Sunday, April 20, 2008

Walk, trot, and post

Yesterday I rode my horse in my borrowed English saddle for the first time without my trainer present (and only the second time I've been in that saddle). I prefer riding bareback, in part because the English saddle I'm borrowing from my trainer is made for a child's butt — and I'm just not experienced enough yet to feel secure in any saddle. I feel like I'm perching on top of it rather than sitting in it — and I only weigh 125 pounds!

Unfortunately, I'm also not balanced enough to trot for very long on my horse's narrow back without falling off, and there was absolutely no way I was going to take him out on the trails bareback. So I decided yesterday would be a good day to practice with the saddle.

All in all, it went pretty well. Panama was slightly less well behaved with the saddle on, which makes me think he likes it when I ride bareback, too. I had to kick his shoulder a few times to make him go in the direction I wanted to, which I haven't had to do in a while. Also, he was reluctant to stop when I gave the command. We'll have to work on that one next time...

We trotted quite a bit (for me) though, and that was a complete success. The first few times Panama dropped to walk after only a handful of strides, as he is accustomed to me asking him to do so when I ride him bareback (because I frequently have to get him to slow down in order to avoid falling off). However, once I was able to convince him that I wanted him to keep going, I was able to practice posting — another thing I'm not very good at doing bareback.

Posting, in case you didn't know, is the half-time up-and-down rhythm you see some riders doing in Western movies. Rather than bouncing with each step the horse takes, you lift up slightly for one step, sit down on the next, over and over. It takes some of the jarring bounciness out of the trot.

You can't put your weight in the stirrups and stand in order to post, though — it's more of a subtle hip motion, achieved by having really good inner thigh muscles (you brace yourself by gripping with your thighs, rather than standing on your feet). That particularly subtlety has been difficult for me, as I was originally taught (by a family friend when I was a preteen) to just stand up a little in the stirrups. Yesterday, however, on the last few tries, I felt like I really got it.

My friend Cindy was there with me (since, remember, I am not comfortable riding without supervision yet — just in case), and she took some pictures. I'm not crazy about most of them, since I think my posture and technique looks pretty sloppy in most of them — hands held too high, shoulders slumped instead of straight, etc. (I did notice in the pictures, though, that I'm sitting back on my butt more now — something my trainer has been bugging me to do since the beginning.)

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures for you:

Horseback riding

Me and my horse

Today will be an even bigger day: I am scheduled to go on a trail ride with the stable owner and another boarder. I'll be sure to blog about it later!

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