Sunday, October 3, 2010

Riding without stirrups

After my fall on Thursday, a lot of friends and family wanted me to take a break for a few days or a week, and my mom actually questioned whether Panama ought to be a riding horse.  All I can say is that there are a lot of people in my life who underestimate me, because I kept my lesson scheduled for the very next day.  I did tell my trainer I wanted to take it easy and not risk another fall, but that was my only concession.

The first thing my trainer did was to walk Panama over to the mounting block and start leaning across the saddle on her stomach.  He started to take off almost immediately, and she hopped down and backed him up 10 or 15 feet.  Then she took him right back to the mounting block and did it again.  She had to back him half a dozen times or more, but she quickly got him to the point where she could go through the motions of what happened on Thursday, even kicking him a little in the side, and he stood still for it.

While she was doing this, she observed that Panama is the kind of horse who doesn't forget things like this, and will actually use it as an excuse to act silly.  In other words, it's important to eliminate that new fear as quickly as possible.

Once he was standing still for everything she did, she turned him over to me and I got on.  My trainer commented right away that my posture was already much better at the walk than it had been, so apparently riding without stirrups Monday and Tuesday had already helped.  My balance is also much better and I'm able to trot for longer periods of time without needing to stop.  Panama is getting better at slowing his trot a bit, too — it's still no Western pleasure trot, but it's a little better.

I'm finding now that the hardest thing is to keep my legs where they should be — using the knee rolls, instead of just letting them hang down.  My legs are heavy, especially at the trot when gravity is working against me!  I am finding, however, that it is easier to get my heels down without the stirrups — apparently when I am concentrating very hard, I am curling my toes around the stirrups like a monkey hanging onto a branch!

Learning to ride without stirrups doesn't feel as impossible now as it did at first, though I think I am still a ways away from cantering without stirrups.  I think it was also good for my frame of mind to have a successful lesson the day after my fall.  Panama may be a dingbat sometimes, but we just have to get better together!



At October 3, 2010 at 6:49 PM, Blogger Sydney_bitless said...

Good for you getting back up. Try pointing your toes up in your boots rather than thinking all about heels It'll take the need off of curling your toes around the irons. Try it right now when your sitting and feel the way your heel tends to put pressure. Toes down, heels up, toes up heels down.

At October 3, 2010 at 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you for keeping at it - that determination will take you a long way to becoming a better rider.

At October 3, 2010 at 8:50 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Just getting caught up... Didn't I hassle you about making sure you wear a helmet recently? Must have been your guardian angel speaking to me, telling me to make sure you wear it. Your trainer did what I was going to suggest. I've done so many stupid things when mounting, everything from kicking the horses in the butt to knocking over the metal step stool, and they do get used to it. One time I got half way up and got stuck hanging off Bombay's side. He took a couple of steps forward so that I wouldn't fall onto the step stool, and I let go. I was lying there in the dirt and he stood there looking at me as if he were laughing. I hope Panama gets over his scary experience and can learn to remain calm during such episodes.

At October 3, 2010 at 10:33 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Sydney, yes, my trainer told me that too, and I do. The problem is that I curl my toes when I concentrate or when I'm tense, and it's NOT just when I'm riding. I catch myself doing it when I'm working at my desk all the time! And, this may be way too much information, but I once had a gynecologist comment on how, er, flexible my feet were as I wrapped them around those stirrups. LOL

Kate, if only I could stay on Panama's back with determination alone! LOL

NM, you did ask recently if I'd been wearing a helmet, and I said yes, I always do! The only exception was when we went swimming, but I probably will there from now on too, after having fallen on the beach last time.

Anyway, I think I'm going to repeat what my trainer did before the next time I mount, just to make sure he remembers the lesson!


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