By virtue of falling, I discovered that my left leg is weaker than my right. Had my left leg been an equal to its mate on the starboard side of my body, I would not have fallen when Mo spooked last night. And what did Mo spook at last night? Why, Mo spooked at another horse last night. It’s just a small horse, too, about a year old, cute, wouldn’t hurt a fly but Mo Didn’t Have Anyway of Knowing That, Now Did He? Espeically With That Woman On His Back Who Was Sitting Funny.
I was sitting funny because I was riding with my right leg out of the stirrup. When I do half-seat, my right leg burns, which should have been a clue. Instead of interpreting this clue, I was just cheerful about my left leg muscles not bothering me. Leah suggested that I ride around with my right foot out in order to strengthen the left. I was also trying to post like that (which I kinda sorta did) and then, while totally distracted and all over the place, Mo saw fit to defend himself from Things Unknown (aforementioned colt) and off I went.
No bruises or torn flesh this time. Got back up as soon as I was sure I could do so, went to Mo, kissed him in the nose, and finished the lesson with my crop tucked in my boot. Didn’t want to add to things.
Today we worked on how I hold my body when going to the right. I tend to collapse in and drop my right shoulder, and this became very obvious to Leah one day when I wore a sweater with a strong horizontal band across the upper back/yoke. Since then, I try to wear something similar so that Leah can more quickly spot what I’m doing. I do drop that right shoulder a lot (see post on “And all this time I thought it was the bra” or however I titled it) and of course I can’t tell that I’m doing it since I do it. So I’m trying to push Mo back outside to the wall with my inside leg, but *dropping* my inside shoulder at the same time which sends him a mixed message since dropping my (inside) shoulder is going to make him fall in to the inside. So today Leah had me place my left elbow at my hip (not cram it in there and hold it tight which is my instinct — Get a Bigger Hammer! Hang on Harder! Push More! — but just place it there). As soon as I did that, I quit dropping my right shoulder and voila! as they say, Mo could do what I wanted him to do. Neat, huh?
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.
“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.
So does anyone out there have any hints or tips about how to fall? How do you train your arms to stay close to your body instead of trying to brace with them? Is it a Martial Arts thing? A Yoga thing? I’ve thought about trying to fall (when no one is around, of course) from different heights (short heights — Webster’s Unabridged, the bottom rung of a step ladder, a piece of firewood) onto different surfaces to try and figure out the best way to do it. Would it be wise to simply fall down from a standing position with arms crossed? How about tucking and rolling? Is learning to tuck the chin good or bad? Or neither? And there’s always the example of poor Mr. Reeve and how do we explain that to our loved ones?
Now I am a real horsewoman because I have fallen off THREE times. The first time was in 1971 when I was 11, the second was in 2005 when I was 45, and the third was this week at age 46.
According to barn custom, I owe to the barn in general, so I hope to get out there tomorrow and/or Sunday with cookies.
We had an evening lesson and Gabby spooked at Bob-Bob, the cat who is missing most of his tail and most of one ear. Bob-Bob was doing his panther imitation (he’s really, really good at it, by the way) by sitting on fense posts and runing back and forth in the arena. It finally got to be too much for Gabby who spooked. Naturally. A 10 pound black cat could, technically, eat you.
So one minute I was riding, the next moment I was flailing and knew I couldn’t stay on, and the moment after that I tried to break my fall with my left arm and my chin and the moment after that I was yelling “I”m alive! I’m alive!” And I was, otherwise I wouldn’t be here rattling on about it.
I stood up too fast for safety’s sake (one needs to remain prone to ensure that one has not broken anything or is in peril of being paralyzed) but nothing bad happened. Gabby was standing there, looking at me. Leah had the post-fall talk with me, I got back on, and Gabby tried to hide by shoving her big horse head under Leah’s arm. She was a little jittery but we did some more trotting. Not much. Mostly I wanted to walk and since we were both walking on eggs, she started to canter at some point which I Did Not Want but settled down. Obviously, she wasn’t punished, yelled at, or anything else negative. She saw a predator. what could she do?
A former co-worker and I were talking horses one day. She returned to riding as an adult too, though now she has drifted away again due to family responsibilities. She said that once she started taking two lessons a week, she got very sore and lived on Ibuprofen.
I wondered if the same would hold true for me once I increased to twice a week, if the slowly diminishing soreness that resolved itself about two days before my next lesson would become completely chronic and never let me be. To my surprise, the answer has been no. Quite the resounding one, at that. I’m not crazy-wild sore, walking bow-legged, or settling into a cement-like stupor after sitting for a few moments post-lesson. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing things right because I’m not experiencing the same level of tendon and muscle fatigue, but according to Leah, I’m improving so I MUST be doing SOMETHING right! I mean, isn’t it supposed to be Hard and No Pain No Gain and all kinds of Striving and Struggling All of the Time? Isn’t every single moment of your life supposed to be exactly like that or you aren’t really out there doing something worthwhile?!?!?! Isn’t the unexamined life not worth living?!?!
(Pause for breathe. Too wrapped up)
Apparently not! Sometimes, you can just Be!
That’s one of the biggest things riding gives, me, the opportunity to Just Be, to Just Be at whatever level I’m at which is sorta dressagy with long stirrups in an old Wintec all-purpose saddle, still getting used to other people in the ring , knowing what to expect from the horse, novice on the top and bottom with a thin layer of whipped intermediate in-between.