Oklahoma is a windy state. That lyric from Oklahoma! about how the wind comes sweeping down the plain is absolutely accurate. It’s usually a minor annoyance, only noticed when I’m driving my SUV on a highway or attempting a jog. (Have you ever jogged into the wind? It seriously saps any motivation and energy you may have had.)
Today, however, the wind whipped at a ferocious 30 miles per hour, making riding nearly impossible and certainly unpleasant. Here are some tips when battling the wind while attempting to ride a horse:
- Heave your saddle pad, riser pad, and saddle onto your horse all at once. Your horse will not like this, but it will like the alternative of having the saddle pad blown off even less.
- Buy your instructor a megaphone. This will enable you to hear things like “Sit on your butt!” and “Give the inside rein! GIVE IT! NOW!” clearly. This is important.
- Sit quietly while your horse has a minor panic attack over plastic bags dancing along the rail. Think to yourself “Where did these plastic bags come from? Why are they here?!” and resolve to pick up plastic bags after ride. (Note: they will have disappeared by time you dismount.)
Wind aside, we had a great ride this morning. G warmed up well and wasn’t fazed by plastic bags after seeing one or two. She didn’t seem to notice the “jump” course I’d set up.
|There are ground poles here, I swear.
|Here’s a map of the “course”.
I think she was a bit surprised when I trotted her toward the first pole, but she went over it without a problem. Turning to the second, I think she was really surprised and popped her right shoulder out and danced away from it. We quietly circled, approached it again, and continued. Pole 3 saw G pop her left shoulder out, so I simply circled and did the first three “jumps” again. G was collected and cool as a cucumber, so we continued on through our course and performed it beautifully. We went around once more at the trot, and then we were ready to canter.
I half-expected her to explode into a frantic gallop after the first pole, but Gina took it nicely as you please. The turn to the second pole was fairly sharp, and on Anne’s advice, I rode it as if it were a 20 meter circle. I’ve decided this is how I’m riding every turn in a jump course from now on, because instead of diving for the “jump”, we approached it on a smooth, continuous arc. G broke into a trot around the curve, but I didn’t push her for the canter until we’d cleared pole 3. It was smooth sailing after that. We did the course twice at a canter and Gina was calm, on the bit, attentive, and eager to do her job. Anne commented that G looked as if she was really enjoying herself.
I think G felt great- no hesitation, no fits, no anxiety. She isn’t the kind of horse that will give you a nice ride unless you ride her well. I could feel myself making conscious choices about how I would set her up for these poles and really focusing on riding her to every fence. As any of my Pony Club friends can attest, this is something you’re told as an eventer before every cross-country round. Ride every fence. It means don’t get tired or lazy. Don’t leave all the work to the horse. Help your horse. Tell him where he needs to put his feet, where he should take off, if he needs to lengthen or shorten his stride. Give him a confident ride, because at huge scary drop into water or the weird log going into the woods, he needs that confidence. Your confidence and skill are what will get you around that course. Riding Gina is a constant exercise in riding every fence- or in this case, every step. She isn’t a horse that will give you anything, unless you ask correctly and pleasantly. That’s not always the most fun horse to ride, but it’s definitely the most rewarding!
More conditioning is coming up on Wednesday, and this course in the opposite direction! on Friday. Excitement!