Saturday, August 2, 2014

The never ending battle for an independent seat

Or, rather, the never ending battle to take every joint in my body and make it move without having all the others follow. I took my first lesson with Fifi's trainer yesterday. I'm just not feeling like a serious competitor in this medal, and I don't want to go out there and look like I don't know what I'm doing, so this next week is where I attempt to rush prepare while the clock ticks down. It's the equivalent of cramming before a final exam, but that's basically what I do in school, and I'm not doing too bad, so hopefully it works with this kind of final.

I actually would have taken a lesson earlier; I had actually planned to take one the weekend before my last show, but I chickened out (oh c'mon I'm shy). Now that I have garnered up the confidence, I set up a lesson for Friday morning. When I got there, it was just the trainer, Miss El, and Anna. I was riding Seren, a highly opinionated, rather ill tempered Quarter Horse mare. It's the same horse that Kellie rides; I've seen them. I knew how Seren was. When I walked into the stall, she pinned her ears and walked away (that rude little . . .) The whole time I was brushing her down, she was swishing her tail and pinning her ears, trying to bite me when I got within reach but missing because the cross ties don't stretch (take that you little . . .). Seren reminds me why people don't like mares. She reminds me why people flock to the bomb proof gelding and would endure sheath cleaning rather than look in the direction of feminine horse flesh. I'm still not one of those people and never will be. Seren, even though she probably plot my demise more than once, goes on the list of one of the cutest horses I've ever come across. She's a typical Quarter Horse; she's got a double wide backside and a dainty head at the other hand with a barrel in between that could take up anyone's leg. The sass is a bonus in my world.

After convincing Seren that her assault attempts did not phase me, I got all the tack on, mounted up, adjusted my stirrups, and got going. First thing I learned is that Seren appreciates very soft contact, so any type of hold on the mouth wasn't going to be okay. I had to hold then give, hold then give, which I suck at because I move my whole body.

After that was established, we did stretches to help with separating the upper body and lower body. If you've ever done the half moon yoga pose (which I learned from Wii Fit and I have no shame about), the first stretch was similar to that. Basically, you just put one arm up and bend your upper body to the opposite side, stretching the side with the raised arm, but at the same time, the hips stay centered. That was my favorite stretch. Second stretch was the tail stretch. One hand goes forward all the way to the poll, then over the bead and back to the tail all while the leg doesn't move. I struggled with keeping my lower leg in place mainly due to feeling off balance, so I think that's one that I will focus on a lot. The third one is actually one that I've  read about a couple of times, but one of the descriptions said not to try it alone, so I never attempted it. Its the one where you bring a knee up as high as you can then bring the leg away from the saddle and lay it back down. Yeah, not easy. My hips are still aching. I had to do it super slowly to stay balanced, but I also had to stay sitting straight up and keep my shoulders square and not cheat by moving my other leg. I do not like this stretch. I do not like it at all, but it's important, so I won't protest to Miss El's face.

After stretching she had me two point, and then I heard those words that make me break on the inside: "Shorten your stirrups two holes." Shorten my legs by six inches and maybe I'll consider putting my stirrups up. I didn't say that, but I was thinking it. I put my stirrups up, and almost instantly that characteristic discomfort crept into my left ankle. The whole upper body needed to come up, and I needed to engage my core (which we found out isn't a good thing to do suddenly over the first fence in a bending line). That's where my leaning to the left was more obvious. Its actually due to my right side collapsing, which didn't make sense at first, but the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to understand it and visualize what I need to do to fix it. Putting more weight in my right stirrup won't do shit, honestly, I still won't be balanced. She was having me pull my right shoulder up, and drop my left heel. I did some reading, and I still don't understand it entirely, but at least I know how to fix it now.

We moved on to the trot after a few laps of two point. Yeah, that was not happening. I was not having it with that short stirrup. A few strides into the trot, Seren just went off, trotting all crazy and such. Of course, my first reaction is to tense and hold her, which didn't do anything. It actually just made things worse. I still get nervous very easily, especially if I'm surprised. All I could think was, "I want to get off, I want to stop, another day, I can do this another day. Today is not the day to do this. I cant do this," but i no longer succumb to those thoughts. I will do anything but get off the horse. The first couple of laps involved circles and lots of half halting. It got okay, then we switched directions. By that point it was way better. I think I only did one lap, then we stopped, but even the downward transition needed work.

We finished out the ride with more stretching, just the first two, then more two point, then all three stretches. I relaxed for a lap at the end, just walking with no stirrups and focusing on raising my right shoulder. When I finally did get off, walking was not a thing that was possible. I had to take a standing break, making short steps to put my stirrups up and get the reins over Seren's head. That was not fun.

Miraculously, in the time it took to take Seren back to the barn, untack her, hose her down, squeegee her off, and put her away, there were no pinned ears. She was cool as a cucumber. We had a little moment in the wash stall where I was rubbing her nose, and she was completely relaxed. She'd perk up every once in a while when she heard a noise, but then she'd settle right back down. Honestly, she's just like Baby except Seren openly expresses her hatred. Baby just maintains a constant look of disapproval. In conclusion, all mares hate everything the same amount, but not all of them are so blunt.

Worse part of the day was my period starting 20 minutes into the ride. At what point did I choose to be a girl because that was a bad choice.

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