Monday, June 1, 2009

My First Lesson with Christine

Well... Due to my other activities this weekend, it's been several days since my lesson, so I'll start out by saying that I'm not entirely sure how much I'm going to remember or how accurately. But I'll do my best.

I arrived a little early for my lesson, and Christine was finishing up a training session with a young mare. She said that she would just be a few more minutes. I watched for a while, then went over to the fence where her lesson horses were kept and petted Meshack(sp?) through the fence. He's the little gray arab I mentioned in the previous post. And I mean LITTLE. He's only 14.1 hands. She told me that I could go ahead and get him out. So I did. I brought him over to where she was leading the mare to be untacked, and she untacked while I started grooming Meshack. She did his feet since I'm still rather scared of dealing with horse's feet and I'd only just met Meshack. (When I was in junior high, a friend of mine was killed by being kicked in the head by a horse.) However, Christine told me that as I became familiar with her horses that I would have to do it myself. No real surprise there. I know that it's something that I need to deal with. Meshack's regular saddle is a 17" Wintec Isabell which is rather fortunate for me. I would be a bit more comfortable in a 17.5", but it's still a saddle that I really like.

Once Meshack was tacked up, I led him over to the mounting block and mounted. After adjusting the stirrups a little longer, she grabbed my legs and PUT them where they are supposed to go. I found it a little disconcerting when she did it. But after getting over my initial surprise, I appreciated knowing exactly where my legs were supposed to be, and having the physical sensation of them being there to help me remember where to hold them in the future. Then she spent about 5 - 10 minutes talking to me about proper positioning and how we really should be controlling our horse's basic movements with our seat and legs. That the reins are more useful if you can save them to give more varied and subtle commands. This made a lot of sense to me. And I was glad that I was going to be learning more about directing the horse with my seat. It was something that I'd been wanting to work more on ever since my friend, JJ, had explained some of it to me. Meshack was very patient and stood quietly through all of this talk.

After, she finished the lecture part of the lesson, Christine told me to bring Mesack into the arena and just walk in circles around her. She told me to get him to move in circles by turning my shoulders in the direction that I wanted to go and by putting more weight in my inside stirrup. It worked like a charm. I didn't have to use my reins at all to direct him. And he was very responsive to the amount of weight that I would put in my inside stirrup. The more weight, the tighter the turn. We worked on spiraling into a smaller circle, then spiraling back out to a larger circle for a while. I would occasionally have trouble with where my shoulders were facing. I kept wanting to keep them straight rather than turning them in when I was spiraling in. Spiraling out was easier because I really wasn't turning them out, more just straightening them to allow the circle to become bigger.

Then we worked on halting using just our seat. I'd worked on this before with The Oracle, the trainer who comes up from Mexico every few months, but I still needed work on it. Christine explained it a little differently than The Oracle had. (Don't ask me for exactly how her explanation was different, I'm afraid I don't remember.) I seemed to understand Christine's explanation a little better because I was able to stop Meshack with my seat fairly consistently.

Christine then asked me to do some circles in a "rising trot". I'd never heard of a "rising trot", so I asked if a "rising trot" was the same as a "posting trot". And apparently they are just different terms for the same thing. So I did a couple of circles at the posting trot and worked on asking for a downward transition into a walk using just my seat. We only did this maybe twice and she didn't say much. So either I was getting it right, or I was so awful that she just couldn't think of anything to say. Meshack was dropping into a walk when I asked, so I hope that I was getting it right.

She then asked me to do circles at sitting trot. Now I had worked on sitting trot a few times before, back when I was still riding Cash. But I had never really gotten the hang of it back then, and I haven't worked on it since. But I gave it a try. Fortunately, Meshack's trot isn't huge, so although I felt like I was bouncing around all over the place, Christine didn't mention anything about my ability to sit the trot, she just had me working on asking for a downward transition with my seat. This time, Meshack wasn't immediately dropping into a walk when I asked. Probably because I was too busy bouncing around to ask properly. He would transition down, but it took some time. At this point, Christine said that I was "whispering" the cue to slow down, rather than clearly stating it. So even though Meshack was willing to listen to my "whisper", I still need to work on being firmer and/or clearer when giving that cue. I tried several times more to get it right. Then, out of frustration, I finally asked how keep from bouncing around so much when sitting the trot. Christine was surprised that I didn't already know how to sit the trot. Then said that I had actually been doing well at it for not knowing how to do it. We immediately stopped working at downward transitions from the sitting trot and went back to stopping from the walk. We did that for a little longer, then it was the end of the lesson.

Christine said that my next lesson will probably be a longe lesson where we will work on the sitting trot. Not much of a surprise. And that we will use her other lesson horse (whose name I can't remember) because he is better at giving longe lessons than Meshack. I'm actually looking forward to my next lesson.

BTW, for those of you who don't already know, I suffer from a fairly extreme anxiety disorder with depression on the side. (Foxfire actually left work early so that he could be at my first lesson to give me moral support. He's such a GOOD husband!) I'd told Christine about it and she wasn't bothered by it. I don't know if she treated me any differently than she treats her other students, but although I was extremely nervous when we first started the lesson(I actually tried to put my half chaps on the wrong legs), I was considerably calmer by the time we finished. So the fact that I'm actually looking forward to taking another lesson is a real testament to her ability to work with me and all of my emotional problems. I am very glad that I found her and that she is willing to teach me. I hope to take many more lessons from her.

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