- Was this before I had riding breeches? I can’t remember the last time I wore jeans to ride my own horses. (It was probably whenever this picture was taken.)
- You can see our half-constructed arena fence in the background. It stayed that way for several years, before my dad gave up on finishing it. (I never bothered to ride in the arena, because I am an ungrateful child.)
- I grew up as an only child (I have a half-sister who’s nine yeas older than me and didn’t live with us growing up), so I have no idea why my parents bought a giant van. It was just me and them. We took it on vacation once, found some blue plastic barrels for sale, bought them, and crammed all 4 of them into the back of the van to take them home. They were the best for jumps!
- To this day, I have the same problem of polo shirt sleeves coming almost to my elbows. I have T-Rex arms, y’all. :'(
|There’s horses out there, I promise.|
I went to the barn to ride both horses late yesterday afternoon. I saw my student, who was headed out on her pony. She returned a half hour later to tell me she had dutifully done the lateral exercises I’d given her as homework and she was certain her horse had taken a true sideways step in each direction. I was inspired by her success, so I grabbed Gina and decided to do some dressagin’.
Gina’s bruise was nearly gone when I checked it; the ground was nice and soft from Monday’s rain, so I felt pretty good about riding her. Gina must have felt pretty good about it too, because I had the loveliest, softest, happiest ride ever. Okay, maybe not ever, but in a long time!
I called it quits pretty early (after about 30 minutes) since she was being so good; Gina is a horse with whom I do not like to push my luck. Then I trimmed up her face, bridle path, and fetlocks while stuffing her face with granola bars.
I kicked Gina back into the pasture and caught Moe, who was loitering around the gate in hopes of also receiving a granola bar (or five). I intended to only spray him with fly spray and put his fly mask back on, but something compelled me to throw his bridle on and head out bareback.
|At the Glow Run last August with a friend, her sister, and Johnny.
I’m in the orange.
Riding has been my primary source of exercise for most of my life. In elementary school, my parents enrolled me in dance, gymnastics, and soccer in addition to riding lessons. I had a brief stint of competitive swimming in middle school, which was given up when it conflicted in both time and money with riding. I was on my school’s track team in high school, but only so I could have a school-sponsored sport to put on my college applications. I ran 400M hurdles and threw shotput; I was terrible at both.
|My student on my horse.|
For the last month or so, I’ve been giving riding lessons to a 12 year old whose horse is stabled at the barn. She is an enthusiastic pupil with a good foundation who devours any and all horse-related knowledge. (She’s been studying my copy of the USPC Manual of Horsemanship (D-Level) for the better part of two weeks.) She idolizes Moe, though she doggedly perseveres on her own short POA gelding who’s coming off a stint as a police horse/sitting in a field.
I offered what support I could and we turned our attention to the task at hand (convincing her horse that he is, in fact, capable of cantering), but I’ve been thinking about the hows and whys of why horse people can be so hateful to one another; moreso, what would possess a child to belittle another about what kind of horse they have or how high they’re jumping.
You see this kind of thing in the adult world, too. Eventers make snide comments about how those hunter princesses wouldn’t last a minute on a real foxhunt or make fun of their big dopey warmbloods who couldn’t keep up with a hunt field if their life depended on it. Rodeo competitors have nothing but disdain for English riders who pamper their delicate, hot-blooded horses and think neither horse nor rider have ever done a day’s work in their lives.
We’re all equestrians together. We all love our horses; they work hard for us, and we do our best by them. Everyone has a different way of doing things, but by and large, there’s no one true way to do anything. Of course, neglectful or abusive owners, riders, and trainers exist. But they aren’t the focus of this post. Average, everyday horse people are.
There’s something to be learned from everyone. I learned the rope-halter-to-fix-a-pulling-back-habit trick from my very rodeo oriented coworkers. I learned the value of a steady, rhythmic pace around a jumping course from my days on the equestrian team. I learned how gag bits, when used properly, don’t have to be harsh from my polo instructor.
The horse blogging community is a great place for support. The blogs I read are full of interesting ideas, good advice, thought-provoking opinions, and a healthy sense of humor. We cheer one another’s successes, empathize and strategize failures, and offer sympathy in tragedy. Let’s take that attitude to the real world. Let’s be good examples for riders our own age as well as for young people. Let’s show good sportsmanship and civility at competitions; let’s offer to help a fellow equestrian in need. Let’s try to learn from people who are different from us, and stop making fun of each other.
Except for minis. We can still make fun of minis, because this is just too silly.
Both horses had their regularly schedule trims today. The farrier discovered a small bruise on Gina’s right hind heel; it’s nearly healed, but he recommended I give her a few days off anyway. So I embarked on a jumping adventure with Moe.
The part of the property I typically use as a jumping area is being used for a wedding next weekend. Setup starts Wednesday, so I figured I’d get in a jump school before I hauled my jumps elsewhere.
The jumps were set up nearly identically to the way they were when I last schooled Gina over a small course, except instead of a 4 stride line, it was a 2 stride line. I had the isolated vertical set as a crossrail with a pole on top at about 2’7. One of the jumps on the line was at 3′, the other at 2’9.
|“JUMPZ, DERP, I WAS MEANT TO STEEPLECHASE”|
Moe was acting totally bonkers while we warmed up; he refused to trot and would only walk and canter. “Canter” is a term I’m using loosely, as it was a hand gallop at its slowest point and a nearly-out-of-control “I just came off the track yesterday” gallop at its fastest.
While Fruitcake got his willies out, I attempted to use the neckstrap I’d finally remembered to affix to my horse. I have a terrible habit of over-releasing. I like to think this is a better alternative than constantly hitting my horse in the mouth by not releasing, but it makes a lot of things difficult. Turning in the air. Turning rapidly after a jump. You get the idea. The neckstrap is an old belt; I practiced reaching forward and grabbing it while we were zooming round at Mach 10. It went okay.
I took him over the isolated vertical a few times before recruiting the farrier’s wife to take a video of us jumping and running around like the maniacs we are. One of my favorite things about Moe is that I never worry about if he’s going to go over a jump. He’s very reliable. So over the vertical, I concentrated on staying out of his way, grabbing the neckstrap, and finding a distance. It went pretty well; we had good distances every time. Twice, they were spot-on. Once, we were long, but I saw it, took it, and things were fine.
Now, of course, as soon as someone was recording our ride, I forgot how to ride. Moe forgot he knew any speeds other than light-speed.
|“WHEE JUMPING WHEE!”|
We took the vertical nicely, took a very long turn to the line, and promptly had the ugliest distance ever to the first jump. He pulled it with his hind legs; whether that is from our hideous approach or because I did something like sit on him in the air, I don’t know. I’ll have to watch the video again. We squeezed a very awkward two strides into the line, Moe wrenched around like a hooked fish over the second jump, and we landed without incident.
|I’ve apparently forgot how to jump. At least the horse remembers.|