Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I rode a Percheron!

The other day, after I finished riding Marve, the barn manager asked if I wanted to stay and exercise a schoolie who didn't have a rider for that day. Sure. It ended up being the Percheron gelding -- whoo hoo! I have never ridden him, since he's typically used for beginner lessons. But I always wanted to, because I love drafties and this Percheron in particular is adorable. Humongous, and adorable.

The ride was fun, but not easy. I now see why he's usually used in beginner lessons -- the boy is like a rock. A huge, massive, foot-as-big-as-dinner-platter rock. He was very steady and calm -- no Marve-like freakouts here! -- but also really hard to get moving. He gave me quite a battle to get in (and stay in) a trot, and even when I accomplished that, getting him into a working trot was a challenge. At first I didn't think I'd get him to canter at all, but the longer I rode him, the more he loosened up and felt willing to move.

So besides that issue, and the fact that he was super heavy on the forehand, I had a blast! I love, love, love his gaits. Smooth awesome trot I could sit to all day, huge rolling canter. So much fun. If he just moved a bit more and wasn't so lazy, I'd be swooning. And I loved the big, broad feel to him -- a nice change from tall skinny TB. I wish I could have ridden him bareback (my true passion from my teen years) because I bet he would have been super comfortable.

Anyway, it was fun, and brought to the surface again my love of draft horses and how one day I want to own a big broad feller of my own. Daun, you are lucky!!

Happy holidays, everyone. Give your horse an extra peppermint from me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Thrill of Learning

A middle-aged woman was taking a private lesson last night while I rode. She is a beginner who probably started taking lessons a few months ago. And last night, she cantered for the first time.

First, she talked to the instructor about how she'd been thinking about cantering a lot, and that she finally thought she was ready to try it. She was nervous, but willing.

The instructor put her on the longe line, and they trotted around for a bit. The instructor kept trying to prep the woman for what to do, what to expect, etc. I could tell the woman was nervous, but she was also ready to go. So after giving some warning, the instructor asked the horse to canter.

The schoolie, a polite little mare, obligingly broke into a canter. I have ridden this schoolie before, and I know her canter is slow and comfortable. The woman seemed to tense her body when the new motion started, and then she started laughing. A nervous, half-scared, "I can't believe I'm doing this" laugh that came out in beat to the mare's canter.

After a few times around, they went back to a trot and then a walk. The woman looked exhilarated and out of breath and triumphant. "I did it!" she said, and patted the mare's neck.

She and the instructor chatted about position for a bit, and then they cantered again. Then they changed directions and tried it that way.

I don't know why this struck me so much. Maybe it brought back memories of when I first learned to canter. It is such a different gait from the trot, and can be quite intimidating, I think. Or maybe I appreciated that this was a fully grown woman not afraid to brave a stable full of advanced, sometimes snooty teenage riders so she could learn for herself. Or maybe it just exemplifies the nervousness we all feel when trying something new, and how we eventually just have to go for it and see what happens.

Anyway, I'm happy she cantered for the first time. And I'm also happy that Marve was very well behaved for my ride. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Good Spook

So last week, when I wrote that Marve hasn't bolted or freaked out lately, I spoke too soon.

He bolted again while I was riding him just a few days after making that post. But you know what? It wasn't bad. And I think it actually helped things.

Another horse in the arena spooked, and Marve responded by leaping into the air and then taking off into a bolt. But this time, even more so than in the past, I was super conscious of sitting far back and deep in the saddle. Even though I felt out of control and like I was a goner, I kept thinking sit back back back back. And before I knew it, I had him under control -- before he even made it to the other side of the arena.

As soon as I had a grip on things again, I immediately urged him back into a working trot and then up to canter. This is in contrast to some of his other freak outs, where it was more severe/scary and I ended up shaking after it was over and wanting to cry. This time, it was just business as usual.

The whole thing raised my confidence and made me feel like I can handle him and that I don't need to be terrified. If that was the worst of what I can expect in the future, I have to say it wasn't that bad. I can handle that.

Of course, I'm aware that this particular spook might just have been tamer than others. But the fact that I handled it means for now, I'm not scared like I used to be.

Our rides since then still have been challenging in other ways -- I'm having fun again, which is awesome, but sometimes I still feel like we are moving backwards instead of forwards. But I've been working on my jump position, which is getting stronger, and I've also been getting him rounder in the canter. That's a big accomplishment, because to be honest, at the height of my Marve fear, I kind of dreaded cantering him at all because it made me worry he'd take off. But now I'll canter around and around and around without even giving it a second thought.

As of right now, today, I feel good enough about the lease to continue it indefinitely. We'll see if that feeling remains, but still...it's nice not to be scared. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I am such a weenie.

I finally broached the subject of ending the lease on Marve, with not-so-good results. The barn manager told me that there aren't enough advanced lesson riders to ride him throughout the week, so they might not be able to keep him when I stop the lease.

I asked what would happen to him, and they said they'd try to work something out with his previous owner or see if they could sell him. I asked point blank if he'd go to auction (really, he is too usable of a horse for it to come to that, I hope) and I was told of course not.

There is a girl at the stable who keeps asking about my lease with him, so I checked to see if she'd want to lease him, but she doesn't think she could afford it.

I can obviously do what I want. I'm not obligated to lease him. But I feel a little worried about abandoning him. Plus, he has not bolted or spooked since that last awful time I fell, which was like 5-6 weeks ago. Knock on wood. And as much as I'd love my own horse, I still don't quite feel ready to buy one at this time.

Add all that to the fact that something is holding me back from ending the lease. Our last few rides went better. I still feel like I'm learning with him. I'm not sure I'm ready to go back to only riding once a week, and there are no other horses for me to lease. And yep, I've looked around -- there are a couple of horses I could lease but they are at least a 40-minute drive each way, and I don't want to do that.

I know some of you are probably kicking me for not just ending the lease. But we'll see. This doesn't mean I am extending it indefinitely, just a little longer.

For all of you who are blessed with the ability to easily and quickly make a decision, please take a moment to appreciate and recognize this important skill that some of us are so sorely lacking.