Boa tarde, pessoal!
(Good afternoon, everyone! - Itís about time you started learning a few words of Portuguese
This weekend was a very horse oriented one. I missed Wednesday lesson due to work (that thing I have to do to pay for my riding). Friday Francisco (the owner and instructor of the stables) went to Goleg„ to the annual horse market, giving the horses an extra day off. So I had lessons both Saturday and Sunday to make up.
I prefer the late afternoon lessons in week days because there is less (absolutely no) confusion. Usually only two or three students, and we get to un-saddle and help feed the horses afterwards while we talk a little. During the weekend there's a lot more people and a little "Next please!"
feeling to it.
Saturday, 11 November
I arrived at mid-afternoon and I watched a lunge lesson Francisco was giving while I waited for my own. I chatted with a boy, seeming around ten years old, who was also waiting. The topics were favourite horses (he likes Catraia, I like Jubileu), marking equestrian experiences (falls, that is) and challenging exercises (parallel turns that aren't, circles that donít). For a change it was nice talking about horses with someone who both understood what I was saying and spoke Portuguese :-D!
When time came for our partners to be chosen my new found friend was disappointed - he was given Paloma. On the other end I was quite happy, as I was to ride Jubileu (who, I'm pretty sure you'll remember, is not vertically challenged
There's this thing with big horses that makes me jump up and down like a little boy. I don't know if it's a "male chauvinist pig" :-) thing, with all that strength, muscle and bones. The bigger the horse the more I'm thrilled (I hope you can forgive me Wally... when I'm back to Scotland I'll come and visit you so you can show me the light
Well, anyway... the class was all more or less at the same level and we had another instructor (missed his name). The lesson was basically a recap of the lessons so far, for the particular benefit of a newer student, and the general benefit of the rest of us. I found out that the boy's name was also Pedro. The name is so rare I once had a school class with twelve of us - at first it drove teachers right up the wall! During the lessons that proved a little confusing: "Pedro, shorten the reins!"
... OK, did that... "Pedro, shorten the reins!!!"
... I already did! What am I to do? Climb Jubileu's neck? What? Not me? Opss...
We did pretty much the usual: walk, circles, rising trot, sitting trot without stirrups... All that while the instructor told us about the need for impulsion to control the horse, the importance of keeping a proper posture and what that posture should be, the position of the hands and the pressure on the reins - just enough to feel the horses mouth.
The funny part of the lesson was the sorry looking group we must have seemed to onlookers trying to perform parallel turns. In theory we would be trotting in single file along one of the sides of the arena. At the instructors command we would all turn inside, at the same time, and head straight for the far side, where we'd carry on in the opposite rein. That's it for the theory! In practice we would slow down at first, bunch up in the middle and revert to single file a good way before the far side :-D. Lotís of bumper to bumper traffic! I had previously seen the ungainly spectacle five novices can offer doing this to know we must have looked hilarious. After three or four attempts we were able to do something "presentable" and called it a day. By the way, we were in the larger outdoor arena. Five novices doing this in the smaller one would have had the spectators rolling in the dirt :-).
Sunday, 12 November
Once again I arrived at mid-afternoon, but this time my lesson started right away. The five of us in the covered arena were a little crowded but the rain wouldn't allow for any other options. This time I was given Paloma to ride (someone else was already with Jubileu <damn!> ). After a short rainy jog/trot (according to the number of legs - 2 or 4) from the stalls to the arena, we joined the other students. First thing I did was take off the jacket I had on, leaving myself with just a T-shirt, which earn me a comment from the instructor (the same of the previous day) "Undressing already? ;-)"
(not my fault I warm up easily! :-)).
I took the care of joining the "train" from behind so I'd have it easier. Unfortunately the one in front of me was even more inexperienced than I am and he strayed back. When the others had caught up with us from behind he had to stop to adjust the stirrups, so guess who got in front? <damn!>
The lesson was pretty much the sequel to my previous one. The real fun started when we went into the rising trot. Seeing that I couldn't get Paloma to extend the trot to justify posting the instructor asked the two more experienced students to get in front <thank you!> and speed up, while we played catch. Having the other horses in front had the expected effect of motivating our own mounts. But I think that it also had a large effect on the riders. I could tell I was both more motivated and concentrated. I was probably more keen on getting results and less confusing in asking for them. We had quite a bit of fun (at least I had) chasing each other, each getting in front at the instructors command. We also did some extended trot, short trot, walk downward and upward transitions. Finally we ended the lesson with canter. Building up on the success of the second to last lesson, the stirrups weren't much trouble. I still tense too much and I loose sync once in a while. For as much as I would bend my lower back, the canter was still a bit bumpy. According to Francisco in a previous lesson, Paloma has a difficult canter to sit to so, for once, I'm willing to blame the horse :-).
A constant factor over the entire lesson were the instructors warnings to rise my chin. The trend had started in the previous day, but this time it was more obvious. Francisco had already pointed that out to me several times. I have the tendency to look at the ground right in front of us instead of looking forward, and it as been a pain to try to correct it. I was concentrating about something and I would remember: Chin! And zuup, my head would whip into place. Five minutes later: Chin! Zuup. Thirty second and "Pedro, get your chin up!"
, zuup there it was for a few more minutes. Soon I'll have to attach an elastic band between the back of my helmet and the back of my jods :-)!
After we dismounted I had a special lesson on the importance of the back as a shock absorber and the negative effect of lowering your head, and with it your shoulders, and with them your back - rendering it ineffective.
Having these lessons with a different instructor was interesting. Specially because even if they have different ways of conducting classes, different ways of saying or showing things. I can tell that they all have the same goals for us. And those goals are right up my
alley: Riding is to be done with sensitivity and lightness (and I still have a long way to get there :-)). The rider should strive not only towards his own comfort but also the horse's (and it is not unlikely for both to be connected). As a principle, if anything goes wrong it's always the rider's fault (or the instructorís Ė not the horseís). The horse and rider are called a "conjunto" - a word that means a set, a musical band or a whole - you're the brain, he (she) is the legs, you should accept him (her) as part of you and strive to be part of him (her)!
Hearing some "horror stories" about what others elsewhere have to take from "trainers" :-( I'm specially happy with my lot!