Ahhh, I was probably supposed to have this out by now haha. It has been a whirlwind of appointments and me covering hours for one of my coworkers so the less important things have fallen by the wayside. Plus, we really just flatted in this lesson. It was a nice ride, I just feel like commenting on how out of shape and sack of potato-ey I am is getting a little old haha. And there really wasn’t much to work on – mostly just keeping my shoulders up since I tend to hunch and break at my back instead of engaging my core for that. So big notes to self of shoulders rounded and down and ABS all day, every day haha.
Georgio had a day off so I got to ride another old man – Vittorio aka Lit. He’s….21 I believe they said haha. He was a downright sweetheart, and was a complete gentleman. It’s still so strange to pick out feet that are giant dinner plates, and wrap my hands around thick, sturdy legs, but personally, I prefer that. I’m just totally not used to seeing it haha. But I got ready quickly, and off we went. While Georgio was “holy crap how much leg do I NEED because they will FALL OFF from pushing so hard”, Lit was more “Oh, hey you have leg – got it.” Lit’s trot was infinitely easier for me to settle into a rhythm. He actually listened when I’d use my leg, so I was able to post, 2 pt and sit his trot. Georgio’s pace was faster-slow-sorta fast-slow-super slow-faster-slow like every 2 or 3 trot steps that I could barely get myself situated, even with a whip. So I felt much better with Lit’s trot and felt pretty accomplished.
Aaaaaaaand then we cantered. Now Lit really isn’t built downhill. But oh my god that has got to be one of the most downhill travelling, large-strided, laziest 4-beat canters I have ever felt – and that is INCLUDING riding actual lazy, downhill-built quarter horses lol. Granted, Lit is 21. And he’s not quite in shape. And he’s a lesson horse. So, I get it. But where Georgio was like “oh CANTER YAY” and travelled so uphill on his own that, even as tall and big-strided as he was, I felt ridiculously solid while cantering him – even in 2 pt and puffing like mad lol. Lit was like “oh god lady, you SERIOUSLY want me to do that…let’s just….uh….not.” LOL So his canter was really really difficult to 2 pt, stay up and actually lift him up. We didn’t do too much cantering though, so that was okay haha.
We didn’t jump – Lit had another lesson after mine and since he was out of shape and Trainer M told me I was having him work harder than most people, we decided to end it light. We did posting lengthenings on the long side and collected sitting on the short sides before going into a stretchy trot. He had a really nice stretchy trot, and I could feel him let out a breath and relax as we went around the ring a few times.
While we only flatted, I still felt pretty good about this lesson. Most of my very old English habits have resurfaced, and they’re mostly mental blocks. Namely, if trainer says do it now, DEAR GOD DO IT NOW OMG THEY WILL YELL AT ME and then everyone is in a rush and it’s quite unattractive. Which….well. It’s a habit I have in lessons that I never knew I did until I was teaching my mom on Whisper, helping her repeat and mimic what I did with her. And I’d tell her to do something, and my mom would rush rush rush to do it, and I suddenly realized that’s what I did. So now I always make sure to tell her “whenever you’re ready” or “take a breath, prepare and ask” and go from there. So with my lessons I’ve made a conscious effort to wait. It’s been extremely difficult – it’s not a habit you get over easily – but I’ve been making progress. If I feel I can’t at the moment, I’ll shout “hold on” so she knows that I heard and will do, just not yet. And it works just fine. (Because don’t get me wrong, Trainer M doesn’t yell at me – it’s all from my past lessons and instructors)
It may not seem different, but to me it’s quite different to work alongside a trainer, getting occasional input as you’re training your string of horses – which takes a lot of thought to plan a ride, feel everything, respond by yourself since no one is expressly telling you – versus having a trainer teach you the whole lesson. Their eyes are always on you, and they’re providing input every step of the way. So that lesson part of my brain is blocked, and it truly feels like there’s a wall smack dab in the middle of it – on one side there’s the me that has grown confident in myself and trusts my decision-making fully; and on the other side there’s the me that does not have confidence and feels like she knows nothing when a teacher is instructing me. It’s quite strange; I won’t lie. But I feel the wall weakening the more lessons I have, and this one felt good.
She told me to turn, and I looked, realized Lit’s height, pace, preparation required, and the set up of jumps would not allow a turn until halfway around the arena, and told Trainer M to hold on. Immediately she said, “Yup, when you’re able!” and that helped cement the thought with the action. She told me to canter, and instead of fumbling I calmly asked from which gait and then prepared, even though she said he didn’t need much preparation. He didn’t, but the little I did let Lit know we were cantering, so it was actually quite a smooth transition from walk to canter. While in the stretchy trot, Trainer M did want me to go faster, but both of us worked best a little slower and I kept it there. He is old and was getting tired, I was for sure tired, but we were both trying to work with each other to find success. I completed the exercise – two stretchy trot laps each direction, and Lit and I were steady and stretchy with some pretty good consistency. Plus, we’re new to each other. He knows that while I’m unfit I do know things, and I knew, especially at the end, that if I gave him a little bit of leeway to help him relax he’d gladly meet me half way.
It’s going to be slow going, getting through this mental block to find that yes, I do know what I’m doing (as far as basics go haha). Things may be different in the way you ask or how you prepare or what cues you give from western to English, but honestly the principles are the same. And as I’m used to doing, I just need to also assess the horse underneath me, and be prepared to see past the “lesson” aspect of the horse and figure out what works best with them for now. I’m a new person for them, and as Trainer M even said – most of these horses are used to being ridden by teenagers and younger kids just starting out. It’s going to take more than a few rides for us to gain a rapport with each other, and that of course depends on how often I’m riding them.
I got to ride Rocky with Trainer G on Saturday, so that was definitely super different, going from these big, rangy 16.3+ hh warmbloods to the 14.2 hh QH with very choppy strides haha. I asked Trainer G if I could wear spurs this time and got this:
But I’m enjoying it at the moment. I actually have another lesson with Trainer M today (which means it’s been 2 weeks since my last lesson and probably since I posted sooooo….I’m behind lol) so we’ll see who I get to ride today. Maybe it’ll even be a different pony! Who knows. I’ve been bringing my tack and breastplates along with me, so I’m hoping that I can finally use my Lund 5 point breastplate since, while these big 17 hand guys have some well-sprung ribcages, their shoulders are nowhere near as wide as Amber’s, and my saddle does slip back on them. I’m really considering getting it adjusted soon since it’ll fit a lot more horses a lot better once I do. Plus, I am infinitely more comfortable in my saddle than most others, so I’m really glad that both Trainers G and M let me bring my saddle. Come the new year I may only have time for one or two lessons a month, but I’m hoping I can stick with 4. Hopefully that’ll work!