The Most Painful Lesson

Holy mackerel! A post actually about riding! I don’t think I’ve done one of these in months! Because I haven’t ridden in months!

Yes, what I said in the previous sentence is true. I haven’t ridden since I started my new job, because I don’t have lights at home, and it’s dark all the time. On the weekends, it seems unfair to work the horses when they are so clearly unfit. Although I still would, except I lost my motivation. I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to ride regularly again, and it’s de-motivating.

The best thing to motivate my riding is getting into regular lessons. Lessons inspire me. Since I haven’t taken a lesson since early summer, D’Arcy suggested I come try out her trainer. Why not! I thought. Also D’Arcy made all the arrangements, and that appeals to my lazy side that hates planning anything.

As a side note – I don’t believe trainers own students. Even though I usually take lessons with my beloved trainer, she doesn’t have issues if I take lessons somewhere else, because she doesn’t see it as a personal slight. Because it’s not. This might be different if I was literally keeping my horse at her barn, but since my horses are with me, I like my freedom.


Anyway, so D’Arcy set it all up, and I showed up. For the true lesson experience, Dave dropped me off at the barn, and then my mom showed up later to pick me up, just like a real lesson kid. D’Arcy brought me my tack, and introduced me to Duke.

I am Duke.
I am Duke.

Duke is a super honest but green horse. I liked him a lot. If I had lots of money, and didn’t already have too many horses, I’d seriously consider buying him because I liked him. He reminds me of a giant Pony Man.

We all headed to the indoor, and mounted up.


This is the thought progress of my lesson:

  • Alright, back in the saddle! This will be fun!
  • These stirrups seem really short. Man, I hate having to adjust stirrups, but I can’t ride with them this short.
  • Ahhh, much better. Okay, back to riding.
  • Trotting is kind of painful. It’ll probably go away soon.
  • Omg, cantering is super painful. I should just drop my stirrups.
  • Ahhhh, no stirrups is better. Maybe I should do the rest of the lesson this way.
  • What a stupid idea, I can’t normally do an entire lesson with no stirrups, why would I be able to do it now after two months of not riding?!
  • Okay, I’m putting my stirrups down again. I’m just going to go for the dressage look.
lawl - "Dressage length". Strange things happen to the rider's mind after 2 months of not riding.
“Dressage length”. Strange things happen to the rider’s mind after 2 months of not riding.
  • Instructor says I’m putting too much weight in my seat. This is a serious accusation, I must explain myself several times that my legs hurt. Okay, definitely overdid it, now I just sound like a whiner.
  • My tall boots are also too big, they keep sliding down my leg. I think this is contributing to the “broken ankle” feeling I’m getting.
  • Ankles have now become useless in ride.
  • Okay, warm up jump! Show them you aren’t a moron. It’s only a few seconds of pain, struggle through!
Incorporating what I learned from my defensive driving class into my riding.
Incorporating what I learned from my defensive driving class into my riding.
  • Okay, now a full course. Resisting urge to break down and cry. Mumble that ankles hurt, quietly enough so they hear, but doesn’t seem like I’m trying to complain.
I think the entire course was focused on keeping weight off my ankles. It's a radical new riding technique.
I think the entire course was focused on keeping weight off my ankles. It’s a radical new riding technique.
  • The messiest course ever. Luckily riding a gem of a horse who continues to carry me. Wondering slightly why they allow me to keep riding when I’m clearly broken and pathetic, but also grateful they let me keep riding.
  • Stopping to watch other students do the course is the best. It means I can rest my trembling, broken ankles. They basically can’t hold any weight at this point, I’m trying to compensate by clinging with my legs like a monkey, but not only are my legs too weak, the instructor is on to me.
This is where we learn to absorb the jump in our hands, an essential skill!
This is where we learn to absorb the jump completely in our hands, an essential skill!
  • Watch D’Arcy and other student on their speed demon horses, and makes me feel slightly better that at least I don’t have that to deal with, too. I just have to learn how to steer, a basic, rudimentary skill that I should have learned at some point in my riding career.
I look like a plane putting down their landing gear.
I look like a plane putting down their landing gear.
  • Steering is much better, this time I manage to accomplish putting Duke to nearly all bad distances. But he goes over them, and I followed a basic path, so success. The lesson ends, and I make plans to ice my ankles.
It’s funny because I think I did permanent damage to my ankles!
  • Dismount, nearly crumple to the ground. Thank goodness Duke is good for grabbing onto.

Due to the extreme amount of pain, several times I wanted to just give up and stop riding. But I knew I’d be really pissed at myself later, so I forced myself to do it. It really was so much fun, with the exception of horrible pain. I think my boots constantly sliding down my legs were the culprit, so my plan is to never wear them again. Unless I can get them altered. Not even sure if that’s possible, we’ll see.

Halfway through the lesson, my mom showed up. The other rider’s family had showed up minutes before that, a stream of people coming out of a clown car, so her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I thought she just came because she loved me and wanted to watch me ride, but turns out she had actually coordinated with Dave, and was there to pick me up. But she still got to watch me ride anyway, so jokes on her! (love you Mom!)

It was convenient when she showed up, because now I had a camera (wo)man. She is responsible for all these photos, including classics like this:

The ultimate bliss of not having to do anything.
My face of agony.
Also, D’Arcy and Addy

Just like when I was a teenager, my mom sat in the car afterward until I had put away the horse and tack. Really brings back memories…

So now I have a brace on my ankle, and I can barely walk. My own horses were pissed at how long it took me to walk from the house to the barn. Bucking, farting, and snorting, running to the barn, looking back at me, taking another lap around the field, running back to the barn, staring at me… They could care less if I’m riding some other horse, but if they have to wait several extra minutes before they get their breakfast, there will be hell to pay.

But I do want to ride more… so success? I can just ride without stirrups unless my ankle is no longer painful! (you know, for probably like 5 minutes, but gotta start somewhere!)

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It’s Harder Than It Looks

I showed up to my lesson last night and the barn was empty. After a few phone calls, my instructor showed up, telling me she had texted me that we should change the day due to the uncomfortable heat, but apparently my phone is stupid and I never got it. So we had the lesson anyway.

bay ottb thoroughbred mare
Berry is judging me. Lrn 2 chk ur phne.

I have no photos of the lesson, so please enjoy all these random photos from previous posts!

Deciding that I can manage to stay on during a jump, we have moved on to doing more than one jump. First it was counting striding. I know to many people this seems like the most basic, simple thing in the world, and how can I not do this. Well, I can’t! When I took lessons as a kid, it either wasn’t brought up, wasn’t explained, or I just pretended I knew what was going on because I didn’t want to seem stupid.

But now I was being forced to learn it. And I had to shout each stride really loud so there was no pretending I didn’t know what was going on.

appaloosa mare jumping
Considering I never did anything about striding before, Vintage took care of me more than I realized…

My instructor and I marveled I knew my numbers, and then we moved on to the further task of adding a stride, and subtracting a stride. It got slightly messy, as Simba started taking off from long and short spots. He was too much of a gentleman to complain directly to me, but I bet he’s going to go back to the barn and lament to his friends about the low quality of riders coming through, and how riders were so much better in his day.

Then to make things even harder, my instructor had me doing a simple three jump course with simple lead changes. This is where I completely fell apart. When I was busy counting my strides, I forgot to release. When I was expecting the lead change, I forgot to get in jump position. When I was trying to change leads, I forgot to steer.

Then my instructor added a fourth jump, a natural bush spread, or more literally, a jump with a bunch of pine branches stuffed underneath it. And for the first time since my first lesson on Simba, I was scared of the jump. That was a big jump. Big, as in wide. At least as wide as it was tall. Possibly wider. And it had all those branches underneath… I could get a serious scratch if I fell, or at the least be covered in pine sap.

It was like this, but there was a pole over it.

When I approached it, I completely froze, but because Simba is a good boy, he still jumped it, and I got one of those fun jumps where your body completely leaves your tack and you float in the air above your horse before coming crashing down.

I would have stopped to regroup but my instructor must have read my mind and yelled to keep going to the next jump. I did cut my corner way too early, but it did help me get over the bush. The next time around, it went fine and I only gave a split second thought to the bush.

Eventually, I did a passable round of my tiny 4 jumps, and I was allowed to finish my lesson. My home work, as always is to practice my two point, except this time, she wants me to do it with no stirrups. After telling me this, she paused a moment to think, and then added I should just do lots of no stirrup work. She seemed pleased to tell me this.

Next week, I’m bringing Berry to a lesson. Since she doesn’t have much experience jumping, I don’t think I’ll be doing any courses next week, but I am fantasizing about her suddenly knowing everything, and taking me around a perfect hunter course while I do nothing but smile and enjoy the weather.

thoroughbred mare jumping
One of Berry’s favorite activities is enjoying weather.

How do they make it look so easy? I feel incredibly uncoordinated, my body flopping around like a fish. And this is fairly basic stuff. I see tons of people doing courses, certainly more than 4 jumps, and it doesn’t look hard!

No doubt the hallmark of a good ride is that it looks easy…

Everything just happens so fast. I came in for the first jump, nice and steady, and then BAM, jumped, next jump is coming… BAM! jumped, and now I need to change the lead, but the horse is moving so fast, I’m practically to the next jump before I get a chance, and then I’m so close that I feel like if I tell him to slow, he’s going to refuse and then I’ll be jumping solo.

It’s a lot to take in. I need to learn to think faster. That must be it, you other riders just have super fast, completely in control thoughts, while mine are more like:

Stop doing that!

I thought about asking my instructor when she thinks I’ll be able to do a show, but I think I would be asking her to predict the impossible. So far, I’m at jumping (bouncing?) four jumps in a row, with barely capable lead changes (thank goodness he landed on the correct lead over half the time!), and forgetting to release. I’m not ready for a show.

I will be eventually. It is very motivating to get out and practice. The more riding time, the better.

So, other riders that manage to ride an entire course, what is your secret to being able to process what is happening? TELL ME ALL YOUR SECRETS!

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