Monday, May 23, 2011

Horse Boot Camp - Tim Mounts Up

Yesterday it was time to put my thespian student in the saddle, and I knew how I wanted to approach his introduction to riding. In the years since I returned to horses, I've learned enough to know now just how much I was not taught during my previous horse life, an array of things both minor and major. Those gaps in my education might not have caused my anxieties, but they certainly didn't help me overcome it. One day soon I'll post an embarrassing list of the things I didn't know, had never been taught, when I came back to horses in 2004.

My first goal for Tim: Don't put him in a position to feel tension or uneasiness, put him in a position to feel the horse and feel himself. Riding, with all its component parts, can come later.

We did a sheddy, speedy grooming of Gambler, who screamed all the while for Scout and Saxony. During tack up, we reviewed the parts of the saddle and bridle. Next time, Tim will tack Gambler himself. After grabbing gloves and helmets, we went to the farm's large round pen. I rode Gambler through a 10-minute warm up, de-noodling and stretching him. While I rode, I talked to Tim about what I was doing, showing him the three gaits, the position of my hands, legs, seat, just describing things in basic, straightforward language.

Then it was Tim's turn. After adjusting the stirrups, we spent a few minutes at the mounting block talking about etiquette for both horse and rider. Wise Gambler stood statue-like and impervious, offering no challenge at all. Once Tim was up, I led Gambler off at an easy walk. "You don't need to do anything," I told Tim. "Just feel the horse moving under you. Feel his back swinging, his legs lifting, his efforts to balance your weight." We walked for 15 minutes, much of it in silence.

"Now it's your turn, Tim, to feel your own body, how it finds balance, how it adjusts, how it moves with the horse." From time to time as we circled in the wide round pen, I asked him to raise one arm to his side, then the other, put one arm behind his back, then the other, look at the sky, look right, look left. We talked about how when you're driving a car over rough roads your head corrects for the impacts of potholes so constantly and fluidly, you're not even aware of it. It can be the same on horseback: your body always seeks balance if you let it.

In all, we worked for 45 minutes. I showed Tim how to hold the reins correctly, thumbs up. I kept a finger hooked under Gambler's noseband for a lap around the round pen, then let go and walked beside him, and then drifted farther and farther until I was standing in the center of the circle, watching Tim ride by. My thespian student has a naturally straight posture, easy legs, and an instinctive interest in horses. In the end, he might make me feel like a real teacher. We're having a blast.


Olly said...

Isn't that the best feeling? Sharing the love of horses with someone who hasn't discovered it yet for his or her self?

My VERY non horsey significant other prefers horses over there (preferably contained by a fence... with an electrified fence and maybe a moat) has started warming up to Emma. By warming up, I mean stretching a nervous hand to pat her nose once or twice but hey! That's progress.

I wish I had a trusted friend like Gambler though. Emma, while very good natured, isn't exactly a "been there, done that" type I could mount up Alex on.

It must be pretty exciting to know a movie star! What a charmed life you're living, Ma'am!

Wolfie said...

When I put my 13-year old niece up on Gem and coach her, I realize how much I have learned over the last couple of years! :-) How wonderful that you are able to share your passion with someone new.

smazourek said...

You are an excellent teacher! If I were to teach someone to ride I'd do it this way too. Keep it cool and calm and focus on FEEL most of all.

Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like you and Tim are a good match for a teacher/student relationship. That always helps.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Wishing my intro to horses was as gentle and confidence building!! Great job :)

ToCatchAPony said...

Keep these coming, sure we can all learn a bundle from this. My son learned to canter today and I have never seen him smile so wide...made me remember how was in the beginning!

allhorsestuff said...

Tim has such a caring and intuitive teach in you. I love it!
I miss it too...last year was so wonderful to share the love of the horse. My little gal really wanted to touch and feel for a long time..pick the poo and get dirty before riding. So I showed her takc and the care of it..stable management common sence stuff.

I love this truly, and Tim will be the richer for the gleaning from you!
Carry on, and have fun!