My Weekly Riding Lesson- Ringo’s Back!
I think for the last 5 or 6 riding lessons I have been riding Murphy. And I love Murphy, he is so kind and forgiving, and he makes me work, but his gaits are so easy to ride. He makes me feel like I am getting better with my riding. But tonight, when I got to the barn, I saw that I would be riding Ringo tonight.
I was a little sad, because I really like Murphy, a lot, but Ringo was the horse I rode in my first lesson, and since I haven’t ridden him in a while my sadness was quickly replaced with happiness. Ringo is a little smaller and more compact than Murphy. Which means his gaits are a little quicker, and a whole lot bouncier.
Back To Old Reliable, Sort Of
Ringo had not had a lesson yet for the day, it had been raining all day long and it was a little colder than I thought it would be. Translation: Ringo didn’t want to be caught from the pasture. I forgot to bring any treats with me, so I was left to find a solution out in the pasture. It wasn’t too difficult to find. The school horses have done a pretty good job of mowing down the spring grass, so all I had to do was reach out to the other side of the fence and grab a handful of grass. And that was all I needed to be able to get the lead rope around his neck and get him to the barn.
So, if you are getting a school horse out of a pasture and don’t have a treat to offer, see if you can find a handful of grass. I have never seen a horse run away from a big handful of fresh sweet grass, even if the pasture is full of it.
Thankfully my saddle fit him as well, and I was able to use it for my lesson. It is a little harder than my cushy Bicton synthetic saddle, but I am more balanced in it and it is easier to get out of the saddle for rising trot and two point.
Since my last lesson, I have been watching a lot of videos about how to strengthen my leg, and how to have a more independent seat. I haven’t been riding my own horses this week because the weather has been rainy and cold and I have been a little lazy. But I did work my brain, and I was able to think about what I had watched while I was riding Ringo tonight.
And Bounce The Trot
The first time I got Ringo into a trot I felt like I was being launched out of the saddle. He was fresh, ready to go and his short choppy little strides made it really challenging. For 3/4’s of the lesson my instructor had to remind me about my posting diagonal. And even when she did, I couldn’t tell if it was better or not.
Thankfully, we did not work on sitting trot. I think that would have been nearly impossible on Ringo. And now I have a new goal to work toward. She is having me drop my stirrups more each lesson and then pick them up again without looking. Do you ever practice that? The first few times she had me do it I swear it took me 5 minutes to find my stirrups, and that was with looking down! I have gotten better at it and I have been doing it at home on my own too. It’s a fun exercise to work on. If it isn’t something you usually do, give it a try and see what you think.
We had worked on walk, trot, and two-point for a while and then she gave me a new task, walking a large circle to the left. That seemed easy enough, but it wasn’t. I had been focusing so much on the direction, I wasn’t really using my legs to guide Ringo. I was relying more on the reins. So she helped me to not rely on the reins and use my outside leg to capture him, and round his body when he would try to lean out with his shoulder. So inside leg right at the girth, and outside leg just behind the girth. This created a very nice bend, and I wasn’t relying on the reins to guide Ringo where I wanted him to go.
We worked on this several more times on one end of the arena, and then after a few trips around the arena, we did it again at the other end of the arena. With her guiding me, I could ‘feel’ what I was supposed to be doing and it got easier and easier each time I did it. We did it in two-point as well, all at the trot, and this was hard, but I did it.
Almost A Real Course
And after my legs were turned into jello from applying them correctly to Ringo’s sides, she let me catch my breath for a minute while she explained to me the course of ground pole jumps she wanted me to do. There were a lot of changes of direction, and some of the angles were a little challenging. But, she explained to me to continue working on what we had just worked on, applying inside or outside leg to help guide Ringo over the course.
And she gave me another piece of advice that I really liked. She said if you are heading toward a jump and you are not in the center, do not do it. That may seem like a bad idea, especially if you are really jumping, but if you turn too soon, or too late you are making it harder for your horse. And if you make it harder for your horse, you are looking at either a bad jump, a refusal, or a run out. So if you are not set up correctly, don’t do it.
Because of my directing Ringo did hit one of the poles with his hoof, but only one time. I understood what she had said, and even thought she had me going from one ground pole jump straight to another that was at an angle, I was still able to find the center. We also worked on not looking down at the poles (I didn’t even realize I was doing this) and looking forward, and up toward where I would be riding next, look where you are going right???
It’s Canter Time
And of course, like we always do, we ended the lesson with a canter. Now Ringo is a champion at picking up a canter from the walk, and on the correct lead, despite my ineptness at times. But, even though I was having my own issues, there was one time when he picked up the wrong lead, and for the first time I could feel it. That was a big deal for me, I could actually tell without looking down that this wasn’t right, and I brought him back down to the trot.
I don’t know if it is easier to feel the canter leads, but I can tell when we are on the correct lead versus trotting, I still suck at feeling the correct diagonal. But there is hope I think, especially as I continue to practice I have hope I will get that feeling too.
Another Fantastic Lesson
As I am sitting here writing this, I can feel in my muscles I worked hard during my lesson. This is a good thing! Another good thing was riding Ringo again He is so different from Murphy, and my own horses as well. Riding the lesson horses really makes me appreciate what I have with Frisby (and hopefully eventually Ethan). But I like the different experiences I get riding different horses. Just like snowflakes, no two horses are alike. And being able to ride different horses has been very helpful in building my confidence as a rider.
Hopefully one day I will also be able to say a competent rider. I think as long as I am continuing my lessons and committing myself to get better with my riding I know I will continue to improve. And to actually know that, deep down, is a fantastic feeling. In the past 4 months that I have been consistently riding every week I have noticed an improvement in my riding. I am comfortable in two-point, and my leg is getting better. There is still a lot to be done, but that’s what goals are all about, don’t you think?
I only have two lessons left before I have surgery. And then I have at least 8 weeks where I can’t ride. I haven’t decided how I am going to be able to practice my riding without actually doing it, but I will work with my surgeon, and make sure I won’t do anything unsafe. If you have gone through surgery and couldn’t ride but had different exercises that you could still do, I would love to know what you did. Leave me a comment below and help me work through 8 weeks of not being able to ride!