Sunday, February 7, 2010
My First Lesson
Saturday, February 6, 2010-
I went to my first horse riding lesson!! I must admit, I was truly nervous when I got into the car to go to the stable. I was nervous to drive into the driveway, nervous to even get out of my car!!
It was dark and grey out, with rain threatening, and I tried to talk myself out of going, but my husband was right there, shooing me out the door....in a very supportive way, but shooing me nonetheless.
I found myself driving super slow there, as the scenery changed from suburban sprawl to sparse countryside. I grew jealous of the houses that looked so peaceful, with spacious property around them, the occasional cows or horses in between each one. I soon found the driveway of the ranch, and figured, hey, now or never.
Thankfully, my instructor was standing in the driveway to tell me where to park, otherwise I might have kept on driving, too scared to jump in to the unknown.
I parked, and we went into the barn. There were horses on either side, in their stalls, and it reminded me of a scene out of any movie involving a well kept stable. The vertical bars on the stall walls, the smell of the hay and the dark wood of the entire building. It was a little dim from the grey skies until she turned on the lights, and it was a little unsettling to be surrounded by such large creatures. Thankfully, there were a few barn cats about, and one even came up and greeted me, which made me feel more comfortable.
I signed a form that basically explained that if I hurt myself due to my own stupidity that I won't sue the ranch, and that I could either wear a helmet or not, since I'm over 18.
I chose to wear the helmet. I feel that anything could happen, and if I end up on my noggin, I'd rather it be protected.
I learned how to put a halter on, retrieve a horse from their stall, and how to lead them. It's very daunting to look to your right and realize that there's a 1000 pound animal attached to you by a rope, and they're going where you're taking them, or at least you hope they're going where you're taking them, and they're BIG.
I learned how to groom them for saddling, by cleaning their hooves out, brushing out their fur with two different types of brushes, a really hard fierce looking one called a curry comb, and a softer brush. The horse I was learning on was a shorter guy called Casper, an appaloosa gelding who was very patient. He stood calmly while I brushed his face, and even lifted his feet up for me to clean them!
I must say I was a little nervous about walking around him, scared of a hoof flying at me at any moment, but my instructor assured me that while I should remain cautious, Casper wasn't the type of guy to lash out at me.
We then saddled him with a western saddle, and she had me mount him. Wow! I was sure I would end up on the other side of the horse with my butt up in the air! I actually had to talk myself into following her instructions, my body and my legs did not want to listen to me!!! I figured, hey, this is what I came here for, right? So either do it, or don't, but if you don't you'll never get any further than this.
So I stood there for a moment....and did it!! I'm sure it wasn't the most elegant thing, and I think I may have plopped onto the horse a little too roughly, but my instructor said I did all right for the first time. She gave me some pointers on how to gently place myself onto the horse without slamming into his spine, so I know that's something I need to work on.
She led Casper around the ring on a lunge line to have me get used to feeling his body move underneath me. A lunge line is a really long rope that you use to circle the horse around you while you stand on the ground. It's a good way to solidify training and a good way to worry about your riding posture and muscles and everything that goes with it without having to steer the horse. Kind of like learning how to operate a car without steering it on a busy highway. It certainly was odd to feel him moving, and I felt like I might slide off with each step. I knew from reading various books and websites that I shouldn't get used to hanging on to the saddle horn for balance, so I tried to keep my hands on my legs, rather than grab on to that little post in front of me that would give me a false sense of security.
It's funny how instinct tells you to "grab the nearest handle" when you're feeling unbalanced. I had to stop my hands from straying to the horn, even stopping them in mid-air, realizing they were on the path to grabby-land when Casper started making direction changes.
By then, it was getting pretty dark, and the rain was pounding down on the top of the arena, and my time had come to an end. We un-saddled Casper, and I learned how to put the tack away (yes, certain straps have certain places!) and put the horse away safely. The instructor and I talked a little more, and I scheduled another lesson.
Overall, I feel really good about this whole thing. The stables didn't smell, the horses all seemed alert and happy, the arena was open and inviting, and there was a home-like feel to the barn.
I can't wait to go back!