Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

I am happy to say that today, at long last, I finally got a ride in.

I haven't actually ridden since late February or early March, I think. Things kept coming up: too much work, bad weather, too muddy to ride, etc. So you can imagine what a big deal it was to ride today.

It was a gorgeous day — sunny, dry, and at 82 degrees, the hottest we've had in a couple of weeks. (We've had a lot of rain lately.) I went out to the barn around 4:00 pm, and spent nearly two hours there.

It was ridiculously windy when I arrived (it's supposed to storm tomorrow), but I decided to take my chances and ride anyway. I tried to get a lovely picture of Panama standing in front of the barn, looking at me, with his mane blowing in the wind, but before I could whip out the camera he decided to come seek out some attention. So I took that as a sign, and just haltered him instead.

Dirt pasture gets d#mn hot with the sun beating down on it, so I decided not to take Panama into the back pasture to groom him — the post I tie him to back there is in full sunlight. So instead, I tied him up right next to the tack room — and was surprised how much better that worked. Early on I'd been worried about the other horses harassing him when he was tied, but he's been fully accepted into the herd now (even by the alpha) so they left him alone. And it was really quite nice not having to haul my saddle out to the back pasture.

I still was going to ride him in the back pasture, though — I'm not such a dummy to ride in a pasture with a bossy alpha milling around. He might let their girlfriend (he and Panama share) do it, but he still picks on Panama enough to make me think that would be a very bad idea.

Anyway, I neglected to close the gate between the pastures, and by the time I finished tacking Panama up, the alpha male had wandered back there. So I walked into the back pasture, Panama in tow, and started clucking at the alpha to drive him back into the front pasture. He started going where I wanted, and then stopped. I decided I couldn't be quite aggressive enough about waving my arms and clucking with one hand holding Panama's reins, so I draped his reins over his neck (I haven't taught him to stand ground tied), told him to stand, and went at the alpha clapping and waving both arms.

To my great surprise, Panama didn't try to follow me or wander off, but just stood there watching. I kept checking him over my shoulder, though, and once I got the alpha moving I went back for him, praising him like crazy. I was too worried that he'd freak out, or wander off, and I'd have to go catch him before his reins caught on something — but I was still awfully proud of him for standing stock-still on command!

So with Panama in tow again, we drove the alpha into the front pasture and shut the gates behind him.

Then — finally — I was able to ride. I mounted and was thrilled that Panama didn't do his usual trick of walking forward as I swung my leg over. He got lots of praise for standing still! Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, I dismounted and mounted again — and he stood still again. Good boy, Panama!

We didn't ride long, and we took it pretty easy. I could tell after all winter and spring of not riding much, not to mention three months off, Panama was having to relearn his balance while carrying me again. He moved a little tentatively at first, so we walked several circles around the pasture in both directions to let him adjust.

Then we picked up a trot... and wow, both of us are out of shape! The muscles in my inner thighs quickly got fatigued while posting, and I could tell by the way I had to remind Panama to keep trotting that he was getting tired too. We didn't ride long, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes — but it was quite long enough, judging by the way my legs feel tonight!

We just worked on some basic stuff — framing up, going where I asked him to go, transitioning from the walk to the trot and back again, stopping, changing directions, backing, and turning on the forehand. It took a couple reminders to get him to respond to leg commands, especially with the turns on the forehand, but I thought he did really well. Just like how he didn't walk forward when I mounted, he stopped quickly on whoa and a little light rein — and this in itself was amazing, as he usually is something of a blockhead about stopping.

I felt like I was doing well, too. I felt like my heels were beneath me and down, the way they should be, though I was having a hard time telling how still my lower legs were while posting. My legs aren't as strong as they were, so I'm guessing that part wasn't great. I also could feel that I was sitting deeper in my saddle than usual (I have a habit of tensing up and squeezing my thighs so hard that I pull myself up in the saddle), and I think that might have made a difference in backing and stopping.

I've more or less talked Michael into going out to the barn with me tomorrow, so I'm going to try to get him to take some pictures and some video footage of me riding. We're also going to put up some homemade bridle and halter hangers in the tack room, and hopefully get the trailer back up on its block so that I can practice with that too. It should be a busy day at the barn!



At June 7, 2009 at 7:54 PM, Blogger jane augenstein said...

Yippee!!! You got to ride!!!! Oh, boy, yes indeed it is hard to get back into it when you have had a long time off, the legs will scream for mercy! LOL Well, mine do. Since I have been riding most every day now I am not getting sore like I did. Hope you get to ride more tomorrow too! ;-)

At June 8, 2009 at 3:45 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Jane, my legs hurt yesterday (I rode on Saturday), but they are KILLIING me today. Funny how it's always two days later that's the worst.


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