Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Lesson on a Thoroughbred

This year we are spending the holidays in the Chicago area with Brian's parents, and Brian's mom scheduled a treat for us. She's been taking lessons at a hunter/jumper barn since shortly after I got Steen. She's visited us in Iowa and ridden our horses, but we only have access to our two guys, so there has never been an opportunity for all three of us to ride together. She normally takes a lesson on Thursdays, so she just signed Brian and I up to ride with her.

The barn where she rides is huge, with over 100 stalls and more horses kept in pastures. When we arrived things were a bit chaotic. There was a Christmas camp for kids going on, and quite a few people using the indoor arena. We went through the usual adjusting of stirrups and getting acclimated to a different horse and tack, but before long we were all mounted and walking along on the rail.

I rode a tall, red thoroughbred named October, and we got along well from the start. The instructor, Thea told Brian and I not to worry too much about contact, just to ride with as much or as little as we felt we needed. October was tall (over 16hh) and I expected to feel a bit out of whack with the thin little reins and the English saddle and big, lanky horse. But in reality it didn't take long before I felt pretty settled.

Thea sent us into a posting trot, and so we spent the next 25 minutes or so working on our diagonals . Neither Brian or I had much trouble with this, which was good because it's not exactly something we work on regularly. And of course Cathy has this down already. October had the slowest trot of the three horses, which was fine with me.

We were all feeling quite good and warmed up by the time she asked if we'd like to canter. We came to the middle of the arena and then tried to canter one at a time. October was ready to go. Thea had me collect him at the walk, then ask for the gait. He moved right into it and stayed there. I felt great on him. He had a fast, upright canter but so does Steen, so I felt at home.

Brian rode a big, dark-brown thoroughbred named Chip, and he did a great job. He'd never ridden English before, but you would never have known it, watching him ride. His horse needed a little more persuasion moving into the lope than mine did, but once he got going he stayed there quite well.

Cathy had the most difficult horse, who wasn't at all inclined to pick up the canter and had to also be reminded to stay there. But she did a good job keeping him going, and after we'd all had our solo canters we got back on the rail and cantered together.

Our hour went by fast, and before we knew it we were cooling them down. All in all, it was a very fun experience. Thea gave me a few pointers. She told me to sit down at the lope. Steen can get so fast and forward I've developed a bit of a habit of rising up out of the saddle, so that is something I need to keep in mind in the future. And of course it just never hurts to spend a little time exploring a different riding philosophy, though I'll not be trading in my mecate for knobby reins any time soon.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 106:55

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