Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Odd tastes

After Miss Thang, you'd think I'd be eager to hop back on the big fancy girl.  Today, I was back on Big Papa.  I was going to be spending a lot of time on the lunge line while learning how to actually sit down, so he was a better choice.  He'll trot around in a circle and basically ignore me while I execute odd gyrations in my attempts to actually put my butt in the saddle.

The nice part about lunge lessons is that I can be up there fiddling around and paying no attention to things like steering.  I'm grabbing onto the cantle, lifting my legs off the saddle, and overall looking like a total doofus and he just keeps trotting around.  I can appreciate that while I'm feeling like a bowl of jello with my legs flopping around.  We made some progress with getting my butt under me and my shoulders back behind said butt.  My legs are also getting longer which is a weird sensation.  I start out feeling my stirrups are a little long, then they start to feel short.  Maybe, finally, I can learn to sit a trot.  I've only been riding 30 years, it's about time I learn how to actually sit in a saddle!

While I was going around and around, we got some time to gossip about horse shopping.  I'm glad I'm not the only person in the world that thinks horse shopping is horrible.  The trainer has been out looking at horses for her program and man oh man, do I feel her pain.  Half broke horses with blown out tendons being sold as w/t/c mounts for kids?  Ugh.  I think I'll stick to lesson horses for right now, thanks.

Though I did see a listing for a really pretty gray TB gelding that was being sold as a dressage prospect, already restarted, already going to shows, must be awfully sweet with a name like Buddha . . .

Right, back on topic.

I like Big Papa.  Our personalities suit.  He doesn't mind when I try to micro manage him and I don't really care when he starts to get looky with random things.  I'm a bit of an electric seat so we don't have a lot of issues with him going forward now that we're getting to know each other.  There's a visiting dressage trainer coming to the barn soon and I think I'll do the clinic with Big Papa.   The pony has potential, he just needs to learn to carry his own big ol' butt around the ring.

I've also started riding Rhodie, the 17 year old coming back into work.  He's a smaller guy, can't be much over 15 hands, and has a very sweet eye.  He's not too happy to be giving up his life of leisure and is probably feeling achy.  He likes to show his displeasure with a buck, so that's a bit of a problem right now.  Not very beginner friendly like that.  He'll be getting some supplements to help ease him back into work and see if he'll be good as a walk/trot pony for camp life.  He seems agreeable enough, he has a very soft eye, just not sure he wants to give up the retired life.  We're mostly doing walking right now and it's good for him to get out and move whether or not he has the makings of a lesson pony.  I think he'll loosen up once his body gets used to it and the joints start moving around again.

He's a bit of a pocket pony in the sense that he knows I have cookies in my pocket and he wants them.  His delicate little nose just slips right into my pockets without any trouble.

I'm also noticing that I need to do something about my nail polish in that last picture.  How embarrasing.

I've got my first jumping lesson on Friday with the other instructor at the barn, the eventer.  We'll see what Big Papa thinks of getting all four feet off of the ground.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Does not suffer fools gladly

It's frustrating when your mind says 'hey, your horse needs to do this so I need to do this' and your body goes 'what, are you kidding, you've been out of the saddle for almost two years'.  I've always been a bit of an overachiever and my attempts at getting right back into the swing of things results in a lot of aching muscles.

Today I got to ride Miss Thang.  Unlike almost every other horse in my life, this one has a pedigree!  She's a 13 year old Oldenburg named Harvard's Princess.  Pretty cool riding a horse where you actually know where she came from.  She's a fancy dancy warmblood bred for the dressage ring.  She's got a lot of TB blood running through her, so she's not very heavy and certainly has her own opinions on things.  Sweet, but typical alpha mare.

As soon as I arrived in the arena, I was told that she does not suffer fools gladly.  I looked at her, she looked at me, and I said we'd be just fine.  The Hellbeast would excuse fools from the ride, the Princess would make a fool's life hell.  I haven't been allowed to be a fool in a long time.  Once we got things figured out, I got to ride the fancy girl around with a big, powerful trot.

It's harder to ride the big, powerful, reactive horses because you never get a break.  You never get to just cruise along.  I dropped a shoulder, she locked up.  I braced in my back, her poll popped up.  Any sign of weakness?  Clearly I wasn't a strong leader and needed to be tested again.  Leg slid back?  Time to kick out, because one does not touch a lady's flank unless they're looking to be taught a lesson from the school of hard knocks.

The good news was that we got some solid work.  Nice big trot, some nice balanced canter, and some square halts.  The bad news was that my body was quiting on me by the end and the mare was not amused as my balance started to fail.  Her temper got a bit sour toward the end and I was pretty sure I was on her last nerve.  It wasn't until I did some no stirrup work at the end that I noticed my legs were actually shaking.  My abs are just killing me now.  My dismount was followed by me hanging onto the saddle so I didn't land on my butt in the dirt.

I've been offered a chance to get in some extra ride time on a horse that's getting back into work after recovering from an abscess.  He's 17 years old and completely out of work, but I'll take any time in the saddle at this point.  The spirit is willing, but the body is telling me f*** off.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Definition of insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result.  After my ride yesterday, I was a sore, creaky, achy mess.  So what did I do today?  I went riding.  When the trainer texted the suggestion that I do a pas de deux lesson with another adult rider, I said sure.  That sounded like fun, surely I couldn't be that sore come morning.


I crawled from bed in a dramatic display of mind over aching body.  Advil and coffee got me rolling and to the barn.  I was actually feeling better after some stretching, but then I climbed on.  So many achy spots.  I will never, ever make fun of a man that crushes his junk on the pommel of the saddle again.  At some point in my previous ride, I had acquired a bruise on a very delicate part of my anatomy, probably from whacking the pommel.  I did not enjoy sitting down in the saddle much today.

The lesson went well, we practiced trotting and walking and halting together.  The other rider rode the trainer's horse Buffy, who I've dubbed Miss Thang.  Leggy, athletic, and certain that all eyes are on her at all times.  She was rather intimidating to my Big Papa.  He did not enjoy turning toward her in close quarters.  I think that shows good judgement, mares are funny about their personal space.  By the end, the two of them were getting used to the idea and the two riders were running into less things.  Success!

Big Papa, watching a small child that had a crinkly wrapper.

The hair of the dog that bit you might be a way to handle a hangover, but it's less effective for sore muscles.  I oozed out of the saddle more than dismounted and am now propped up at my desk.  Advil, coffee, and protein for muscles that are repairing themselves.  I promised my body that we won't do this again for a couple days, since repairs are rather important.

Rumor has it that I'll be riding Miss Thang soon.  As much as I'm enjoying Big Papa, I think I'll like that mare.  Nice smooth gaits mean less time smacking into the pommel after dropping your stirrups and it's hard to explain to people why you have a bag of frozen peas in your lap. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Guess who's back, back again

Catie's back, tell a friend.

Anyone that's had an addiction knows how this goes.  You've quit, you don't even look at that thing.  You leave the blogs and email lists, you throw out the catalogs, you don't go to the stores, you don't watch the shows.  Equipment sits in boxes in the loft of the garage, forgotten and getting musty.  You've quit and that's all part of your old life.

And then, one day, you follow a link a friend shares with you.  As simple as that, you find yourself falling back in.  The forgotten catalog on the desk gets picked up.  The Rolex videos that were never watched are suddenly on the tv.  The husband starts to get suspicious, peering over your shoulder when he thinks he spotted horse pictures.

The itch came back.  It took a long time and for a good while I actually thought it was gone.  So foolish.  We all know that it never truly goes away.  It was just lying in wait, waiting for me to come to terms with the Fiona situation.

I'll be honest, I regret the decision I made.  Yes, Fi is happy as a clam at UNH.  I get updates and bump into her riders at tack stores constantly.  She looks amazing, is called the princess by the students, and is adored by all.  It's wonderful for her, but I still miss her terribly.  I realize now I would have been happier to give up jumping and just had my girl, but there was no actual harm done.  I've learned something important about my riding interests (perfect partner > discipline) and the princess has a bigger fan club than ever.  I'm finally ready call that chapter done and move on to the next.

Which brings me to today and the reason why I'm considering straddling a heating pad.  A year and a half is plenty of time for muscles to atrophy and I wasn't riding very consistently toward the end.  Today I had my first lesson with a new trainer on a new mount at a barn that is much closer to my house.  My thighs are killing me.

My phone ate the picture I took, so I'll just describe Theon with words:  black Percheron gelding, about 17h, not too terribly wide, with a very sweet face.  A fairly kick on ride, but I've had worse.  Much worse.  I like to call him Big Papa.  I also like to say things like 'this is my leg, there are many legs like it but this one is mine, move off my *** **** leg'.

Could've been worse.

Once he got the message that I wanted to go FORWARD, we got along quite well.  We even got a nice little connection by the end and he gave me some very nice canter transitions.  The new trainer stuck me on the lunge line for some position and no stirrup work.  I've got a lot of strength to build back up and some of my lingering position problems are going to be getting the attention they need.  It's interesting to be in a private lesson so we can pick at the little things, like my shoulders being out of whack making the rest of my body twist.  Also doing leg lifts to rebuild my leg strength.  But we were able to let my stirrups down a whole 4 holes from when we started to the end, so it was clearly working.  I almost have real legs!

I look like a Pony Clubber.  It's okay, they have mirrors.  I see it for myself.  17h gelding + me = legs barely reaching the bottom of the saddle and no where near the thigh roll.  All the stretching in the world isn't going to help with that.

The new trainer is dressage focused, but there's an eventing trainer around as well.  I'm going to start in the dressage area and see what happens.  Right now, I just want that wonderful eau de barn smell and to pet the ponies.  Of course I told everyone that I wasn't looking to compete, I'm just looking to get back to riding.  I think I was about half way through my lesson when I was asked if I'd think about competing and I shrugged and went 'well, yeah, I would probably show again, with the right horse'.

I have a serious problem.  I need an intervention.

I have no idea what's going to happen next, but it's past time that horses were part of my life again.  Dressage, eventing, maybe even endurance or the hunters.  Maybe all of them. Right now I just want the joy back.