July 17, 2013
It was cool when I first got up this morning, as I stumbled outside while my coffee brewed to see what the temperature was. About 15 minutes later, it was already hot. Humid, too. I braved it anyway and turned up at my second dressage riding lesson at Central Arizona Riding Academy (CARA).
I arrived in time to get Inky, the sweet mare who is my lesson horse, out of her stall, groomed, and tacked. Dorie, my instructor, was already out and she helped me make sure I had all the correct gear. I was sure I did, but I wanted to make doubly sure! With horses, everything has to be right. Did you know horses eat peppermint candy? Dorie gave Inky some as a treat, and also to get her to salivate and help work the bit. I know what I will bring to my next lesson!
I felt much more comfortable than last time when I mounted. I am settling in to this dressage thing that is so different from what I rode before. I try not to think about that much anymore, though. That was then, this is now.
I was able to use spurs this time, which helped. Now, you’re probably thinking of the big cowboy spurs they show in western movies. No, these are little English spurs, the kind that are good for enhancing the signals you are trying to convey to the horse without hurting him or her. They are more for being firmly persuasive than for punishment.
It was a good choice. Inky got the clue that I am a real rider, a bit out of practice, but not a complete rookie. I thought she did a good job today of setting up underneath me, being somewhat collected, and very cooperative. Hey, I’m learning, too – inside rein, outside rein, inside leg, outside leg, body weight placement, position in the saddle. These are just a few things I think about and am adjusting as I ride. Today we worked on three gaits, collected walk, trot, canter, in both directions. I need practice with the sitting trot, and the canter was surprisingly difficult for me today. It feels so different than it used to, and I can’t expect to be super-good right away (even though that is exactly what I expect out of myself!). I have not cantered a horse as a serious training activity in over 30 years – until today.
Things I need to practice: all the riding aids, but the sitting trot is the number one thing right now. I really need to practice it between lessons. That is the only way I am going to get it, but since I have no horse right now to ride every day, I won’t be able to “get it” as quickly. I see horses all over this neighborhood, and it seems everywhere, that no one is riding. Surely there must be at least one somewhere that I could ride and practice with? I remember the pleasant summer evenings back in Wisconsin when I would work with my horse, Dom, making him into a champion show horse. I think of it now, every evening between seven and eight o’clock when the light is particularly beautiful and it starts to cool down. I want to relive those times, but update the experience.
Dorie worked with me for an hour again today. I am enjoying working with her, which is so important when choosing a trainer. I had hoped it would be a good working relationship, and so far it has turned out to be a very positive experience. At the end of the session, I let the reins loose, and Inky and I walked around the outside of the covered arena where by this time others were working with their horses. I look at those horses and wonder if I will ever get to own another one. I can’t afford a super-good dressage horse, so I will have to go another route.
My other idea, which I’ve had several times, is to get another Arabian that I can train myself, show in English Pleasure, but also work and train him (I want another gelding) for dressage. That was where I was going before becoming “horse girl – interrupted.”
After we cooled down, I dismounted and led Inky back to the cross-ties so I could peel the tack off her, put it away, then scratch her head a bit (she loves that). Dorie had another piece of peppermint candy for Inky, too. Soon, it was off to the wash rack for Inky’s favorite part of the day. She loves being washed down with the hose, and once again, she especially loved it today when I sprayed the water right into her mouth so she could drink and play in it. That is her favorite reward.
I have to wait now for two weeks for my next ride. Dorie is going to be gone, and (it is hoped) so will I. The days for my vacation are dwindling down, and I hope I can go north for some more dirt bike riding. I have a few more photos to shoot of the forest, a couple of roads I want to shoot with the GoPro, and many roads to explore. I also want to get on a horse even if it’s for a short trail ride. The week will go fast.
And then I’ll be right up against the start of a new school year. But I don’t want to think about that yet!