Update on the fitness front: since my last post, I’ve gone bike riding four times and working out three times! No six pack yet, but I’m happy with my “progress” so far. If you are interested in burning the ever living doodoo out of your thighs and butt, go watch these dancer exercisesand try the “Plie Prance.” Also (can you tell I’m an ADD youtube addict?) go look up the ridiculous official video for “Prancercise” while you’re at it. It’s big fun.
One of the things I love about horse people is the instant camaraderie that blooms when something horse related is mentioned in conversation. You could be a complete stranger but if you start talking about your equine children (breeds, names, ages, and every possible detail) I would be instantly interested. We horse folk can be an opinionated bunch, but as long as we have the joy and magnificence of horsemanship to hold as a similarity, chances are we will be able to enjoy talking horses or riding together.
I’ve always thought that a big part of the fun of riding is enjoying horses with other horse crazies: group lessons, clinics, shows, trail rides, horsie events, parades, hunter-paces, swimming, and so on. All of it seems to be more fun when you get to watch other owners and trainers working with their horses in their own unique way. And this is where my problem lies. Shiloh lives in a giant pasture with wonderful grass and many acres to roam…by himself, minus a few cows across the fence line. For the past year and a half I’ve been riding alone in the pasture with some lessons interspersed occasionally when my trainer can work me in. But I’m not complaining. Free pasture board is a huge plus.
I like to have lots of feedback and instruction when I ride, so riding alone is sometimes uncomfortable. All my insecurities come out to play. There comes a time when I just have to buckle down and ride even though I feel like I’m doing everything wrong. I have to remind myself that excellence, not perfection is the goal. And every time I get on and make even the tiniest step forward, I have to consider it a success and stop being picky. It makes me think of a phrase I discovered in Naomi Epel’s “Tool Kit for Writers.”
It’s Yiddish for “rub your bottom on the chair.” In essence, Epel considers the phrase a reminder to simply sit your behind on the chair and wait expectantly for inspiration and results. For my purposes, I switched the chair to a saddle and I use the phrase to remind myself that just by sitting my butt in the saddle, even when I’m tired or discouraged or quite sure that I’m the worst rider in history, is a victory. Dressage is just showing up and doing the work.
Today I carved out some time to work with Shiloh on bend and connection. It was a toasty 98 degrees so I skipped the saddle and rode bareback for minimal sweating and wore my designated summer grime breeches–old pink off brand pull-ons, and my new snarky horse socks.
Armed with magical empowering stretchy pants, I set out my cones for a short serpentine down the flat stretch of the pasture. The idea was to practice achieving a straight step in between the cones and switching bend around each curve. Shiloh’s previous owner rode and trained him exclusively with a curb (shank) bit, so the snaffle is a new concept for him. He is still learning to appreciate connection (or “feel” with his mouth), so I took my time warming up and following his mouth with consistent light pressure on the bit-just enough so I always felt him travelling “through the bridle.” He’s a pretty wiggly, unbalanced guy so it was quite a challenge keeping him straight and assuming the correct bend with my leg and rein aids working together.
We gradually improved each time we went down the line and Shiloh eventually started to bend around my inside leg around each curves. After 40 minutes of focused riding, the sun almost incinerated us and hellish hordes of bloodsucking flies descended from the heavens. But it was fun while it lasted.
Yay summer and happy riding!