Category Archives: Learning

Outside, on real dirt

Two weeks ago, Leah told me “We’re going to step our of our comfort zone tonight.”

“Ha!” I said, “And who is ‘we’? Got a mouse in your pocket?”

Such hilarity was not appreciated and Leah calmly ushered me out of the nice sand outdoor arena into the bottom, where, last year, I screamed my head off when Mo took off through a pond and up a hill. “Scream” is too nice of a word. Actually, I wailed pitifully and the sound made me want to smack myself, so I stopped and hung on as per my teacher’s instructions. “Hang on, Leslie!” were her exact words as Mo tore up the hillside.

But we were both under much more control this time, going up and down little slopes (“Are you sure he can do this?” I asked, the slope looking to me as if it were 90 degrees, easy. “Yes, Mo will be fine,” said Leah). Plus, Leah was right there with us the whole time, figuratively holding my hand. 

And he was. And so was I. Fine, I mean. We walked down little hills and I was coached not to lean too far back (not like the cowboys in the picture), because it pinches Mo’s back and he can’t really do much. We trotted on dirt and around a jump, and I went into half-seat for our climbs back up the small hills (haven’t sat half-seat in For Ever so I mostly couldn’t balance) — and we even kinda-sorta jumped up the little incline with the “stair-steps” dug into it. 

“OMG!” I said, “Did we jump?”  (I do NOT jump)

“Yes!” said Leah.

But what was the best was trotting up a gradual hill. It was so smooth. Going up hill gave Mo real suspension and in half-seat, it was like we were floating, gliding along, soft as feathers on on the wind, like birds skimming just above the ground.

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Filed under Learning, Mopey

Bareback Mo Lesson

It was cold last night, for sure, but it was straight-ahead cold, not the kind that comes with dampness and huge amounts of wind. Clear sky, stars, that sort of thing. I got to the barn a bit early and spent some time reading an article on cosmology and brains in space that Jack found for me but I get hung up over pretty much anything past 14,000 feet above sea level (I was on Pike’s Peak once and that’s enough) so I just don’t get it.  But the barn cats were fighting for space on my lap and that’s always nice.  Leah suggested that I do the entire lesson sans saddle to which I eagerly agreed.  I used to ride the late and lamented Sadie bareback, rode Gabby bareback once, and have gone a couple of turns on Mo. But trotting? Bareback? Ah . . .no. 

At first, I was nervous, trying to get Mo to move in a particular direction. He spooked at a couple of jumps and generally wandered around because I was too nervous at first to give him any direction.  Dear old Mo — he had my number right away and wasn’t going to do a damn thing that he didn’t have to. So after a few cries of “whoops!” and “Oh dear!”, Leah put me on the lunge line.  That was great.  It was wonderful and relaxing to know that someone else was in control and I when I relaxed, I was able to keep my seat and also able to tell Mo to move, darnit!Move! Plus it’s amazing how easy it is to feel what he’s doing! And warm? Mmm . . . .must be what the cats felt like when they sat on my lap. Never has there been more hair on my fuzzy winter riding pants than there was after last night’s lesson.

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Three Hour Clinic!

I spent most of the day on Saturday out at the barn for a Terry Myers Clinic and rode Mo for the whole three hours.   It was hard work but I grinned like a fool the whole time and I’m very much more in-synch (Mr. Myers’ philosophy) with Mo than I have been.  It’s humbling to be told that one is a green rider, and told this by an expert.  I kept my mouth shut and did not pipe up protestingly, “But I’ve been riding for 3 years!” because if I’ve got to tell rather than show . . .well.  There you have it. I hang on to Mopey’s head too much, just like everyone has done to him for all of his 26, 27, or 28 years (I’ve been quoted all three numbers for his age and I figure one of them has to be right eventually). And pray tell why do I hang on his head too much?  Because I am so stiff and so tense and still so nervous (I mean, I heard about Sam Shepard getting his teeth kicked out by a horse, just heard about it when we went to hear the New Velocity Ramblers , and got scared to death to ride AND was made even more nervous when an acquaintance at the concert nodded with great sagacity and said, “Yep, that’s why we raise sheep!”) — where was I? Oh yes — still so nervous that I hang on for dear life even though this most basic of human survival instincts (“Hang on! For God’s sake hang on!”) is totally worthless when riding. But totally. 

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Filed under Learning, Mopey

Fun stuff!

Yesterday we rode to music! Leah started working with another student on a show piece, so she had the boom box out in the arena and was playing some new-age, sorta Lord of the Rings type music. As soon as Mo heard it, he started trotting away — or as soon as I heard it, I felt happy and started telling him to trot without realizing what I was doing. “This is great!” I said. “OK!” said Leah, “Then we’ll ride to music!” Using her best Socratic method, she then asked me what I thought the benefits of riding to music might be. The main one I could think of is that it would relax me-the-rider, which it does indeed. Not only that but with the right kinds of music, you feel like you’re in a movie! And when a “canter” tune comes on, it’s very dramatic and all of a sudden you’re out there saving Ireland or Scotland or Middle Earth or something, surging ahead on your noble steed at the head of an invincible army or you’re delivering the message that will save the good people of Rivendell (or Union Center, Ohio) from a fate worse than death — heroic, know what I mean? Plus I got so into it that I think I was doing a bit better of a job of asking Mo to do stuff. By the end of the lesson, I don’t know what we were doing exactly other than some fantastic collected little trot that neither he nor I normally do. Leah says he never got that far in his training. Does that mean I was *training* him to do something in spite of myself? But oh riding him to music was that kid-thing,  where you get all wrapped up in what you are pretending and you’re having fun pretending stuff!

Meanwhile, Gabby’s got a new official name: Avalon’s Fallen Angel. Isn’t that great? I burst out laughing when I saw the name on the white-board at the barn (something about vet certificates for an upcoming show) because it was just so darned appropriate. Gabby was born of excellent stock and valued at thousands of dollars, but she was moved about the country like a large and expensive piece of black walnut furniture that no one knew what to do with, like a wardrobe or an ice chest or a wooden commode chair that has to be made into something else since we now have built-in closets, refrigerators and indoor plumbing. She refused to jump despite extensive and special training, wound up at a teaching facility and then got sold to me, me who had some idea I could handle owning a 16 hand TB. She got sick, she pulled out of it, and now everyone loves her. I was so happy for her great new name that I made sure to give her some treats and rub her pretty, pretty head. The Angel Gabriel — a messenger from God who might have passed on to her earthly reward were it not for the efforts of many people and the plunging into debt of me with that horrendous vet bill. Ooof.

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Filed under Gabby, Just happy, Learning, Riding Skills

Cantering without stirrups

Hey, I forgot to mention that I’ve been cantering Mo without stirrups!  How cool is that?  We just rock along (probably not today; the air quality is forecast to be very very bad) and I don’t have my feet in the stirrups and it’s just fine and dandy!  Hooray!

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Thank You!

I want to thank everyone for the good words of support and encouragement as I transition from Gabby to Moe.  You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em, which is what my mom said when she retired from teaching at Michigan State University, and I’m  glad I didn’t endure (horse-wise) the equivalent of an entire teaching career at a major Midwestern university in the department of American Thought and Language.  Anyone out there teach English at the college level?  Then you know what I mean.  Hm, that was a long-winded way of saying that I’m glad I was able to pass Gabby along.  And I’m glad you all thought it was a good idea. 

Leah was concerned that with this step (selling Gabby to her),  I would regret letting Gabby go; that one day owning my own potential champion would be an asset as my riding improved. She didn’t say that in so many words but between her concern and the comments of others, that’s what I take away from it.

I’m not a champion kind of gal.  I’m low to the ground. I like small houses and small cars. I like shoes with a low heel and I like to sit on the floor when I work, knit, read, or watch TV. I’d like to sleep on the ground if it weren’t for the damp and the bugs. Oh, and the fact the ground is hard. I’m like water, seeking its own level, and Moe fits in with that philosophy while also affording me a chance to ride. 

Thanks again!

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Filed under Epiphanies, Gabby, Learning, Mopey, Ownership, Riding Skills, The Rider's Body

Fear Takes the Wheel and Steers

“So much for Buckingham,” says the soon-to-be Richard III (he’s still, what, Richard Plantagenet at this point?) after dispatching yet another rival to the throne in Shakespeare’s Richard III (or not).

So much for getting behind riding and trotting over poles and such.  God’s Wounds but I was nervous last night. It took forEVer for us to walk over the d***ed poles and I was sure, just as sure as Gabby, that we would DIE if we trotted over them. Melinda said, “Go ahead. Go.  You’re the boss. Tell her to do it.  It’s her job.” Ah. Gabby’s job.  That made sense and I could get her to walk on. Gotta fulfill your job so that during evaluation time your supervisor will say good things rather than “Eh. You could do better.”

Just as the horse picks up on my fear, I pick up on the fear that the horse feels.  Thus,we have a nice microwave oven of stuff indeed; a billiard table of emotion with the cue ball struck by a novice player who thinks hitting the ball, any ball, is good enough (not that I know anyone like that).

As soon as we walked over the poles, it was fine. Fear evaporated. Poof.   But it was a lot different than Sunday’s lesson, last night’s lesson was.  Gabby pulled her head out of my hands over and over and I was back to square one, tsking and tsking and grabbing the reins to pull her big old head back UP.  Four steps forward, six steps back. That’s just what it’s like sometimes.

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Filed under Learning, The Rider's Body