Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I'm glad I'm fat

"Thank God my ass is so fat" is not something that tends to go through my mind on a daily basis.  In fact my lifelong struggle between wanting to be hot and wanting to subsist entirely on a diet of cheese, pork products, fried food and elaborate desserts pretty much makes me tend to think the exactly the opposite, cursing my oh-so-American "curves" fairly regularly.  But I sure was grateful for all that extra blubber last night - and I bet you can guess why ;-)

So here's what went down - it's been pretty rainy for the past couple of days and we've all been jonesing for a ride.  Last night the rain had stopped, but not long enough for the arena to be usable.  So yesterday my stablemates Amanda and Maria Jose decided to at least ride around the barnyard on the walkways going by all the paddocks.  Somehow the fact that we would be riding in the dark except for the moon and a far away bulb throwing some freaky shadows, that it was still really muddy and that the horses hadn't been ridden all week failed to deter us, so we saddled 'em up, jumped on and started off.

First obstacle - horny stud colt on one side of the track, playful and bored horses bounding up to see what we were doing on the other.  Starbuck got a little exuberant and broke into a trot to get to the head of the line while Maria Jose's horse Compay decided to teach horny stud colt a lesson by throwing a few bucks.  Maria Jose wisely got off but Amanda and I kept going.

Second obstacle - scary corner where the horses could see their own shadows.  Starbuck wheeled around and tried to gallop back where we had come from, luckily dodging poor Maria Jose.  But I wheeled her back around and we were able to walk (well, prance) past it.

Third obstacle - terrifying hay bales covered with horrific tarps.  All three of the horses stopped in their tracks and didn't want to pass the evil hay bales.  Maria Jose tried to walk Compay in hand past it first but Starbuck and Melyne (Amanda's mare) were getting nervous so I decided to pass her.  There was a moment where Starbuck got stuck, then I tapped her with my crop and she shot forward, then sideways, then backward, then whirled around in a circle and started to gallop off.  During this I was mostly just trying to stay up there and do a little damage control since we were a little too close to the roof of one of the stalls for comfort, but I ended up putting too much weight on one stirrup so when she galloped off the saddle slipped down to the right side.  Between me hauling on the reins to slow her down and the saddle being way off center, she got pissed off and threw a few bucks and I went down on the third, landing squarely on my right butt cheek.  But she didn't get very far before I went down and it didn't even hurt (and still doesn't this morning), which is why today I'm celebrating my tendency to chunkiness.  Yay cheese!

Anyhow after walking her by the offending hay bale and its dangerous drapery several times and letting her snort at it a few more times, I got right back up and this time was able to ride by without incident.  We made several more loops of the stableyard and in the end really enjoyed our ride in the moonlight.  So I'm not happy I fell but I am happy I didn't let the fall ruin what ended up being a good learning and desensitizing experience and a fun ride with friends.

Going back in time to Monday, the day before all the rain started, I decided to give Starbuck kind of a light day and started just longeing her, but then got inspired and decided to ride her.  But to keep things low-key, I rode her with only the rope halter and lead rope instead of her normal bridle.  It's the first time I'd ridden all over the whole arena like that - the other times I've ridden her in a halter we blocked off the "non-scary" section to ride in, so I was pretty proud of us.  It took me a while to remember how to switch the lead rope from one side to the other without smacking her in the face with it, and it took her a while to realize I really meant her to go where I was asking her to go, but in the end we really covered the entire arena doing lots of serpentines and figure eights and walking right by the bar and pigpen and whatnot at a walk, then doing some figure-eights and circles at a trot and a couple of circles in canter.

Some positive things I took away from this: she didn't buck or dash off at a full out gallop or otherwise misbehave at any point, so that was a big trust-booster for me.  Also she had her head way down the entire time and was really actually using her hindquarters - you would have taken her for a western pleasure horse if it weren't for the saddle.  And finally, over the course of the 40 minutes or so that I was riding her we really progressed from "I'm completely going to ignore your aids" to "You don't really want to go over THERE do you?" to "I guess we can do that if you say so" to "OK, let's do it".  As much as I hate being bad at something, it's good to experience both the humbling sensation of not being able to do the simplest thing like walk in a straight line for 10 feet but also the cause-and-effect goodness of that kind of progress from time to time - it reminds me to not get so frustrated when things don't go like I want them to.

And finally last Saturday I had my first dressage lesson with my friend Virginia's old teacher Daniela who also taught a clinic I attended a few years ago - my friend Belén (owner of Lady Utopia, an even younger filly than Starbuck - and yes, that's her registered name) and I have decided to kick it up a notch and do some semi-private (just us and the teacher) lessons once every couple of weeks to see if we can make some real progress on both our riding and the girls' way of going this winter.  We got one of our friends to tape it and as soon as I have enough patience and time and computer resources to upload the videos I'll do a dedicated post on that.

Have a great weekend folks and remember, being chubby has its benefits! XD

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