Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yes, There is Hope!!!

Since Gailey’s been off work, I’ve been riding other horses around the barn in my lessons, both my trainer’s and boarders’ horses.

At first, I was really nervous riding horses I didn’t know. I’d ridden the same mare for the past 13 years. During all those years, I considered myself the luckiest person in the barn. Gailey was an exceptionally smooth horse to ride and sit. In fact, I’d go as far to say she was incomparable to anything I’d ever ridden. Yet, while her gaits made her extremely easy to sit, her other faults didn’t make her easy to ride.
Up until recently, I honestly didn’t have a clue how difficult she actually was. I assumed our problems were all mine, that I was just an awful rider, incapable of doing justice to such a wonderful mare. While everyone else in the barn would parade around with the countless ribbons they’d won, I’d slink off to my corner and lick my wounds, grateful I hadn’t finished dead last my respective class (though at times I didn’t even have that little triumph for comfort).

Over the years, I’ve come to believe I’m hopeless as far as ever being any good at dressage. After all, if I couldn’t do well on a horse like Gailey, I obviously didn’t have it in me to do well on anything. Besides, I knew I was uncoordinated. My body just doesn’t work the way other riders’ bodies work.
When I first started riding other horses, I’ll admit I fretted about making a fool out of myself. Everyone would see what an incompetent rider I really was. Yet, that’s not what happened. Somewhere along the line, I came to the startling conclusion I could ride other horses and do them justice.
The horse who drove that point home was Ciro. Ciro is owned by a wonderful woman at the barn who I’ve known for years. She’s one of those older women who doesn’t look a day over forty, a fact which I attribute to her long-time love affair with horses. She’s a doctor’s wife and is one the nicest, most down-to-earth people you could ever meet. She’s gone a lot, so Ciro is often available for lessons.
My fellow riders rave about riding Ciro, a Grand Prix level schoolmaster who is relatively bombproof. Last week, I had the privilege of saddling Ciro for a lesson, and it was a privilege.
My first realization Ciro was a different kind of horse came as I rode at a walk down the rail, I shifted my weight and legs by accident, and he went into a haunches-in. I re-adjusted my seat and legs and he travelled straight. I tried a shoulder-in and just like a well-programmed machine he did a perfect shoulder-in. No fuss, not struggle, just push the correct buttons, and he did the rest.

Wow. I was impressed. When I moved into the trot and canter, it was more of the same. As my lesson progressed, Ciro did everything I asked him, even things I didn’t realize I was asking him. We did counter-canter, changes, collected canter, etc. Everything was simple and straight-forward. You do this, he does that. I’d never ridden such an uncomplicated horse in my life. What a joy it was, and what a confidence booster for me.

And an eye-opener. You see, up until last week, I had no clue how complicated my mare really was. Now I knew. It took a horse like Ciro to drive home the fact that I wasn’t nearly as bad of a rider as I thought, and my mare, while I love her dearly, is not an easy horse to ride.

Armed with my new-found confidence, I’m looking forward to my next lesson on whatever horse I’m assigned because you know what? I really can do this.


Anonymous said...

Riding other horses is very good - for experience and for confidence. He sounds like a really fun horse to ride - glad it boosted your confidence.

Funder said...

That's fantastic! :)

Jami Davenport said...

A horse like Ciro is priceless. I'm so fortunate to have access to so many well-trained upper-level horses.

I'm also thrilled that I've gotten more confidence in my own riding by riding thse other horses.

Tansy said...

I know this feeling! For a long time I thought I had a terrible seat in the canter and was a bit useless at jumping. Then I spent a few weeks riding other horses and found out what it really felt like to ride a horse that went FORWARD when you asked and round, and on another horse that I actually had a really lovely position when jumping... just my boy was so lacking in impulsion that he chucked me out of the saddle when he HEAVED himself over the jumps.
Having learned what forward and round and real impulsion felt like, when I got back on my horse... Suddenly he could do all that. I just hadn't known I needed to ask!

Its interesting how much riding other horses can teach you about your own. I adore my boy, but he is lazy and stiff and only moves if I really mean it when I ask him. Knowing what the right thing feels like makes it SO much easier too. I bet when you get back on Gailey a few things will fall into place for you too :)

Alison said...

What a great confidence booster!

Laura Crum said...

Jami--Wonderful story. I'm so glad to hear things are going well for you. I am going to have the opportunity to ride a new horse soon, and I was somewhat shying away from it, but your post makes me eager to give him a try. Thanks!

Shanster said...

Nice post Jami... glad you are discovering your capable and gaining confidence! It's a great feeling isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Way to go Jami!!! I'm so glad you found a way to move forward for both you and Gailey!!! Good for you!

Francesca Prescott said...

That's great, Jami. It's amazing what a difference an accomodating, well-trained horse makes, isn't it! I'm feeling a little bit like a beginner again at the moment, having transitioned from good old Mr Perfecto (Kwintus) to (future!) Latin sensation Qrac de la Font. I think Kwint did all the fancy work by himself!!!

I hope you get to ride these lovely, upper-level horses as often as you like.