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The Chronicles of a Part XI
Wednesday, 15 November 2000
Before I start I have a small extra to today's chronicles. I scanned the three photos I had of my initial riding experiences so you can take a look at them. I'll use them as back cover "before" shots whenever I publish the chronicles !
December 4th, 1999
This was my first time ever on a horse - if we exclude two minutes sitting on a tied-up grazing donkey as a child. The occasion was the birthday party of one of my cousins, at my uncle's small property. Knowing my rising interest about horses, my cousin talked with another uncle's brother who had come riding his horse, and bullied me into trying (it didn't take much bullying, let me tell you).
Instruction took the whole of five seconds: do this to go left, do this to go right, this to stop and this to go forward... The ride took between five to ten minutes and consisted pretty much on a figure of eight centred on the starting place.
Nice position isn't it! My favourite is the grip on the reins, followed closely by the "desk" seat. I had a sheepish grin, half "This is fun!", half "This is high!". While the horse (as you can see if you look closely) was just plainly laughing at me (don't blame him).
After this ride I was thinking what the big deal with riding was, it seemed so easy! Poor naive me!
December 28th, 1999
With the beautiful scenery of Glenorchy as background, here I am one hour into my second ride - much improvement on the seat! Notice the Ear-Shoulder-Hip-Heel... ahem... line.
This horse was a real angel (that's why I got him, I guess), I would have had my hands full otherwise.
Nice steady contact with the horse's mouth! Horse riding is really easy when what you want is what the horse already had in mind - in this case, butt following all day long!
Now back with the original schedule!
There's really not much to say about most of the lesson. The typical exercises, walk, trot, circles, etc. During an explanation about the importance of impulsion to control the horse (as usual I'd let Catraia slow down to walk while starting a circle in trot) Francisco used the words "...they are not very generous with their forward motion" to describe these school horses. A pretty way of putting it !
As usual the more interesting part of the lesson was the canter. This time I was able to:
- Start the canter when and where I wanted.
- Keep the motion once started
- Keep my feet in the stirrups, relaxed and steady.
- Work with the horse, keeping my bottom comfortably in the saddle
- Maintain a proper seat with shoulders back
- Hold a steady contact with the horse's mouth
Unfortunately none of it at the same time !
This was definitely not one of my days. To start with I was asking for canter by squeezing with the legs and pulling with the upper torso, instead of pushing with the back. In other words, I was throwing myself forward, assuming (as Heather well describes it) a "fatal" position. So fatal that three times I did it, and three times I was close to falling - griping mane, neck and saddle to remain seated. While this was taking place, Francisco was not just enjoying the show. He was screaming for me to lean back, at some point he (half-)jokingly asked "... what are you trying to do, kill yourself?". But all was to no avail.
Today the words would enter through the inside ear, bounce around the empty space in my head like a pinball machine and exit through the outside ear leaving me none the smarter!
I tried several starts, but when I got Catraia to canter, I was so out of balance that I was either unable to work with the legs to keep the rhythm or I had to slow down to avoid a fall. To make matters even worse I kept letting the reins slip through. Catraia was so confused with me that at one point she was keeping up with Jubileu's canter while still trotting (was that bouncy!).
When I got home I made a little experiment. Sitting on my (wheeled) desk chair I tried to push as I was supposed to as part of the aids to canter. The result was the intended backward motion of the upper body, while the chair (and the whole of me) shot forward.
Trying the same thing, but as I had been doing it during the lesson, I got from the chair the same result I got from Catraia. The chair stayed where it was, or moved backwards, while I would loose balance and nearly shoot forward.
Of course, knowing how to do something and why you should do it like that isn't much help when you've spent your whole life doing it some other way! Overcoming some habits (like this go faster - lean forward relationship) is hard.
When the lesson ended and Francisco was talking with us, Catraia noticed I was wearing a wool shirt for the first time (it's getting too cold for me to be wearing just a T-shirt) and she made sure I'll never use it for anything other than riding !