It’s that time of year, when I finally tack up the horse, make a sad attempt at riding, and then don’t pick up the reins again for another year.
I kid, I actually do want to ride again. I met a random stranger walking on the road who offered to show me the trails, which is amazing and only a little bit strange. The motivation to go on a trail ride is strong, but I’m not going to take Berry out without making sure she’s not going to be crazy. She needs at least one or two rides before I trail ride with a stranger.
I decided to ride on a random day, mainly because it had just rained so the arena was soft without having to drag it, and it just seemed right. While the experience had some good points, overall I was very disappointed, so as people often do when they are disappointed, I decided to take to the internet to express my disappointment.
Tacking Up – 6/10
This wasn’t too bad, but it’s obvious it’s been a while since Berry has been tacked up. Since I still haven’t set up my crossties I just groundtied Berry. She interpreted this as, “Freedom to roam” time.
The roaming was contained fairly quickly, and she mostly just stood there with a puzzled look on her face. I don’t blame her, it’s been two years since I was riding regularly, and she probably doesn’t even remember.
Because she moved around at first, I had to knock down the rating, but she did eventually stand still. She didn’t even get very fussy about being groomed, and she usually hates being groomed.
I also had to take a point off for standing on my foot. Luckily I managed to slide my foot back fast enough that she stepped on just the toes of the boot instead of my actual foot, but I still felt the pressure. I also didn’t realize there was enough room in my boot to contort my foot like that. Boot gets points for expanding to make room, 10/10. But also makes me realize my boots are super soft and offer no protection – I revise to 5/10. Boots deserve their own review.
Going back to the the grooming experience, I give it a 6/10.
Lunging – 8/10
I learned a lesson from last year – don’t get on a sometimes hot horse that hasn’t been ridden seriously in two years. Instead, put it on a line and make it run in circles until it wears itself out. Much better plan.
My recent experiences with lunging have been with Stu, who is a young horse, and likes to pretend he doesn’t understand. I had forgotten how Berry is to lunge, even though I used to lunge her before every ride.
Well, she is like lunging butter. What a treat she is! It was so easy, and it took almost no effort. She wasn’t bad, she just went out, and trotted until I said not to. I didn’t try cantering though, as she didn’t really relax into her trot. Sure, at the very end she relaxed, but it took 15 minutes to get to that point. Additionally, we were dealing with Stu.
Even though it’s been quite a while since I added runs to the back of the gelding’s stalls, Berry has never seen horses in them as her stall does not have a run. Being in the arena and having the geldings pop out, seemingly out of no where, startled her. She reversed direction, and trotted around the opposite way, doing her best Arabian impression – nose up in the air, tail at full mast.
She was fine to deal with, even if the reversal was not asked for, as she still just trotted around like butter, even in an excited state. But meanwhile, Stu, who has never seen a horse being worked in the arena, was getting excited and racing around his run. He didn’t end up doing anything, but I’m pretty sure this is what spiked my anxiety levels. I was afraid he’d crash through the fencing, injuring himself and anyone unlucky enough to be in his way.
Eventually, Stu gave up and just watched, Berry relaxed, and trotted quietly around, still like butter. Lovely experience, but have to dock points for the ruckus. 8/10.
Riding – 1/10
Berry was relaxing and Stu was just standing there, it was time to get on and ride. I had envisioned getting on and having a joyous canter.
I recently bought a book, Brain Training for Riders: Unlock Your Riding Potential with StressLess Techniques for Conquering Fear, Improving Performance, and Finding Focused Calm (wow, what a mouthful.) I didn’t think I was really scared, but I figured it would help with the small amount of nerves I have in anticipation of getting back into riding.
Well, I think it backfired. I just started the book, so I’m just in the first section, where it talks about thinking of positive experiences and the emotions that come with it. That’s great, but instead I found myself thinking of all the scary experiences I’ve had, and how much can go wrong. How if something goes wrong, Bridgette will be left without a mother. How selfish it is that I have a dangerous hobby that could take me away from her.
All the negative thoughts, combined with my earlier anxiety, did me in. I rode Berry for all of 30 seconds.
It actually started well, in a sense. Berry always walks away from the mounting block when I get on, and I just go with it because I didn’t care in the past (not the best attitude, I know). Now the thought of her doing that is terrifying, so I made her stand, before, during, and while I adjusted my stirrups. I grant one point for that.
But after I was actually on, I felt like a mess. I didn’t feel secure at all. My legs felt useless, and not at all like the seat belt they used to feel like. I was basically alternating between focusing on having a secure leg with my heel down, and remembering to breath.
Berry wasn’t being particularly helpful. She didn’t do anything other than walk, but she wasn’t being responsive to my aids. She was pulling her freight train act.
After halting her twice, I gave in, and dismounted. I felt instant disappointment. I wanted to do more. I should have done more.
I’ll finish reading that book – even though I’m off to a bad start, I think it’s really because I didn’t read enough of it. I can’t blame the book, my experiences are my own, and plus I think I need to read more of it to get the full effect.
I’ll get on again – Even if I just add 30 seconds each time, I’ll get there eventually. Next time I’m wearing full seat breeches though. Actually, I might go into it fully and pull out the old dressage saddle. That thing basically anchors me in the saddle.
Overall, 1/10, terrible experience, but will definitely do it again.
Stu Being Stu – 10/10
I go back to the barn and Stu is having a fit. I figured it was leftover excitement from seeing Berry being worked. I put Berry away, and Stu continues his fit, banging his hoof against the door.
Then it dawned on me – Stu was jealous. He wanted attention.
I didn’t feel like actually working with him, but I brought him out and groomed him. He was very happy with that. I showed him the saddle, which he found weird and confusing. It’s easy to forget that a young horse literally only understands what he’s shown, and I’ve never shown him a saddle. While he was wary at first, his curiosity won, and he thought it was a fun toy.
He’s a bit of a brat, but he’s eager. 10/10, will work with again.