Monday 30 October 2017

Rider Boot Camp

As part of my ongoing efforts to be better at this riding thing, Monday nights remain lesson nights at EC's barn. My ride is the lovely Audrey, my coach's upper level dressage prospect.

I'd ridden Audrey previously and loved her - she's supple and big moving and super athletic...she feels like what I fantasized dressage might be all about, way back when as a kid.

But the flip side...talented horses are often quirky, and oh my is she quirky! When she first came to the barn she'd get super anxious and throw herself on the ground, also she was a terrible stall kicker/climber. I feel like if she could learn to be well behaved at a show, any horse can learn to be! She still does a bunch of weird things, and is nicknamed "Squirrel" due to her attention span, but she's actually really sweet (and did I mention talented?)

So that's your Audrey intro. Moving on, first boot camp lesson for me.

It became evident tacking up that sweet Audrey was actually no where to be found. She was super grouchy. In my warmup, she definitely felt like she had a hump in her back, and was not a fan of me kicking her forward in an attempt to not die. So, horse logic then meant that me touching her with my leg was the actual cause of all her angst.
Bad ass squirrel memes just for Audrey.

Our first lesson came in the form of the circle of death, on a mare I was royally pissing off, and that was having mini heart attacks over the shadows from the arena lights, plus our fellow lesson mate's horse. Ohhh, sounds fun, right?
COD refresher. 20 m circle plus 4 poles/jumps. Simple in concept, difficult in execution.

We trotted it, and I thought I might die. So obviously the next thing to do was canter it, right? Either my coach truly is not worried I'll die or wreck her horse, or she has a really sick sense of humor. In retrospect, I'm thinking it's equal parts both.  (Third option is that she simply hates me, but I think trying to teach me to ride is probably more punishing for her than me, so the third option is unlikely.)

In the end, we got it done, and I'd like to think we got it done relatively decently. But there was a whole middle part filled with bucking, kicking at my leg, angry mare face, exuberant unasked for lead changes, and general horse pretzelness. She's really good at bending herself into fun and interesting shapes in order to avoid bending to the left. I'm apparently quite good at just pissing her off.

Take homes:

-Some of her 'tude was her saying I'm asking for canter with too much leg. I did manage to get a feel for what she prefers and a few good transitions. My take home goal is to get Bridget as responsive as her, and to ask once, then ride B with my leg off, if it's on it means something, stop letting her ignore me! Stop holding it there "just in case" - she needs to keep her feet moving without me nagging.

-Big moving horses are way more of a workout than the Bridgets of the world. I'm sore tonight from using core muscles I don't usually need to sit Bridget's trot or canter.

-Don't take it personally, don't always assume I am the problem. A was having an off day, my riding was fine, and my requests reasonable,  so I just needed to keep riding through it and princess horse just needed to suck it up and meet me half way.

-New goal. Ride horses like this mare well. Not just adequately, but well. She's complicated, but when she's going nicely, it's addictive. This is probably a huge goal for an ammy like me, but a worthy one, I think.

-If you really want to improve as a rider, ride different horses. You'll get pretty instant feedback from them on status of your riding, notably the bad stuff your usual horse is used to and ignores, or on the flip side, good stuff that maybe your usual ride is letting you down a little with.

Next week, I'm told the circle of death returns, except it's no stirrups November and the poles will be jumps. So, just a quick FYI, I'm probably going to die next Monday, or have the most fun ever. Not sure which at this point.

Can you guess what I'll be practicing in Bridget's jump school on Sunday? :)



  1. I keep meaning to try this circle of death! Audrey mare sounds familiar. ...

    1. She's a totally neurotic version of your lovely Carmen!

  2. Oh man I always have such a physical 'shock' when I switch to riding big horses from my pony, too! They just move so MUCH!

    1. Dino's probably like Bridget in that they're big movers for ponies, and mostly comparable to an average horse. But then you ride 'real horse' size and add in some naturally very expressive movement and things feel really weird!

  3. what a great horse to get that practice on!! seems like you really were able to get a great feel for her by the end of the ride too!

    1. More of a truce, less of a feel, lol. But yes, I'm very lucky!