I headed out after work yesterday to the Sulky Horse's house and visited with his owner. She took me out to the barn, had me grab her boy and start grooming. He was SHEDDING! I had forgotten how absolutely covered in hair they get when they're not blanketed. I mean, I should know better, but I can't even recall Moon having that much hair shedding last spring. Seriously. I can't. This spring, he's nearly naked. Which amazes me even more since a lot of the other horses at the barn are shedding by the handful. Moon's seems more moderated, a little bit constantly, but never masses.
Needless, we cleaned him up and she asked me "English or Western?" I went English and she pulled out a gorgeous old Stubben. LOVE. Other then the fact it wasn't "my saddle" and therefore felt strange. And I felt like my legs kept slipping forward...
Then she asked me an interesting question while deciding what to let me do with him.
She said "How long have you been riding?"
THAT is my most hated question. And I've had a couple people recently ask me the same thing.
My gut response is "Not that long". The people who know me, accuse me of being a little short on confidence. I'm not. I'm very confident in what I know. But confident enough in knowing what I know, that I know what I don't know. And that's a lot!
I haven't been riding since I was in diapers like some kids. You show me a mid-30's rider who's been riding since before they could walk, and I'm gonna say "You've been riding for a long time".
Me, not so long.
When she asked me, I suddenly realised it's been 10 years since my first lesson. And the first time I learned how to tack a horse, the first time I learned to steer and ride. Something other then a nose-to-tail trail ride. 10 years.
10 years is NOT a long time. A 10 year old is a child. 10 years is barely a decade. 10 years isn't even a mortgage. It's almost a 1/3rd of my life, which is nothing.
And I didn't ride continuously since that time. It's been on and off, with more off then on.
How do we know if we've been riding long enough to consider ourselves "good enough" riders? I don't think I'm good enough. Ever. I try my very best to guide, train and care for Moon, but there's so much I don't know. So much to improve. My toes still turn out. Sometimes I throw away contact. I brace when I get frustrated. I didn't even know how to vaccinate in the pectoral muscles! But every day, every ride, every lesson, every injury, every conversation with horse-folk, I learn a little more.
When I told Sulky's mom "For a bit", she seemed a little unsure. Like maybe I should be on a lead line or something. But she also trusted her beautiful horse, a 7 year old Arabian gelding who was as sweet as fresh cream.
Off in the ring I started warming him up with lots of walking and serpentines and just getting used to him. It was Weird with a capital W. He was SO much narrower then my Moon and just a little taller. Which meant my whole body position felt different. His owner had adjusted the stirrups for me and they were set at my jumping length (and we all know how well I jump) and not near what I'm use to after 8 months of dressage. After a little while I lengthened them two holes and suddenly felt WAY more comfortable. Took him into some trot transitions and was LOVING it. He's a totally sweet boy and has WAY more hind end action then Moon. Very animated and it was interesting to find the right posting rhythm. I felt like a bit of a knob at first, being so unfamiliar with riding a different horse. I was starting to feel like I must look like a total greenie despite my best efforts when she called out "You have a lovely seat! You're one of those riders who's built for great equitation and always looks right in the saddle."
I thought she'd gone mental.
After a bunch of trotting and changes in direction, she called out "He's way more comfortable with you. Normally his head is really high, but you have such soft hands that he's much more relaxed then with others".
My confidence exploded just a little. I might not have the best equitation, I might not have been riding the longest, but I aim and desire to be light and soft with the bit. And it was good to know it was visible.
I did very quickly discovered how heavily I rely on Moon's lateral work. I often think he's resistant to moving laterally and think he's got a pretty crummy response. But Sulky-horse was a greenie and lot less responsive to lateral leg cues then I'm used to (he's been on pasture for 4 months following his owner's injury...so while he's had some great training as a green pony, he's a little out of practice. Can't fault him for it! Or her!). So suddenly I was finding it very difficult to stay on the rail and being so cautious with my hands, I struggled to keep him there. I often felt like I was dragging him over with my outside rein, as my inside-leg-to-outside-hand method just didn't get the response I'd be hoping for.
I also discovered that I have a tendency to sit the trot when I'm trying to give more direct cues. So if I wanted him to move over to the rail, I'd stop posting, sit the trot and try to direct him over with my seat and legs. For him, not being used to anyone sitting the trot in an english saddle, he thought I wanted a downward transition. Which was kinda amusing, because *my* automatic behaviour was actually causing the exact opposite response then what I wanted! Interesting! It was great to work on my aids without sinking down into the saddle.
We got one nice canter transition and made it through two corners before I brought him back to a walk. His owner thought he'd petered out on his own, but I assured her it was my doing since she had professed he didn't do corners well and we'd just successfully navigated two AND stayed almost on the rail for them. On the correct diagonal! Boy, I wish I could do that with Moon!
Of course, after that it went all downhill. She assures me that it's because he was tired, but I think he was testing me and I'm not A. A hard kicker with my skinny legs and wimpy paddock boots and B. Going to smack, whip or kick someone else's horse hard. Tired or not.
We got a couple attempts at canter transitions going the other way and then he was huffing and trying to bite my boot. Poor tired boy. It was pretty hot out and since he's been relaxing in a field for awhile, who can blame him for being a little lazy.
He did have a GORGEOUS canter when he gave it to me, and I could have taken that home!
For a young green horse, he was ridiculously well behaved and a total gentleman. I mean, kind, sweet and easy going horse. Not a buck in him and I swear anyone could ride him without falling off. Spectacular. I love personalities and he has a fine one. Which meant I wasn't at all surprised to hear about his struggling past, growing up a sickly little foal who was off for the rainbow bridge before his owner scooped him up. She could've had any horse on the breeding farm, but she loved the build and personality of this little guy. He is NOT what you'd think of for a "traditional" arab. I think she said he was a "Polish" Arabian?? Something like that. His face isn't so dish-y as others (you know, the arabians with the really curvy heads) and he's actually over 15 hh. Nice solid bum, skinny but not scrawny.
(Left, a "dished" faced Arabian. Right, a "Polish" Arabian)
It was, a very educational experience. And a ton of fun.
I REALLY am looking forward to getting on Moon this evening, checking out our progress on keeping the head low and coming over the back, and just working some more on our lateral work. He is such a different horse from Sulky, but amazing in his own right. There's nothing dainty or delicate about him! And I'm feeling a huge confidence boost about A. My apparent equitation (the Sulky horse owner has shown in the Nationals I think....and been riding since she was in diapers...though she's apparently didn't see my toes pointing out...), and B. Not falling off someone else's horse!
It looks like I might be able to make both the Narcisse Trail Ride AND the Trix English Clinic at the end of the month irrespective of my trailer repairs. I seriously have THE BEST horse mom. I'm hoping like CRAZY that she's able to switch shifts and join me, as I miss like crazy riding with her. And I REALLY think she deserves and needs a good trail ride with the kids!!! : )
So, overall in the "horse world" I'm nearly giddy! And tonight, if this nice weather has dried up the parking lot at W's....maybe...I'll be able to pull out my tack box and clean it!!! : O FINALLY get the new bins over to H's! AND, I think I'll turn my tack box into my show trunk since it's lockable. I'm going to see if I can squeeze a saddle in there which would be perfect...
Lastly, Sulky-Owner just emailed me to invite me to come line-drive and sulky-hitch-and-drive her horse! How cool is that?! Did I ever mention I'm a horse addict and hoar?? ; )