How to be a better rider: right place, right time, and always say “yes”

It’s not very often I get a chance to sit on a ‘made’ horse. I’ve been pretty blessed to have ridden a Prix St. Georges mount, a former Grand Prix showjumper, and some pretty nice other horses/ponies, but yesterday I got to ride a 1* horse coming back from injury. It was pretty awesome to realize I could feel where he was stiff (residual pain and stiffness in his front feet from compensating for injury) and then, once he’d warmed up, where he was weak (the injury: RH stress fracture).
Even more cool? I got to warm up pony around the track. Yep, the farm where I rode has its very own training oval. (Yeah, I died a little bit.) And acres upon acres of galloping space. Granted, we only walked and trotted, since the goal is to just rehab 1*. (Incidentally, I just realized, OnStar would make a pretty cool name for a horse…it’s early.) Fast forward to 1* warmed up and moving nicely at the walk, we picked up a trot. Sigh. So lovely, springy and forward. Like floating on a bouncy cloud. Leg on, outside rein: “Oh, you’d like some bend? Here you go. Enjoy!” I died a little more. Then, 3* rider mentioned that when he’s back in training and jumping, she’d give me a stadium lesson on him because he’s super adjustable between fences. What?! Died some more.
Today, I venture back to that farm to school 1* and the baby (who is a superstar all her own and is gonna be one heckuva Event horse: Hannoverian x TB with the best of both breeds). Moral to this story? Be at the right place at the right time, and always say “yes.” (Trainer is in the middle of mid-term exams and does not have time to school the horses. She asked if anyone had time, and I said, “Heck, yes!”) I promise pictures from today’s ride.
Contrast the above to the pony I rode this weekend. When I say pony, this time, I literally mean pony. Like 14 hand pony. This little pony looks like a sport-pony: moves like a warmblood, but has the energy of a TB. I couldn’t wait to sit on him. And then I did. Can I just say, that was possibly the most humbling experience of my equestrian life? Here I am, a 18+ year veteran rider (as in I’ve been riding 18 years–I’m 33 years old 😦 and I couldn’t ride this dang pony!! Pony has training, but he’s being ridden by inexperienced children who don’t know or are unable to ask him for bend and correct contact. Meanwhile, I couldn’t find a place to put my leg!! I had to lift my leg up to put it on–compromising my seat. If pony had felt inclined to be naughty, he could have tossed me very easily. And then, my hands were in my lap! I had two choices: in my lap, or in his ears. 🙂 But when he finally acquiesced to my requests, holy cow, was he adorable!! The best part was watching the owner’s daughter get on him and get bend out of him after I rode him. There’s another “right place, right time, always say yes” situation. In return for schooling pony (sometimes it’s awesome being short), I will get to ride 2nd level schoolmaster mare for my education. Cue angelic choir.
Finally, last night was my first ride back on Johnny following his second round of injections. He was still backsore, though not nearly as reactive. Keep in mind, the vet’s advice was to work him through it–it’s all muscular soreness, and I need to help him build muscle. (Still, I’ll be happy when that banamine arrives so I can offer a bit of relief–do not judge me. I take 800mg ibuprofen many days before I climb into the saddle, and I know lots of other folks who do as well. I’m sure Johnny would jump at the chance for a little muscular analgesic before our rides. And, yes, IV, not IM. 🙂
So, knowing he was still a little tight through the back, I didn’t ask much, but after riding two different mounts with stellar movement, I could REALLY feel just how tight and tense Johnny’s trot was. Here’s where wisdom gained from riding other horses comes into play, though: I could tell it was muscular stiffness, not joints. He had spring in his legs, he just had no swing to his step. I went back and forth on whether I should ride him until he worked through it, or whether I should just warm up his muscles and call it a day. I settled for somewhere in the middle: some leg yield and ground pole work, turns on the forehand and haunches, short stints of trot and lots of stretchy walk and a bit of stretchy-ish trot, and then I called it a day. I’m going to ride him again today with the goal of actually getting him past the tightness. Keep your fingers crossed, as I’m going to try really hard not to over-work him. I’m thinking cavalletti/ground pole work is in order.

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2 comments

  1. redheadlins · March 11, 2014

    I love getting to ride different horses, it is so good for me, and what I feel on my own horses! Sounds like an amazing few days!

  2. Shelby · March 11, 2014

    This is great advice; I agree wholeheartedly. Since I am currently horseless, I say yes to everyone for a ride. It is amazing how many people are too busy, and are willing to let me exercise ride for them. It is a blessing indeed. Can’t wait to hear about you jumping 1*!

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