Sunday, January 15, 2012


Maybe I ought to start out with a little bit of my history with horses.  I've been in love with horses since as long as I can remember and as a kid, my parents were kind and generous enough to scrape together the extra cash to give me and my sister have riding lessons once a week.  I never got very good but rode a lot of different horses both in the ring training for English pleasure and on trail rides through the woods and fields of North Carolina.  I stopped riding when I went away to college and had to start paying my way in life and except for the odd trail ride when on vacation had pretty much filed it under "To do when I am rich".
About two and a half years ago, I was going through a very stressful time at work and had tried several different "extra curricular" activities in the hopes of  getting my anxiety down to normal levels when I remembered that I loved riding and was spending just enough money to pay for lessons on long lunches, spa treatments and other de-stressing activities.  So I started taking dressage lessons once a week with a very low-key teacher-- lots of fun and I felt like I had gotten right back into the swing of things, but I didn't improve my riding very much at all.  After going on an all-day trail ride with the incredible folks at Gredos Ecuestre, I felt inspired to dedicate a little more time and effort to riding, so I started looking for a horse to lease, which I found under the care of Fernando Arias Somalo.  Nadine was a lovely and sweet KWPN who was way to good for me and Fernando was quick to let me know my limitations.  For the 4 months that I rode with him I worked harder and learned more about riding than I had in my entire life with horses-- think endless laps at a trot without stirrups, balancing in the stirrups while standing straight up at the trot, cantering on the longe with no hands, etc...
Then I came to Mallorca where I found my current stable, Equitec Balear.  The owner Marina is a great coach of riders, knowing exactly how and when to give a tactful critique, but what I like most about her is that she designs her classes around her horses; inventing exercises which will help overcome conformational defects or strengthen a previous injury.  I rode with her for about 6 months before I acquired Starbuck in August.  So the long and the short of it is that I'm by no means a great equestrienne-- I have balance and posture problems, I depend too much on my hands for stability and I by no means have acquired a truly independent seat.
Where all this is going is that when I decided to train Starbuck I knew I was taking on a huge task and I wasn't 100% sure I was up to it, but I had so much interest and enthusiasm I just pretty much threw myself into it and we made a lot of progress very quickly (OK, much slower than a professional trainer but to me it's seemed fast).  It was a lot of fun investigating different NH strategies, planning training sessions and seeing how she reacted to different exercises and as I read more and tried out different things, I started to feel like a bit of an expert-- I had put into practice the theories I had learned and it was working!
But today I realized that it's not just about good intentions and theory and paying attention to what I'm doing, I also need to know how to RIDE!  In the roundpen it's easy, she's super calm and all whoa.  But in the big arena, she has room to move freely, which is great, but she also feels freer to act up a little.  Oh, and there's all this scary stuff like the house with the invisible tiger cages and all the jump standards and cones and poles and people coming in and out of the tack room... so she freaks out, then I freak out even though I try deep breathing exercises and letting all the tension drain out of my body, and it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

Today for instance, I was worried about her bucking so when she had a fairly big spook I pulled her head up and held on way too hard to the reins, which I know must have really hurt her mouth.  Poor girl!  And to make things worse my friend Miguel gave me a little on-the-spot coaching on the subject of not pulling her head into an inverted position and I was too stressed and freaked to be able to accept his advice graciously and actually tried to justify it.  So I'm thinking I might ask Marina for a couple of classes just so she can keep me from doing too much harm, at any rate there's a NH clinic at my barn next week which I'll definitely go to.  Anyhow here's the video; I give myself major kudos on not falling off but need to be able to stabilize myself without hurting her.  I'm going to try tying a ribbon to her mane to remember to grab mane instead of reins...

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