Monday, November 17, 2008

What just happened?

I'm going to Ohio to help Graham move back on Wednesday, so I'm trying to get my "practice" riding in early this week. I took Champ on a big long meandering ride through the woods. We trotted a bit at first, and then I decided I'd concentrate on keeping my legs in the right spot. Heels down, toes straight, legs back.

It still feels totally wrong. Getting my toes pointed straight ahead feels like I'm riding pigeon-toed. Keeping my heels down isn't hard, but keeping them back under my hips makes me feel like I am about to poke my horse in the flanks. But I kept at it - I wrapped my calves gently around Champ and enjoyed the scenery and kept checking heels, toes, legs.

We wandered off into the trees on an old trail we take sometimes, and I wasn't really thinking about much - looking around at all the new stuff I can see now that the leaves are coming down, and watching the dog, and being really happy that I have such a sensible barefoot horse and he doesn't slip. There's a lot of little ravines in the woods, with steep 45-degree slopes. They're all fairly short, maybe 10 feet at the longest, and I just trust my horse. I point him at an obstacle and sit calmly and if he balks, it's cause he can't do it. He didn't balk at all today.

Then I kinda noticed that Champ was doing something odd. He rarely balks at these little hills, but he usually rushes them. He'll start down slow but then speed up on his way down, or he'll want to surge up a hill.

He wasn't doing that.

He was calmly slowly picking his way down the hills, and calmly slowly hauling us up them. There was one little hill that even I wasn't sure about, and he kind of sat back on his haunches and slipped down a few feet then kept walking.

I had about 25% of my brain on autopilot, checking my heels-toes-legs, and about 25% was just checked out, watching trees and stuff, and the unoccupied part of my brain finally started to wonder if, maybe, my legs were helping him. Maybe even though I felt like my toes were about to jab his ribs and my calves were nestled in his loin, maybe I was actually balanced right and he didn't have to rush us around before we fell?

Then we got out of the really woody part, onto the wide trails in the woods, and I noticed something else really strange.

Champ's head was down. Not rolling peanuts, but definitely... level. He's never carried his head level while I was riding him before. I never thought that was odd, either, he's a TWH (loathe though he is to act like one) and they have high heads, period.

Then we stopped at a (clean) puddle and he dropped his head all the way and drank.

I decided he was about to die. He was in fact just dragging along on his last legs, trying patiently to haul me back to the truck before shuffling off his mortal coil. My horse has NEVER, EVER, stopped to drink on the trail. I always offer, when it's a long ride or a hot day, but he's never wanted to before. Head low + drinking = dying.

He perked his head up, alert but still rather calm, as Cersei came crashing out of the trees. Maybe he's not dying?

We meandered back to the field. He stopped to drink twice more. He walked quietly with his head level, but his ears were perky - not pissed off or hurting. We stopped at his favorite spot to graze (the wide grassy trail where he ran over Cersei) and I let him graze for a long, long time. And I kicked my feet out of the stirrups. And eventually we rode the rest of the way back to the field, and I didn't put my feet back in. It doesn't feel natural to hold my legs like that yet, but it certainly feels right. I felt balanced.

I feel like a kid who finally got her balance on a bicycle and screwed up the nerve to take her hands off the handlebars and didn't fall off and she's flyyyyying.


  1. What a wonderful post! That was a great read and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm jealous. I need to get comfortable enough on the trails to be able to work on my riding. Then again, it's hard to do anything since I constantly have to concentrate on keeping him going straight.

    Btw, did you see the email I sent you a few weeks back full of pictures of the park I ride in?

  2. Sounds great! When I got the horses I had no intention of getting back into serious riding, but I still hear Carol's voice in my head ALL OF THE TIME on the trails. Regardless of your intentions a balanced seat is more comfortable for your horse (and it gets easier).

  3. That sounds wonderful!
    I do think it felt that way for Champ too by the relaxed position he took!

    My sister taught me to periodically"Play the Piano" with my keep my ankles from being rigid...and also stand up and slide down into the saddle next to the pommel.
    while posting,
    change diaganal on the up -every so often, as if you are unable are behind your leg. And release your calf towards the flank as you sit the post..keeps them loose and underyou.
    I do these out on the trail always too...Wa has responded nicely.

    You sound great and getting better all the time!

  4. Thank you guys! It was a pretty awesome day, it really was :) I'm still smiling thinking about it.

    I had a bit of a non horse related Paige-aster today, but I'm not gonna post it til I come back, cause, well, you'll see. It was an epic Funder moment.

  5. <3 I love when things go right!

    Also, a trick I learned from some classical riding--don't push your heels down; it occasionally leads to a chair seat. Push down with your thighs, and let your ankles bend to allow the heel to drop. If you cram them down, it'll lock up your ankle, and then goodbye to the sitting trot and a good canter. :)


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