I just got back from Baltimore, having missed lesson last week due to traveling. I was actually kind of half-dreading the lesson, simply because the only other time I've missed a lesson, Roman really took it out of me the following week. (He gets sullen when I skip, evidently. I'm told that despite all the hassle he gives me, he sulked last Thursday when I wasn't there.) Still, I know that riding is in a lot of ways what keeps me centered and helps me relax -- it's the focus of my week, many times -- and so I set off as usual.
For whatever reason, traffic was freakishly light. I arrived almost 45 minutes early, so Kara put me to work grooming the black Arabian mare, Coalby. Coalby's skittish, but enjoyed the grooming -- except when I had to keep unclipping the cross-ties to let other horses through -- and especially the treat afterwards. It's nice to get to work with the other horses in the stable, even if I'm partnered with a specific one. I do enjoy getting to groom, feed, or turn out others besides Roman; I think getting to work with them and learn their foibles, particular grooming needs and little health quirks helps me to work better with horses in general.
By the time I was done with Coalby, it was time to start getting ready for my lesson. Grabbed my helmet and Roman's tack, and got him out to groom. Right off the bat, I could tell he was in a mood; he wouldn't stand still to be groomed, fussed when I put the tack on, and generally tried to be much more of a brat than usual. My payment for a missed lesson.
Once we got into the ring, though, I tried to be forceful right away and get him going. This proved both to be exhausting for me, but effective overall. Within the first ten minutes, he was trotting how I wanted. There were some steering issues ("Look, I can walk into a corner and stop! Ha ha!"), but far less of Roman's testing than usual. We worked on pacing, on different trots (sitting two, then up for one), and on trotting pole patterns and so on.
And then Kara decided it was time for something new, and told us to try... trotting without stirrups.
The first lap, I felt like I was going to be bounced out of the saddle. After Kara instructed us to loosen our lower back and hips, straighten the shoulders and lean very slightly forward, it was easier; the second lap, I didn't feel quite so much like 'ohmygod I'm gonna end up in the dirt any moment now...' By the third lap, we were feeling reasonably good about things, albeit sore. By the end of the fourth lap, the concern was no longer keeping the horses trotting, it was keeping us from collapsing.
My thighs are NOT going to thank me tomorrow.
To finish off, we picked up the stirrups again, and trotted the ring three times, going over a small jump. Roman enjoyed the jumping, and was exceptionally affectionate during grooming. After I cleaned the tack and put it all away, I sat in his stall and horse-cuddled for a bit. It was really good to get back to the stables; I hadn't realized wholly how much I missed it last week while I was traveling.
On that note, his sheet is starting to look terrible. And since his other rider bought him a new saddle, I'm starting to think I should get a new sheet for him. I'll probably check the tack shop soon, but does anyone know of good brands I should look at?