duper's name to see which one responded, I decided on the closer one.  I was fairly sure because he looked a little more familiar, and the other horse had a kind of wavy mane and I didn't recognize his face as much.  I got him into the barn, about 75% sure of my decision, and waited about ten minutes for my instructor to arrive and confirm that I actually had the right horse.

Luckily, I did.  We groomed him and I tacked him up, and after struggling to pull on my field boots, we were off to the arena.  I should probably mention that it was an English lesson, so I got to pull out my breeches and tall boots that have been gathering dust since the end of last summer when I last rode English.  So, I checked the girth, took down the stirrup leathers, and climbed on the mounting block to get on a horse waaaaay bigger than I was used to.  It was a little different being both in an English saddle and feeling very high off the ground.  I've gotten pretty accustomed to Jazz who might just brush 15 hands if she stretched.  My trainer said he might feel more forward and energetic than I'm used to since he's an OTTB.  He was forward, but in a really good way.  We worked on taking a contact and some slight bends to the inside and outside on a 20m circle.  It was really interesting because though it's obviously something you hear about with horse people a lot, I've never really done any work with contact before.  Duper was really responsive and took the contact beautifully; I couldn't have asked for a better demonstration. Then we moved to posting trot, and it was suddenly apparent both how big my horse was and how very long it's been since I rode English.  It wasn't horrible, but there were a lot of nearly-missed stirrups and slightly off-balance moments.  Lots of helpful little tips and hints from my trainer later, I was starting to get the hang of it a little.  It still wasn't the prettiest of posting trots, but at least it was better than my sitting trots.  That got a bit scrambled at times, but also not horrible.  Just work that needs to be done, that's all.  It also occurred to me that most of my English lessons last summer were technically in a treeless saddle, which make it much easier than a regular English all-purpose.

Once the trot was passable, the instructor asked me to canter.  I started off on the left lead, I put on my inside leg, put my outside leg behind the girth, clucked, and he took off into a big, beautiful rocking-horse canter.  I tried to pay attention to everything I'd been told at the canter, keeping contact with my hands nice and quiet and half-halting with my outside rein to slow down, keeping my heels down and my leg on, and working on balance and sitting up straight.  It went really well, and we changed direction and cantered to the right.  It was also beautiful and rocking-horse, and it otherwise felt much the same as it had to the left.  By then my lesson time was up, and I hopped off, thanked the instructor, gave Duper a big pat, and passed the reins on to the girl who has the lesson after me.

Of course, I couldn't leave without seeing my Jazz-horse.  She was good and wet from the steady rain that was pattering on the tin roof of the arena for my whole lesson.  I brought her in, and just like Monday, she was hesitant to come into the barn because of her feet, but they did seem better than they did Monday, so I'm hopeful it will be a nice, short recovery until they're feeling 100% again.  I picked out her (incredibly muddy) feet, gave her a quick groom, and tossed her back out with her friends.  I also brought in my friend's two horses to pick out their feet and look over them quickly because my friend is away.  An all around good day at the farm, especially considering I got to bring in three more awesome horses than normal.

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