Our First Lesson

Tonight TK and I got to enjoy our first lesson with Chris. Well, I don’t know how much TK enjoyed it, he worked VERY hard!

For those of you not into horses, you might just want to skip this post. It’s probably pretty boring. But one great way to get the most out of your lessons is to write down what you’ve learned so you can refer back to it before going out for your next ride. So here’s our first lesson!

We got there early so we could get organised – horses need a LOT of stuff and most of it is heavy and you have to lug it halfway across the planet…, oh, and also so I could lunge him and saddle him before the lesson started. It also gave TK time to meet and greet the two other horses that live there, and become familiar with the surroundings.
Chris has a really nice arena with a deep sand and wood chip footing, and I knew right away that TK and I were in for a BIG workout! Running in sand is hard work!
I started lunging him out, to warm him up and he was so hot an excited, he was really struggling to do just a basic walk and trot. He also seemed to forget how to change direction, something that is easy as pie for him at home. Tonight when I called “change” for a chance of direction, he decided to change into a canter instead, showing off for Chris’ pretty mare. Silly boy! But he got nice and warm and did put his attention on me and mellowed out and felt ready to work. In some ways he was more ready than I’ve ever seen him. He was bright and interested in the new place, and was really willing to accept everything. He even took the bit better than usual. It’s nice to know that in a new place, thus far, he will show signs of being excited, but that he’s going to be attentive still.
We did two basic exercises at a walk and a trot.
Walk: speed up the walk by bumping up – with the CALVES, not the heels, Andrea! – when the back leg steps forward to encourage the back end to become the engine. Left, Right, Left! And we did it with our eyes closed and I really actually felt the back leg come through, which is awesome, cuz I can’t always feel when a particular foot is moving.
The next step with this for me is to get the timing right. I’d feel it, notice it, then react to it by bumping, rather than just feel it, bump it, no pause, no thinking.
Trot: we worked on me guiding him through a corner using my hands less and my body more. Look over the shoulder, turn the shoulder, set the outside leg back and the inside leg forward. The outside hand does NOT cross the centre line. You would not believe how much better this made our turns when I finally got my outside leg back and stopped trying to direct or steer him! Time to go back to quieter hands! I didn’t realise how sloppy they really were!
Other stuff we learned, just cuz things always come up:
– when he breaks into a canter, don’t block him, turn him directly into a circle and ride him hard, so it becomes more hard work, and not an escape or a fight. Personally I was just shocked that he’d choose to try that evasion. Stopping seems more his style!
– I really need to take more contact with him – at least for now – and especially to hone in on these messages I am trying to send him. Move the hands with his head at a walk, set your hands in a trot. Out on the trail I’ll give him his head, in the arena, we’ll work the contact and learn the cues properly.
– When I lose my right stirrup, it means I’ve gripped on with my knees and have to OPEN the hip back up to let the knee off the saddle. Then I can drop my foot back into the stirrup and get my weight down. Relax your knees! Don’t grip the saddle!
Anyway, it was an awesome time and I think I’d like to do it more! Once a week if I can! Not that I can afford that… Might need another job!

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