Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pony Club . . . Ow.

I had my first lesson with the Pony Club trainer, Miss E, this past Monday. All I can say is ow. I thought I was paying this woman to help me get a good rating, not make it physically impossible for me to get out of bed in the mornings! My body aches all the way around. My neck, shoulders, upper back, biceps, abs, bum, inner thigh, and even my shins hurt. I don't even know how I managed to work some of these places to the point where they ache so much, except maybe the bum.

Yeah, it wasn't a great ride. I was on this fantastic horse Buddy. He's a 16.1, 30-something year old Thoroughbred gelding. Yes, you read that right. A 30-something year old Thoroughbred who can easily do Dressage and 3'0" courses. He's also a beginner's horse, and one that you absolutely have to push or else he's not going to try. He shows his age in other ways, though. His entire head and neck have grayed. The brown hairs are only there lightly now. His topline doesn't look too good either, but he's difficult to get off of the forehand, and you can't build a topline unless you work your horse in a consistently round frame.

Despite struggling with the roundness aspect, my ride on the flat was great. Miss E had to remind me constantly about what she calls "energy"(basically impulsion from his hind end). If you push Buddy out enough he'll come right off of his front end and round up nicely. The other thing I had to be reminded of was my hands. My hands are the bane of my existence. Ever since I fixed my toes, my hands have become a more serious issue. I have puppy paws, and light ones at that (except for my last lesson with my other trainer, can you say too much contact? eep!). The reins were flopping every which way as I rode, but a little while in I finally settled with a nice amount of contact, and my "horse show hands were in place." We did leg yielding at the walk and trot too, and my canter and sitting trot were phenomenal.

Things just got bad when we started jumping. The trot poles were fine. It was 6 or so of them set up in a line to trot over. I just had to shorten my reins, but that was a problem. I am so used to light contact that when I feel like I am pulling on my horse's mouth at all, I let the reins slip. I can't have that much contact. I get so paranoid that I am hurting my horse's mouth. I look solid enough that she puts the last pole up. It's about 18", 2'0" max. I can jump a two foot course with ease, but for some reason, going over this one jump was about as easy as pushing a truck load of lead up the side of Mount Everest. I could not do it. No matter how many time I tried. It got better, and the last time was the best, but it still was not acceptable.

Then we went into the jumping arena. There are about 20 jumps in there, all with different, unique names such as The Carrot, Jamaica, The Balloons, Bumblebee, Flowers, Natural Oxer, Wide Oxer, and Baby Pickett to name a few. I was having a hard time trying to figure out which jump was which. I also don't have great hearing so I was having trouble hearing her say the jump names. I got around okay for the most part, but my two point was just really bad. I was pinching at the knee, I was bring my heels up, my back was rounded (what we like to call "Turtle Mode"), and my body was too far forward. I was a drape on this horse's neck going over, and I was a sack of bricks on his back coming down. I could not support myself, and I don't know why. I've never had that bad of a ride over fences. I wasn't even that bad when I started trotting and cantering courses. The jumps I was going over were no more than 2'0", I was on horse I could trust, and I was with a trainer who knew what she was doing. I could not have been in a better situation, but I still messed it all up.

I did end my lesson with confidence, however. To finish off the 2 hour lesson, Miss E had us each pick a course to do. I don't know why she still trusted me to jump this horse, but she did. She said "Pick a course with 7 to 8 jumps, one left turn, and one right turn." I like picking courses, but I wasn't exactly sure I wanted to ride a course at that point. I picked my course wisely. I made it something easy: Bumblebee, Plank, Flowers, Natural Oxer, Jamaica, and a Double. 7 jumps, 1 left turn, 1 right turn. I still messed the majority of it up, but I remember the flower jump specifically. That one, in particular, felt good. So I absolutely know that I can do it. Now it's a matter of not panicking and just focusing on what to do.

I've tried to figure out what made the jumping part of that ride so horrendous. Lack of focus is probably the most obvious answer. I'll admit, I was staring those jumps down like a big cat about to pounce on its prey, and when I'm doing that, I'm not focused. Could have also been the fact that I was in a completely new area. The only thing that was the same was my pants and boots. Even my shirt was new, but it's more than likely a focus issue. So, next week I need to focus on keeping focus.

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