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Riding, Roman

[Riding] Rodeo Roman Returns, and Experimenting on Everclever

Well, this week was the first week of my new riding schedule... my usual Thursday time, AND riding Friday evening as well. Whew! So I'll cover both, before I dash for about 7 million errands. (And yes, I'm calling Ladd by his registered/show name, Everclever, in the subject line for purposes of my silly alliterative titles.)

Thursday I was on good old Roman. My classmate was sick, so I had a solo lesson. This meant it was time to focus on every minute detail of my riding. So the first half of the lesson was detail flatwork.

I rode circles of varying sizes at varying speeds, and needed to be precise about it. A fast walk, a small circle... a slow walk, a big circle... a fast trot, a figure eight, and so on. The main thing I found I needed to work on was my hands, still; my hand position is not ideal. I no longer get told to keep my weight in my heels, but now it's my hands. (It's always something!) My wrists are a little bent, my hands tending to be pointing inwards, and not quite as forward and low as they should be. So that's what I mostly worked on.

Roman found the entire thing phenomenally boring. But I was so focused on doing the precise speeds that I didn't really have my usual 'who's in charge' argument with Roman over 'I don't care if this is boring, you need to do it.' So I was carrying my dressage whip (lovely new dressage whip), but did not use it even once in the first half. This would prove to come back to bite me in the second half of the lesson.

The second half of the lesson was cantering practice. My cantering position is improving -- at least on Roman -- but it's still a trick to get Roman up to a canter at times. And this was one of those times; as I hadn't used the whip even once, and so we hadn't had the usual argument, Roman felt he could get away with just trotting instead of cantering. I did get a canter out of him, but then he kept stopping and dropping to the trot in one corner. Did finally get a decent trot out of him to the right, then we went to the left.

Now, left is Roman's stiffer direction. It's always harder to get him to canter to the left. And after several frustrating very-quick-trot laps of Roman refusing to go to the canter, the instructor reminded me to tap him with the whip. I did.

Roman did not like this. At all. He bucked, and took off at the canter like a bat out of hell... but after the experience two weeks ago, I half-expected it... and I stayed on. We did about half of a lap at the insane canter before I dropped him to a trot, but having had the argument, Roman now agreed that I was in charge; the rest of the lesson, we had very smooth canter transitions, as he went -- properly -- when I asked.

Afterwards, there was a lot of horsie-cuddling, I groomed him and gave him his coat treatment, sprayed his hooves with bleach-water to prevent recurrence of thrush, put him away, cleaned all his tack and fed all the usual suspects. My instructor suggested I take a hot soak since I was going to be riding the next day, too, but I got home and had too much to do before bed... so I didn't. I /did/ toss my riding breeches in the wash, though.

Friday after work, I changed into riding gear and headed back. I found out that on Friday I have three classmates, who seem to be at about the same level as I am. I also discovered that I was on Ladd, as my instructor felt that having me on Roman two days in a row the first time I ever rode more than once in a week would be unfair to me (in terms of my ability to walk on the weekend), and unfair to Roman (inasmuch as after riding him for my first twice-in-a-row, he might've lost my 'favorite horse in the world' title). :)

Now, Ladd and I have not entirely been a good match in the past. He's an excellent horse -- the best of the horses owned by the school (instead of boarded for use as lesson horses) -- but very different from Roman. Still, I was more than willing to give him another try. He did his usual game of 'try to eat the cross ties, nip at the person grooming me, refuse to take the bit,' but I got him groomed, saddled and bridled in time. Then, of course, Ladd pulled his new trick of 'I'm not going to go to the mounting block,' and his other new trick of 'fine, you got me to the mounting block, now I'm going to walk away.'

I /am/ assured he's one of the best horses in the stable, even if he's even more of a brat than Roman in terms of his ground manners.

The other students were on Coalby, Ali and Derby. Coalby in particular has been mentioned in many previous posts, being the lovely black Arabian rescue mare who I always visit and feed. Derby has also been mentioned. Ali has never been mentioned, though; Ali is quite a large horse, whose breeding is unknown but appears to be part warmblood (probably Dutch Warmblood) and part quarter horse, with a paint coat. She's quite striking, but enormous.

Once we got into the ring, we all found out we were pretty much going to have a free ride session, to work on whatever we wanted. She'd laid out trotting poles in various parts of the arena, and so we mostly all worked at the trot at first. Some did precision walking... I tried a bit of walking without stirrups and steering entirely by leg cues, and also tried riding circles at two-point. Even just in the weeks since I was last on Ladd, I found that my seat had improved. Unfortunately, the problem I had with Ladd before -- my stirrups sliding too far forward, because I'm used to my chunky Roman and the somewhat rotund Banjo -- is still present, and still problematic.

At the end, she had us all cantering. That was interesting, with four horses cantering around. There were no accidents or even particularly close calls, but I've never cantered in a group before, so I found I had to be more aware of those around me. The stirrups sliding too far forward were still a problem for me, but after the Roman bucking experience the day before, I had much less trouble feeling secure in my seat. In addition, my seat and leg position must've improved, because Ladd was much more responsive, and I had no trouble making him transition smoothly to the canter, nor even making him stay at the canter. (We cantered five laps without slowing down, at one point, before I changed to go in smaller circles and canter across the poles.)

We changed direction, cantered a bit more, but about 2 minutes from the end of the lesson, my left leg cramped up. (Not unexpected, since this is my first time riding twice in a row, and we'd spent more time cantering to the right -- thus, my left leg was the one in the slightly tenser position.) One of the other students had also been cramping and had gone into the center a few minutes before; I dropped to a trot, pulled off the rail and then walked into the center. The other two continued to ride, and would've probably kept riding way past the end of the lesson if allowed to. The instructor mocked us, going, "Oh, sure, when I MAKE you ride right to the end of the lesson, you say I'm being cruel and you're exhausted. When I tell you stop whenever, you keep riding!"

She did note that she'd given us a mostly free-choice ride because she felt all of us would be renewed by it, and she was right. Everyone was grinning by the end, and we all groomed our horses, took off the tack, and then took them outside to graze. Then cleaning tack, feeding horses (Coalby was thrilled to get both the treats I usually give her /and/ treats from her rider), and off home again. At home, I took a niiiiice long soak, and slept like a log.

All the stress poisons from a ton of work lately, all the burnout and exhaustion and all... for all that I'm sore and all today, I still feel really, really renewed. :)

And now, off to errands!
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*smile* sounds like it's a good thing that you've gone to two-a-week...

Just to confirm what I think you already figured out: You've come a long way since taking up with your 1200lb therapists... and it's good to see.