Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Regaining My Confidence

As many of you know, a couple of years ago I was involved in a "wreck" on an ever-green, mare that I owned at the time, Parlay.

We had just finished a large group playdate and were resting with a slack rope rein. I was riding in an English saddle. Parlay swung her head at a bug and the rope rein wrapped around my left ankle - tying it to the stirrup. You wouldn't have thought that this would be a big issue since we had practiced lateral flexion, but she freaked out (or had a tantrum?) and bucked until I came off and got dragged. The ambulance came and, luckily, I only had 3 broken ribs.

This was the first time that I'd come off of a horse in 20 years. I'm pretty safety conscious and sensitive my mount's mood, so this really shook me up. My fear manifested as a fear of being bucked off. Since then, using the "blue Level 2" pack and Stephanie Burns' book, Move Closer, Stay Longer, I've gotten much more confident. However, I still find myself reluctant to casually ride around my fields. (Weirdly, I'm fine on the trail).

Now that Guinness is a three-year-old, it is increasingly important that I let go of the tension in my body as I ride. I don't want to give him "Go/Stop" conflicting aids because of my apprehension. Another issue is that the horse that I owned in high school would occasionally run away with me, and so I've been historically reluctant to canter. I get tense and pop myself out of the saddle which makes me feel insecure. Plus, the gaited horses that I've had frankly suck at cantering since they are so heavy on the forehand and awkward in the transition into it, that I haven't practiced much. Guinness, however, has demonstrated a floating, slow-motion canter in the field..

Happily, I've found the antidote!

Tonight, I enrolled in 6 practice riding sessions (aka, group lessons) with an open-minded, but non-natural, trainer at a local stable with a lighted indoor arena. There are two other ladies in my class, and one of them also has her own horses in her backyard. She is interested in PNH and may come with me to the Parelli Play Group meeting tomorrow night. :-)

When I arrived at the barn, a teeny little (5 year old?) girl named Clare was riding an Arab/QH gelding using a side-pull. When her lesson was up, the horse, Doc, was assigned to me. Even I had to admit that if that little girl could ride him safely, so could I.

I tacked him up with my bareback pad and off we went. After a few minutes of rewarding the slightest try, he would stop from a halt (or at least think about it), drop his nose, back, trot and even attempt sideways. What a champ! And the biggest blessing was that I didn't have to nag him at all. I just smiled with my "cheeks" and then smooched. The few times that he didn't respond, I spanked myself with my handy-dandy savvy string. He got the idea quickly.

I trotted and cantered (!) for the entire hour. It was a BLAST. I can't wait for next week to try for a more relaxed, rhythmic canter. My trainer is being very helpful about giving me tips on how to open my hips, and to relax and bring my legs back a bit (when cantering, I appear to be bracing in my stirrups even w/o using stirrups). We are going to add patterns, obstacles and jumps in the next few sessions.

After my 6 sessions at the stable, I'm planning to practice ride my L4 friend's levels horse under her tutelage. Horses teach people and I'm extremely grateful for her generous offer. After that, I'll begin to prepare Guinness in earnest for our clinics this spring!

I can't wait to canter again!! :-))

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