M's Riding Lesson Journal
I have been taking lessons since early May '13 and it seems like a good idea to keep track of what I am doing and when I'm doing it. :) Progress tracking ftw :D
Background: I loved horses as a kid but aside from the random family trail ride at an entertainment venue I didn't have an actual lesson until I was in about 9th grade or so in high school. I took dressage lessons for a few months in the summer until my family moved out of town.
Fast forward 15 years and I still thought they were beautiful animals. I started playing the sims and joined a forum for horse 'shows' and the people on there gave me the confidence to try riding out for real. I have to say horses are much different than Little Marcie thought they were. And I'm glad I'm doing this as an adult who can see that you kind of have to treat a thousand plus animal like they are a toddler, having to be firm and keep at them to do what they are supposed to do! Lol! I would never have 'gotten' that as a lovestruck teen looking for a mystical connection haha. So, I am where I am and starting where I can.
After looking around at stables online I happened across an ad on Craigslist that sounded promising. Hour lessons for $25 by an individual at their place. It sounded a lot like the place where I took lessons as a teen, it wasn't a big fancy stable.
A few mails back and forth and I went out to meet my coach at her place. Turns out it is right next to my boyfriend's grandparent's house! We go there every Monday for family dinner and I thought that was a really funny coincidence! She introduced me to the horse I'd be riding and the next week I was there for my first lesson with new Ariat fatbaby cowboy boots and a new helmet.
I started off doing Western as she felt it was easier for beginners to get a feel for their balance. After about 3 lessons I was trotting. Either the next week or the one after that I asked to be switched to English and that was an eye-opening transition!
I had been doing great sitting the trot in the western saddle but now felt like I was relearning everything all over again. I was still doing good at the sitting trot, one of those random times in life where you just 'get' something right off the bat, posting was rough. My legs were not in shape! I did stick with English though. One day I'd like to be able to do small jumps. I really love the idea of cross country and hacking out on trails and having to do equitation type stuff too.
So for the next couple months I worked on the posting trot and learning lunging. I was going once or twice a week, maybe missing a week once or twice. I also let my coach know that I wanted to eventually own my own horse in a few years and she began to teach my the basics of tacking up. By July I was feeling impatient with myself and wanted to get better, faster, at the posting trot. I thought that financially it might be worth it to lease a horse and do one lesson a week rather than doing two lessons a week. More practice time since I really just need to build my leg muscles and get that muscle memory going.
I broached the subject of leasing a horse. The next lesson I came to I learned how to catch a horse, lunged him, groomed him, tacked him up and then had my lesson. Most lessons from then on I would be grooming and tacking him up at the least. Depending on if it was too hot for an actual lesson she might just let me have a freebie on groundwork and I'd help spray the horses off with a hose. That was a lot of fun!
Towards the end of July I was working on walking and trotting over poles. In August things went south a bit. I missed two lesson weeks- one to dealing with a sick bunny, one to being sick myself with bronchitis. The next week she went out of town camping so I missed that week as well.
The week after that my coach let me know that her show horse was back home with her and suggested I lease him. I went over and it turns out that her dad decided to do excavation on their property. (They want to eventually have an indoor ring.) So the round pen for lessons was dismantled and there are tall nails sticking up out of the ground where it was. D: She said it should be back together the next week.
She said that her show horse just had his shoes off so it would be a couple of weeks before I could try him out in a lesson. I could still use my normal lesson horse until then. Since the lesson pen was not put back together I groomed him, lunged him in the grass, did shoulder yields and moved his back end around and practiced opening and shutting gates with him moving in tight circles. I really liked him! Much younger and more 'go' then my normal lesson horse.
The next week I called back and the lesson pen was still not together, or this week either. She gave me the name and number of a guy she got lessons from who works at a big lesson/training ranch. I set up a time to see him next Monday. I'm a bit disappointed that he doesn't do English though.. I wouldn't mind having a few lessons with someone else doing Western but I don't want to do that week after week.
So I'm trying to figure out where else to try in my area for English lessons. Just to meet the coaches, check out the stables and see if I can find a place. So far it looks like there are 3. One you only get a half an hour of riding for $45 which is terrible in my opinion. I will try calling the other places and see how they stack up.
At one place they give you a break in price if you purchase bulk lessons. I have no idea how long I would need to take lessons with someone else though. I'm hoping that I find out today or tomorrow that I can take lessons with my normal place soon. This is getting to be a bit complicated. I haven't had a lesson in a month and I miss it.
I found out today that my coach and coach #2 (the one she told me to visit while her pen is out of commission) were together yesterday and talked about my lessons. Today I got a text saying that if I want she could give me lessons at his place. :D I made sure it wouldn't be a hassle to her before I agreed lol. I have no idea how this is going to work but I'm excited for it! I'm still meeting him Monday at his ranch and I'm hoping beyond hope that I get a lesson in next week! I'm so excited to start riding again!
There is definitely something to be said for having even just an hour all to yourself to do what you love every week. <3
A picture of me with my lesson horse, Sundance. (14 y/o AQH Palomino gelding.)
I went out last week and met with R. at his ranch and he showed me around. So many horses! I can do lessons with my normal coach and him if I like or just her, either way so that's nice. :)
Yesterday I went out and had my first lesson in over a month! I am so sore and achey today. :shock: I rode a 20 year old grey appaloosa in a western saddle named Darwin. He doesn't like turning with the reins very much. Getting him to yeild his hindquarters took a few tries. And while trying to walk and trot sometimes he would wander in towards the middle. So usually on Sun I would just use pressure with my inside leg and pick up my outside rein. Well, he would just ignore those. If he stepped in, I would Whoa, and make him stop, then make him back up a few steps and try to get him to turn and go forward again. Well, he didn't want to turn. He would just walk forward even when I'd crank his head all the way over to the side. And my coach was watching and had seen what I'd had to do to get him to pivot and I knew she would say something if I was doing something really wrong, but I was still like, wow, I don't want to be hurting him. I asked my coach why he was doing this and if I was hurting him cos Sun never did that and she said no, that he was just being naughty and sometimes you had to be more forceful with him. That he likes to try and pick up on the bit and put his head down so I should work on trying to feel when he starts thinking about doing it and put a bit of pressure on the reins and then release before he does.
Some of that may have had to do with the pony in the middle getting lunged. He probably wanted to say hi. I was trying to get him to go and turn though because he was getting really close and we weren't supposed to get close to him. After that I was like, alright, we need your feet and your mind going forward, not on the pony and drifting towards the center. So we started trotting more.
On Sun, usually I could get a trot going and then work on steering or posture while posting, not Darwin. Well, for one, he wasn't wearing an English saddle and coach said I could try to post a little bit but I figured I'd just work on the sitting trot. Coach said that on him you can't just get on and relax you have to keep actively riding. The moment you stop he'll know and he'll slow down or take advantage of it. AND you have to keep your energy up. Sometimes that's hard for me to do. I am and usually try to be a very mellow person. If my energy was a color it would have been a blue still lake that day. I needed to be yellow static. She was 100% right. I find it helps to picture my energy around me. If it's low, by my feet, I have to make it buzz and kick out like lightning and raise it up over my body, find a level of excitement and energy that wasn't there before. I know it sounds weird but it works lol.
A few trips around the ring working on getting comfortable back in the saddle I brought my energy up and got my determined face on. We were going to trot around the ring nicely, on the outside, the whole way around. I concentrated and we went around a few times before I let him walk again. He really does not want to 'go'. Most of the concentrating was on squeezing, kicking, clucking, keeping him going, on when I needed to use my inside leg as well as a small part of me checking where my heels, hands and back were. It was a LOT of work but she was absolutely right and it felt really really good when we got going. I can't say I ever put that much concentration into ANYTHING else on a day to day basis. It was good.
Towards the end she suggested I try a canter since his was really slow and smooth. I had never done one of those before. She said to cue with the outside leg, back a little bit. I could not get it. When I would move my leg back to try I would feel unbalanced which would cause me to lose my trot or he would just ignore me. But I was sure I was just not asking for it right. So she got on when I asked and showed me it, lol. I tried again. We just kept at it, around and around, even squeezing with both legs though by this point they were like rubber, so I was flopping a bit I thought, trying to make the proper kissy noise (which I also was not super at), and finally, finally, I got a canter for a few steps! We ended after that, since it was time, and a good note to stop on. :)
Later, R. said that sometimes Darwin won't canter if he doesn't think his rider feels secure enough. Lol, so maybe that was part of it. But.. towards the end I was determined to get it, so maybe he felt that too and that's why he finally gave in. lol, horses..
*waves at the lurkers/readers!* hey guys! i have a lot of views, just wanted to say anyone can comment if ya feel like it. :) Or I can talk to myself, but either way works hehe
I'm a bit late posting this, I had my lesson this last Tuesday. My coach had her pen back up and they made it bigger this time which is really nice. I started off riding Sun. Back to the English saddle! She said it belonged to a friend and she might ask if she can buy it while she is looking at getting a more expensive saddle for her other English horse. I liked it better than the other one. More supple I guess I would say.
We mostly just did walking and trotting with me trying to get back into posting again. But I didn't do that too, too much. I was remembering my last lesson where Darwin moved very well with leg pressure and I felt like I was using my reins to much with Sun. Coach did say that I was using my hands a lot and I should try to keep them still and down. So I asked her more about it and she said that to turn use 1. Use legs and then if that doesn't work 2. Use reins. And when I use them I should remember that they should be at length where all I need to do is pick up (literally upwards) on that side. Good stuff to work on!
About halfway through or so she asked if I wanted to try Rol. I said sure! He was very nice to lunge last time and he's freakin gorgeous and why not? I like trying different horses.
So while she went to go catch him and tack him up I walked around the arena by myself. It was like, BAM, the moment she was out of eyesight he was a different horse. A magical, responsive creature that was actually applying himself to what I was saying. :shock:
LOL. As a lesson horse he has a horrrrrible habit of constantly trying to go into the middle of the ring where the coach is standing. And then stop. 'Okay, we're done now.' Aha, no. Coach says that when he does this, instead of trying to get him to back up I should keep him walking, so whoops I did that wrong last week, my bad. Of course if I'd thought about how I was rewarding him by stopping, but I guess I was thinking I was punishing him by backing? Lol, oh well! Now I know, and hopefully I'll remember!
Anyways..... oooohh my god. He was SO good when we were alone. He wasn't looking at her or wandering in. He was actually LISTENING to my leg aids and doing so good to the point where I had us doing figure 8's, turning this way and that, going diagonal and he would turn right where I wanted him to, when I wanted him to. Maybe some of it was me, maybe I was less distracted as well, I'm not sure. He did call out to the mare over in the far pasture once, and she called back that was kind of funny, which I scolded him for but couldn't help but laugh.
As soon as coach and the other horse came up he was back to being stubborn and not wanting to go or listen. I kept at it though. I mean, especially now that I know he can do it! She tacked up Rol and lunged him for a bit and then got on him in the ring with us. I tried to keep us moving in the middle while she walked and trotted him around. They don't like each other very much. I did try to trot Sun at one point but had to stop since it was immediately apparent he was trying to catch up with Rol.
I stopped in the middle and let her finish up and just sat and watched. Then I got to ride Rol. She led Sun outside and she stood and watched. He was sooo different! It was like going from directing a football player to a ballet dancer. He was smooth, moved at the drop of a hat, readily took cues and knew so many more moves. (Western saddle now.) I had issues getting him to just turn corners at first because he would move sideways, straight over the left instead. She said he doesn't really turn like a normal horse since he does Western Pleasure.
He's one of those horses that picks up what you want right away. So I had to know what I wanted and make sure it was in my head. He was picking up where I wanted to go before I could even ask. Very, very different for me. When trying to trot him I was supposed to keep him collected a very slow trot, a jog, I think it's called? And that was hard for me because it was 1. hard to tell when he was doing it 2. a bit outside my knowledge/skill to know how to hold him back while asking him to go faster. She said to squeeze a little and cluck but then pull back gently when he started to go to fast. I felt like we were doing okay sometimes but then other times he would start to go faster or even start a canter and i would pull him back and he would go back into a walk again. Hmm.. I need more practice at that I guess?
I think I can use either Sun or Rol at my lessons now. I'm not sure who to use. Sun is stubborn but is more English, Rol is fancy and Western. I'm not sure which I should do I guess. I do eventually want to do jumping, next year maybe and I like the English saddle better and think the posting helps improve my seat. However, it would be really cool to learn all the western stuff like barrels and w.p. and I have the opportunity to learn on a show horse which is also neat. So.. I don't know. I guess I will just do whatever. And try not to overthink it hehe. :)
Monday's Lesson- Sept. 29th
Monday was a weird day for me. It was basically the opposite of what last weeks lesson was. Last week I felt secure, in control and rockin. Monday I just could not seem to get 'it'. I kept feeling like I was losing my balance, my seat wasn't secure and I almost lost a stirrup..twice. which just made the balance thing worse.. *scrunches nose* And for some reason whenever I ride clockwise with my right foot on the inside my toes would go numb. :?
Sun was very 'go' that day. Which is completely different than how he normally is. He just really was feelin' good I guess. He has a pretty bouncy trot to begin with but he's usually the kind of horse you have to push a little to keep going. Well not today! He picked up on the trot right away, (which usually would get a -yay! out of me), and then not only held it but trotted very fast and big. I'm not sure if my seat issues were because I'm not used to his faster trot or what. It was probably him and me.
When he trots like that it's much better to post than to sit it. He kept trying to come into the center of the ring while I was posting and I was having issues steering while posting and trying to keep my fail-seat and form. Towards the end the coach had me trot him in a smaller circle using half of the rectangle pen. Smaller circles meant he had to slow a bit so that helped me and also knowing that we weren't having to go through the rough stuff on the sides. (there are dirt clods and I'm sure some of my nervousness that he might fall wasn't helping my confidence.)
But yeah, towards the end the last five or ten minutes were really good. I finally found my seat again, I was balanced and looking where I wanted us to go and posting. And he was listening-win. So we ended on that note as it was time anyways. It was a little frustrating since last week was so awesome but I know it's something I can work on so I made another lesson for Wednesday, the same week. I felt it was extra important to work again after having an off day. I'm really glad I can afford two lessons a week every once in a while. c:
At the end I watched my coach ride him for a little bit, getting him to go on the dirt and stay on the outside since he was being a brat for her boyfriend about that too. She said that one stirrup leather has less holes than the other. Maybe that's why my toes on the right kept falling asleep. Maybe the length is uneven. Weird! It was nice to watch someone else ride, especially someone good. Gives me an example of what I'm working towards.
Just reporting in I guess.. I think I had a lesson that wednesday as well.
But then in October.. There was an accident during my lesson and I've been in physical therapy for three or so months now.
They were still having their new barn worked on and the construction workers did not warn us that they would be making loud noises and ..they did. And my horse spooked. I was practicing my balance at the posting trot so I did not have reins. My coach had him on a lead line.
The workers did something that sounded like chain saw, sawing on metal, a loud grinding shearing sound, as we were trotting away from them. So he was completely blind as to what was making the noise. He bolted forward first which I hung onto, grabbing his mane, then he went sort of sideways and when he went the other way I was still going forward and got thrown. I knew it was going to hurt but it was so fast I didn't even have a second to think about how I was falling or landing or anything.
Long story short it was the worst thing I've ever experienced. Though it comes close to being a tie when I was in the hospital and they were trying to xray my broken in a million pieces arm..
I knew my arm was broken immediatly. I couldn't move it at all and it was numb and wrong and bad. I was having trouble breathing and sitting up and staying up and I knew my back was messed up too. I somehow managed to stay concious on the ride to the hospital. I wanted an ambulance but she was too frazzled and wasn't calling so I told her to just drive me.
At the ER was she got me a wheelchair and I started bawling when I could barely talk to say my name to the receptionist. My boyfriend was there then and it was comforting but I couldn't stop crying for the five or ten minutes I was waiting. Everything hurt and I knew I was screwed up. Let's just say the first thing i checked when I was still on the ground was that my legs could still move. Thank god they did.
I was taken into a big room in back and put in a bed and was given some pain meds which did not help at all when the next thing I had to do was xrays. I cannot even explain the pain that was xrays.. They had to move my arm and it was excruciating, I was crying and almost screaming. They also scanned my back.
..Again skipping ahead.. Eventually I was put in a normal room and given more pain meds and the nurses mostly concentrated on pain management. So what was wrong with me?
Broken forearm, what they suspected was a broken elbow and later found out was a broken radial bone, (they tried again to xray it since it was too much to do the first time around and I couldn't do it the second time around either, they said it wasn't worth putting me through so much pain), and all of the bones in my shoulder were up in an ice cream cone on top of my arm. Where they should not have been.. And I had two fractures in my spine, t9 and t10.
I was in the hospital for a week. Lots of stuff hooked up to me and a pain regime that barely helped but I got through it. My arm was agony, my back felt cramped and I was nauseous and could barely eat and because the nurses kept checking on me and giving me things sleep was hit or miss. I was given a sling for my arm and ice for the swelling (it was huge for months!) and was fitted and given a back brace.
They did surgery on my arm that friday. The surgery went well and the doctor put in a plate and pins to put everything back into place. I have a lovely long scar from that. Coming out of surgery was terrible. The anesthetic made me really ill and I was throwing up all night and barely slept. I was afraid if I fell asleep I wouldn't wake up so my boyfriend kept an eye on me. I'm not sure why I felt that way but I'm glad he was there.
When I first got home I could barely move and I couldn't shower standing up and had to have help. There is nothing like having someone else help you wash up and going days between showers to take away your modesty and appreciate being clean. We tapped plastic bag strips over my stitches for a couple of weeks when showering so it wouldn't get wet and it was a while before I could move my arm without pain or hold it up off of the chair arm or towel. It was just kind of there but I couldn't really use it.
I started therapy not long after my second check up. The doctor said no more sling and I was given permission to shower standing up even though my arm still kind of gave me issues.
Fast forward to today. I'm in therapy with three different instructors right now. I started out doing Occupational Therapy for my arm twice a week every week with exercises to do at home. My scar tissue gave me nerve pain for a while but it's mostly under control now. Just after christmas they let me start taking the back brace off at home. Then after my january appointment the doctor said no more brace at all. And then I started Physical Therapy for my back.
It's February now and I'm down to once a week for both my back and my arm. I just started Aqua Therapy yesterday to help rebuild the tissue in my back and loosen everything up. So three therapies a week and exercies at home.
Due to the accident and wearing the brace I get extreme back pain if I'm walking around too long or doing anything physical while standing. That even includes things like cooking, dishes, shopping, normal people things. My back therapist said that I just don't have that endurance of my muscles anymore so she's helping me find ways to do them to help build those muscles and I have to take lots of breaks. The doctor said that I should have full range of motion in my arm but last appointment said I might not. It still does not move the way it should and I can't get my arm up straight over my head or put my hair in a pony tail right among other things. :/ I've also apparently forgotten how to use my left shoulder blade which is a whole other kind of struggle!
People in my life are very much one of two ways about this. They always ask will I ever ride again? And they are either very- don't ever do it again - or- do it if you love it and don't let people tell you, you shouldn't.
I would like to ride again one day.. it probably wouldn't be for a very long time though. I don't even want to think about what would happen if I fell again. I already feel like an elderly person having to make double sure I don't fall on the ice or snow and there are things I just can't do that other people can. At least for now.
I know this is an old thread but I wanted to update it. Since I kind of just disappeared there..
and maybe it will give other people insight into the dangers of riding. I mean I've fallen before as a teenager and was fine. This time I was not so lucky. Everyone has to decide for themselves. I took a risk and knew it. I don't regret riding at all. I just wish I hadn't gotten so hurt.
Oh my! This is just horrible. I don't even know what to say except just give hugs. I am glad that you are recovering. I can say from experience that you should try your very best to stick with your physical therapy. It makes a huge difference in recovery time and really helps with mobility. While my experience was nothing like this, I had a pretty extensive surgery on both my legs at the same time and got some permanent screws placed in both. I tried to stick with my pt, but it hurt and it took up so much time. Fast forward 3 short years, I have arthritis in both knees, chronic hip pain and had to visit the chiro and a new pt 60 times this summer/fall for neck and back pain that might have been prevented if I had toughed out the original physical therapy. It's so important to get those muscles firing and get that range of motion back. You can do it!
Thanks Kelli! I will take all the encouragement I get!
I never realized how painful pt can be. Or how long it would take. I'm sorry you had to go through that too. I'm really hoping I will get full range of motion back but sometimes I doubt myself. It's just so weird though to go and do something and not have your body just do what it should! Thank you again. and just know that I feel ya, really I do! I hope we both get back to where we used to be. <3
I am so sorry you had that accident. you must have just fallen wierd, or did you actually contact the arena wall? usually the arena sand is soft enough to make falls painful, but not bone shattering. I had a fall recently in June, nothing broken, but it was shockingly fast and the landing hard, so I could relate to your description.
may I ask how old you are? the younger you are, the faster you'll heal.
hang in there, and spend your extra 'down' time here!
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