Friday, July 10, 2009

Sixth Lesson with Christine

Last night was my sixth lesson with Christine and I'm sorry to say that it didn't really go all that well. Not Christine's fault. I was just having a bad day. My depression and anxiety had been acting up and manifesting themselves physically in the form of headaches, slight nausea and severe lethargy. I almost called and canceled the lesson, but I didn't want the depression to win. My husband, Foxfire, was a champ and forewent staying home and riding his horse to make sure that I made it to the lesson okay. I am so lucky to have him.

Anyway, when I got to Christine's I decided to ride Meshack again. I'd actually been thinking of giving Will a try outside of the round pen, but because I was feeling so bad, I figured it was best to stick with the horse that I'd ridden the most. Things started out okay. We did some work on downward transitions walk/halt and trot/walk and even trot/halt. That went well enough though admittedly I was still feeling sort of out of sorts. We also worked on training Meshack to respond to lighter cues. I'd give a very light cue the first time I asked and if he didn't immediately go, I'd give him a very firm cue. By about halfway through the lesson he was actually responding appropriately to the light cues. So that was good.

While we were working on getting him to respond to lighter cues, we were also working getting him to give me a bigger more forward trot. Christine said that although Meshack is pretty lazy to begin with, that I'd been letting him get away with being even lazier than usual by not demanding a more energetic trot. So I would ask for a trot nicely, and if I didn't get a nice big forward trot, I would kick and cluck until he gave me one. Here is where me feeling bad made more of a difference. I would get the bigger trot, but because I was feeling out of sorts, I don't think I rode it very well. I felt just a little off balance and simply didn't feel as good about my riding as I had been feeling. This led to the worst problem of the night.

When we got to the cantering part of the lesson, it was rather a disaster. I'm pretty sure that it was almost all my fault, though Christine said that Meshack was testing me and that that was the problem. I don't know. I just don't feel really good about how things went. I would ask for the canter... and ask... and ask... and Meshack just wouldn't canter. In retrospect, I'm sure that I wasn't asking properly. And that Meshack could tell that I was a little off balance and unsure, and that he didn't want to canter with me like that. Anyway, he did eventually canter and once he was cantering things went well enough. Not great, I didn't feel like I was doing as well as last week, but not abysmal. We tried cantering a few more times and each time, it was extremely difficult to get Meshack to canter. However, I did eventually get a gallop.

It wasn't intentional, of course. I was trotting Meshack on the side of the arena near the driveway, asking for canter and not getting it, when suddenly he bounded into a flat out gallop. A car had turned into the driveway and spooked him. I didn't know about the car until later, I was too busy losing my stirrups and adjusting to this surprising new gait. Fortunately, or maybe not so fortunately, I've had a number of horses bolt on me before, so it didn't freak me out. I was, of course, startled and scared right at first. But as soon as I realized that all he was doing was running away, not bucking or anything, I wasn't really that scared. I managed to turn him to keep him in the arena, shortened my reins, sat deep and pulled him down to a halt in the center of the arena near where Christine and Foxfire were standing. I think Christine said something about me handling the spook well, but I'm not really sure. The adrenaline was still pumping and I was still recovering from the excitement. However, I think she was complimentary. I'm just glad that I stayed on and managed to get control back.

After that, we decided not to try for any more canter and I must say, I was relieved. I had not been doing well with the canter and was perfectly satisfied to leave it for another day when hopefully, I'd be feeling better. So we did trot poles for the rest of the lesson. Doing the trot poles actually went pretty well. My first time over was a bit awkward, but after that each attempt went a little better than the previous one... for the most part. During this time I was also trying to keep my knees turned in, rather than letting them turn out the way they do naturally. I don't think that I was very successful with keeping them turned in, because each time I returned my attention to them, they had turned out again. However, I was making progress with the trot poles. Near the end, I think I finally got the rhythm right. I just had to slow waaaaaay down on my posting. I think there was one time when I was actually completely in sync with Meshack. That was really nice.

Once we finished with the trot poles, I took my feet out of the stirrups and just walked around for a bit letting the kinks out of my knees and letting Meshack cool down. I'm afraid that I don't feel really good about this lesson. I know that I didn't do my best. But I suppose that I have to accept that I did the best that I could for that day. Oh well.

BTW, I noticed that I had forgotten to include something that Christine told me during my last lesson in that lesson's post. I have apparently been putting my feet too far forward in my stirrups. I had been placing my foot so that the ball of my foot was centered over the iron. You're supposed to just have the front of the ball of your foot on the iron, so the iron is sort of between the ball of your foot and the base of your toes. That placement allows you to get your heels down more easily and also makes it less likely that your foot will slip forward into the irons rather than safely out of them. I think that I fixed that during this lesson. At least during the spook my feet did slide out of the stirrups and not into them, which suggests that I got it right.

Oh... and Foxfire did take pictures, but I haven't even looked at them yet. Once I do, I'll post the more interesting ones.

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