Saturday, April 14, 2012

Horseback Riding Lessons

Even though it's been a whole week I want to write about Starbuck and my first real riding lesson together (last Thursday).  I was a little uneasy about mixing her up with other horses and their riders but when Marina, the barn owner and main instructor, said she was ready I figured that she knows way better than I do.  So I got to the barn a little late especially since I wanted to longe Starbuck before the lesson and had to run and get her and then tack her up in a hurry.  I tried not to rush but it was difficult especially since with all the winter fur she's losing it takes superlong to brush her.  Luckily the other students arrived even later than I did so I was able to get a head start.

When she was all tacked up I took her out to the big arena where the class would be and longed her for a while.  It was pretty warm and at first she was real lazy, but then I took her over to the scary side and she woke right up.  After a few light rebellious bucks which I countered with lots of changes of direction and hindquarter yields and then a few good laps at the trot and the counter, I felt like we were ready to go.  So I hopped on up (I can mount Starbuck from both sides and from the ground, thank you very much, but I try to use a mounting block to ward off backaches and saddle deformation) and joined the rest of the class.

Marina wisely put us behind Rodrigo, one of the old lesson geldings, and we started to make some 20 meter circles around her at a walk.  At first Starbuck thought that this was an invitation to bite him on the butt and tried to follow him too closely, however after a while I was able to keep a safe distance.  When we went into trot, though, it was another story - she got pretty riled and it got harder and harder for me to keep her on a circle and away from Rodrigo.  "Don't focus on her, focus on Rodrigo!" Marina shouted at me and I looked at her like she was crazy.  Surely that would give Starbuck even more naughty ideas about biting his tail, right?  So she elucidated me, "Pick a spot on Rodrigo's rider's back and focus on just following that spot, and let your body do the rest.  If you're not focussed, she can't focus!".

Hmmm.... Sound familiar?  ADD rider leads to ADD horse!

And she was 100% right.  As soon as I started focussing on where I wanted to go (the logo on Rodrigo's rider's t-shirt to be more exact) she settled down, found a good steady rhythm and stopped trying to misbehave.  So much so that Jose Luis, the teenage boy who works here as a stablehand, even said that she looked like she'd been a lesson horse all her life.  Marina laughed and told him it was kind of a backhanded compliment, but my main goal for Starbuck is that she be absolutely comfortable doing everything we do, so in the end it's not so backhanded after all.  In the end we trotted so much that even MY muscles were sore and I was worried about Starbuck, but Marina told me that she's ready to start doing shorter groundwork sessions and longer riding sessions.  She certainly did work extremely well, have some nice foam around the bit and wasn't too sweaty when we finished, and she didn't seem to have a lot of muscle pain the next day.

Such a good girl!


Shannon said...

Ah, you're much more athletic than I am! I can get on from either side, but not from the ground. I try to blame my tall horse, but really it's just a lack of flexibility on my part. My saddler says that mounting from the ground is terrible for your saddle, but it is handy sometimes.

Good for you on having such a great lesson, and the compliment was great, too! I've always been told that one of the hallmarks of good training is making it look easy. If your horse looks like a schoolmaster, then you're doing a good job!

Starbuck's Human said...

Hi Shannon! I'm actually not that athletic, I used to lease a huge KWPN and was usually completely unable to mount her from the ground much to my instructor's disgust. Luckily Starbuck's much shorter (a little over 15 hands).

I really enjoyed reading your latest post by the way, especially the end which made me smile. Starbuck loves jumping anything she can find (she actually jumped a traffic cone once) when she's free schooling and I can't wait to be at a point in our training where I can jump with her.

Thanks for commenting!

Brad said...

Because of your eclectic beliefs, you may want to check out Eclectic Horseman( They produce a bi-monthly magazine and quarterly DVD's. I like them because of the several horseman I respect are involved,...Buck Brannaman, Bryan Neubert, Martin Black, and Joe Wolter for the most part. Several well known dressage people also write for this mag.
safe journey

Starbuck's Human said...

Thanks, at a first glance it looks really interesting! :)