Saturday, October 11, 2008

Clipper back story

Ok, I got caught up on everybody's horsey doings. My heart goes out to dp! I can't imagine anything as scary as having your horse get hung in her rain sheet like that. Honestly, I just can't quite get behind the idea of horse clothes. I agree that in the northwest with all that rain you really do need rain sheets, but the rest of it? Ehhh. Spend a lot of money on clothes for your horse, which he'll lose in the bushes asap or will snag on something and injure him.

But that's not the point! The point is I am going to tell you about last week's death-defying ride on Clipper before I go have another one tomorrow.

Last Sunday was another really amazing lesson. I am learning SO much! I can't explain it to non horse people so I don't even try. They get all confused because I clearly already know how to ride so why am I taking riding lessons? Well, I'm taking lessons cause I've been doin' it wrong. I don't have a lot of terrible habits per se, but there's definitely a lot of room for fundamental improvement.

We walked and circled and talked about I don't know what, then we started trotting. Hardy immediately focused on my knees and toes. He's been telling me to turn my toes in and grip with my knees, but I honestly never understood it til last week. Aren't you supposed to not grip with your knees, so you don't squeeze yourself out of that deep balanced seat? Apparently I have been going to the other extreme this whole time.

I've spent all week thinking about it, and I am pretty sure I spent two years riding by balance alone. The stirrups were there for me to plant a foot in if I lost my balance, but otherwise - I just balanced. Doin' it wrong.

Anyway, I was trotting in a circle and Hardy said "squeeze with your knees and turn your toes in" (like he's been saying every single lesson) and I finally heard him. I kinda rotated my legs in and gripped with my thighs. All of a sudden my toes went straight ahead and I was actually posting without pushing off the stirrups. It didn't last long, a couple strides, then I lost the curve and Clipper sputtered back down to a walk, but the lightbulb had gone on.

Seriously. I was always so puzzled by articles I'd read online about "posting without stirrups." I was especially baffled when Stacey started yapping about how she was doing all this schooling and trail riding without stirrups. Well, now I know - you use your thighs to help you cling like a monkey.

Back to Clipper. We were still working on trotting circles (which is way more fun that I thought it would be). Trot a few circles, walk and critique, trot, walk, pick up the reins and squeeze with my calves, ENORMOUS CANTER DEPART. I briefly thought about grabbing rein, decided that was certain death, said "nnnngh, TROT" and sat down deep and just like that we were back in a trot. I trotted one circle then halted and started laughing. It was like everything went horribly wrong then I actually did stuff right and got a nice downward transition and a beautiful circle and I posted it perfectly. Total roller coaster.

We stopped and talked about it. I asked Hardy if I'd done something wrong or if Clipper was hurting in some way I couldn't see, cause in my prior experience horses usually only take off when they're in pain. Hardy said no, Clipper was fine and maybe just ready to run cause he hadn't gotten turned out lately? (Remember he's allergic to trees or pollen or something and can't go out every day.) So the horse wasn't hurting, I wasn't too freaked out, and we did it again.

And he took off again. That time I was quite sure I was dead. About to die. It's been fun, see ya in the next life. I lost my inside stirrup AND my balance (because I had just figured out the whole thigh thing and my muscle memory still "needs" stirrups to save me) so I flung myself forward and grabbed a bunch of mane AND dropped the goddamn outside rein. Every single stride I thought the same series of thoughts:

Jesus no stirrup no balance horse very angry. Oh god gonna die.
Shut up, you pussy, look how soft and fluffy that arena dirt is. And you're not dead yet. Talk to the horse.
"Woaaaah Clipper easy baby easy boy trot please."
Ok that didn't work sit back you fucking idiot sit back and he'll slow down!

Then I'd try to sit back, realize I had no stirrup and if I wrapped my calves around him for balance he'd really lose his mind, and start thinking about how I was about to die again.

This went on forever. Probably 3 or 4 laps. Of course Hardy was talking to both of us, trying to get me to sit back and Clipper to ignore the crazy monster on his back and trot. We spiraled in a bit closer to Hardy and slowed down a bit. Hardy told me to pick up on my inside rein and I somewhat hysterically informed him that I had no inside rein and he said "Yes you do!" I moved my inside hand and lo and behold there was a rein in it and Clipper dropped to a walk and stopped.

But you know what? I didn't fall off and I didn't freak Clipper out so badly he crashed into the fence or tripped or anything. I wasn't actually going to die even if I did fall off - I had my stupid helmet on and it truly is lovely fluffy dirt, no rocks or tree branches or anything. And you know what's even cooler? As I was writing this up, I realized what I'd done wrong.

You experienced dressage riders are going to DIE laughing at me.

I asked the fucking horse for a fucking canter depart so he cantered. Both times.

Yep. Hardy didn't know, cause he couldn't see my outside leg, but it was definitely behind the girth. I was thinking "ok you start trotting and I'll use my outside leg to contain you while the inside rein leads you and blah blah blah" but Clipper heard "ok canter." So he did.

So that's the story of my TWO lightbulb moments, one last Sunday and one today.


  1. Thanks for the sympathy. I kinda hate horse clothing, but we kinda need it as well. Rain sheets are essential, especially when you don't have a shelter. Raven would not have made it through the summer without a fly sheet. Le sigh.

    Sounds like you are learning some good lessons while not dying. I often drop my stirrups when I ride because I am just more comfortable without them. My trainer used to make us ride without stirrups for weeks at a time. You would go to tack up and find them not on your saddle, only to reappear once she felt you had corrected your dependency. Twisted psychologically, but good physical training.

    And no, I'm not laughing. How would you know that if you never knew that? Good on you for pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

  2. I do love your dialogue, however I suspect that it does you a dis-service because you are moving forward and learning good lessons and meanwhile not falling off or dying.

    The phrase "f***ing horse" is a common one in our barn too. Sometimes they do ask for it. Occasionally they get their revenge too. Like today, when Doru stands very relaxed and I say: "Doru, not only is your dick right out, but it's really scurfy", and he just glances in a way that makes me look around and see that the stable girls are ready to laugh at me.

  3. dp, I've been thinking about what you said all week, in the back of my mind. I've heard other former students say "Yeah my instructor used to make us ride without stirrups" but... wow, it wasn't until this week that I really understood it. Like explaining swimming to someone who's never seen more water than a bathtub.

    Heh, thanks WHP - I do write these things up to sound funny (cause I know yall don't come here for my training tips or anything!) but honestly, that train of thought was exactly what went through my head. I suspect my whole life is rather bizarre. But I am what I am!


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