I had TWO lessons in one month. Whaaaaaaat even is this haha. But there’s quite a few reasons why I am still really really thinking about my lesson, and why I can’t wait to get back to it (especially if I get to ride the same horse again). But I’ll go over those a little later, and focus on what I did during the lesson because I had an absolute blast. Also, I have practically no media of course since go figure I forgot my helmet cam lol.
So my last lesson, immediately after me was another lady who had her lesson, and in the crossties was this absolutely gorgeous horse that caught my eye immediately. Yes, she was my favorite color chestnut and had 4 socks and a cute stripe and a tail dragging on the floor, but what really made me look at her was the way she was chilling, absolutely bored with a leg cocked, and her super sweet eyes. I mean, granted she was a mare, and well, I AM a mare person, but for some reason just everything about her caught my eye. I told the lady how gorgeous she was, and looked so sweet. Inner child me desperately wanted to go and OMG PET THE PRETTY PONY but adulting me held back lol, and I left and talked my mom’s ear off on how much I adored her.
Trainer G told me to bring all my girths to the lesson since she might have me ride a different horse, so I loaded up my stuff. Low and behold, she was having me ride the chestnut mare – aptly named Sox. Cue a whole ton of inner happy squealing haha. Turns out Sox is Trainer G’s horse, for sale, and the lady was leasing her. Sox is probably 16 hands, maybe up to 16.2. I’m not a good judge of height. But I haven’t ridden a horse that tall since I was about 15 probably, but she immediately put me at ease and really didn’t feel too big when I hopped on her. Her temperament was just wonderful. She’s a Canadian Warmblood with Hanoverian on her sire’s side and German Warmblood on her dam’s side (at least I’m pretty sure it was German Warmblood – I was still cheering loudly on the inside as Trainer G was telling me this haha).
I actually didn’t realize that there was a small track on the farm – it looped around 2 pastures but was absolutely great for warm up. Most of our ride was spent out there unintentionally but I thought it was great. Sox warmed up a bit tight and lazy as Trainer G said she would (I would say slow tho because Sox is NOT lazy haha), and just gave me a heads up on Sox’s way of going and her tendency to giraffe with too much hand. Perfect since I prefer a lot more of a seat and leg ride anyway, So I just held on to the end of the laces as we walked around. And man, I LOVED her walk. So fluid and easy. As we went into the trot and I started to get used to her, I was pretty much in horsey heaven. Her trot was so lovely, and I was really able to focus on my position. My ankles have a tendency to over-flex, so Trainer G was instructing me to relax the ankles, sit up just a bit, round the shoulders back. Small things that I can’t see or feel, but it helped so much. I worked very hard on keeping my hands still per Sox’s preference, and she rewarded me by blowing out a few times and reaching into the contact. English contact is still new to me since I’m used to “western contact” if you will, so as she trusted me and pushed into the contact, I closed my fingers and firmed up my arms just enough to match her push. And it felt really really good.
(Also apologies for the suuuuuper pixilated video. Trainer G actually took these for me on her phone and of course quality doesn’t transfer lol But it was the only video I did get so here you go haha)
I completely biffed our first canter transition – I had a complete sudden mental blank of how to ask for the canter for English. Like, which leg is it that I ask with? haha. These are the things my brain decides to get stuck on lol. But to elaborate on my brain’s confusion – as I learned when riding western, the outside leg cues for the canter and the inside leg is only there to keep the shoulders from falling in. As Trainer G explained to me for Sox, the outside leg is there to keep the haunches from going out, and the inside leg is technically cueing for the canter. Granted, every person/trainer is different for sure, and really, the two ways to cue are pretty interchangeable I think, as Trainer G also mentioned (which like seriously is why I love Trainer G because pretty much down to these small details we’re both on the same page). So once we got that out of the way, I was able to think a little more clearly and also tell Sox more succinctly of no hip drift, inside leg to outside rein, left hand NOT being out of control and holding steady, and we were able to nail the canter transitions both directions every time.
As Sox opened through her back and pushed into the contact at the canter, she had a very honest spook. There’s a solid cement block wall at one curve of the track with an open gate there, and there were horses riding past. I didn’t see them, but Sox caught a glimpse and had a quick squirt forward. The ever-instinctual pull reflex took over, but after a quick moment my brain kicked in again and I just let the reins go, and she immediately put her head back into the contact and breathed. She was still too fast, but I gave her a second before we came back to the walk. Back in the trot she was very choppy and a bit giraffe-necked. I’m not versed really at all in half-halts, so I’m sure part of it was me, but Trainer G and I worked on that for a few minutes. Going past that curve after that she was very responsive and even at the canter, when I’d sit just a touch closer to her back and firm my arms just a little more than usual, Sox would half halt wonderfully, come back to me and relax back into the contact. Success! It also made me feel very good that Trainer G said Sox really liked my hands, since she pretty much never went full giraffe on me the entire lesson.
After that we moved to the outside arena full of jumps. We actually only ended up trotting one jump twice, but both times were really good. Sox has been jumping up to about 1.20 meters, but we only went over probably a 2′ flower box haha. But as we trotted to it the first time, her left shoulder spilled out a bit, so we landed on the left lead, but a simple lead change and we were good. I made a mental note of that for the next time, and since Sox had been responsive to my leg the whole ride, as we approached again I closed my left leg, made sure my left rein was firm and my fingers tight without being restrictive or moving all over the place and we popped over and landed on the right lead. Yay! Small victories right? haha. But we decided to keep it at that – we’d been riding a good 45 minutes and I was super pleased with the whole ride and 2 successful trot jumps considering I’ve had such issues with trot jumps in the past. Sox was such a great ride, and if you couldn’t tell, I was totally taken with her even more by the end of the ride. Had she been up for a lease I wouldn’t have cared what I said before, I would’ve signed my life away haha. I can’t wait to ride her again, and I sincerely hope I do get to hop on her some more.
Even a few days later, I’m STILL thinking of how awesome that lesson was, and we hardly even did much. But I’ve been realizing that it isn’t just the fact that Sox was a different horse and breed from my other 2 lesson horses and had been trained exclusively by Trainer G while the other 2 hadn’t. It was for the exact reasons that I wanted to lesson on as many horses as possible in the first place, so I can test ride all sorts of gaits and types of horses and what I like.
And just as I was sure it would be, attitude is 90% of everything. I do prefer mares, and I’ve ridden some wonderful geldings and stallions, but Sox really wanted to jump the jump. Trainer G told me this, but even still, I could actually feel it as well. Everything was “okay sure”, even if Sox had a bit of sass to add. On the flat Rocky was so looky and has probably been the most difficult horse for me to ride. I’m still sore from riding Sox, but not like Rocky. After riding Rocky, I was a bit down. It’d been so hard for me to do anything with him that I felt discouraged – like I couldn’t ride. And he knew I was out of breath and it certainly felt like he wanted to take advantage of that. I had thought it was just me – I’m not in shape, I’m a new ride for him, and I don’t know what kind of leg he needed for me to be successful. It’s what I wrote in my last lesson recap. But with Sox, every time I’d put my leg on she’d try. If I didn’t get enough I’d push a little harder, and boom she responded. It wasn’t easy mind you, and I am still out of shape. But Sox wanted to respond. It was all small things – when I’d talk to her and ear would flick back and she’d listen. When I’d try hard to meet her, she’d meet me. She was just such an honest, sweet mare.
It makes sense to me. Amber is that way and so is Whisper. All my favorite horses have been that way. It’s still just really nice to feel that on a very forward thinking horse, one I was riding for the first time, and a size/breed/feel of horse that I am absolutely not used to. And since I could tell Sox wanted to jump, and was responsive to my desire to correct the drift, I was able to focus on pushing my knuckles into her neck, keeping my body soft. She had one canter stride and jumped wonderfully, and I finally felt I could just lift myself out of the saddle only as much as I needed and I felt it’s the best jump I’ve ever had since starting to venture back into English. So, maybe I’m not as horrible at this as I was worrying haha. I’m just super over compensating and not confident the horse will carry me over the jump so I try to jump for them. It’s given me a lot to think about, and a lot of knowledge to carry forward no matter if I ride Rocky next or Sox again. However, it also reaffirms my decision to stick with lessoning for a while and really flesh out the type of horse I want to feel when I ride for the future.
While this ride, like my last one was mostly flat, I felt like I was able to get a lot more out of this lesson than the last time. Which the back and forth will always happen I know! haha But I’m looking forward to scheduling another lesson with Trainer G soon!