Shaping up

As I was walking home from the gym last night I was hailed by a car. “Miss! Excuse me, miss!” I turned to see a car with two guys in it. “Yes?,” I asked. “You have a great a**!” “Uh…thanks,” I mumbled.

I was briefly angry with myself for being so polite and lame in my response, but then I decided that I shouldn’t be. Why was I blaming myself for the years of cultural conditioning that led me to try to be polite when confronted with boorish behavior?

Also, truthfully, I do think my butt has become much more toned since I’ve been riding twice a week. I didn’t start riding so I could get a better behind, although it’s a side benefit that I’m happy with. Horsies and a firmer backside?! Count me in!

I’m only a month away from my big goal — riding in Scotland — and while I’m a much better rider than when I started my lessons in March, I won’t be able to do all things I’d like. I really wanted to be able to canter, but I have hardly done any cantering to date, and likely won’t be ready to do so before I leave.

I haven’t written very much about my horse-riding experiences (although, I haven’t written very much at all the past few months). When I first had the idea to take lessons so I could ride during a 16-day trip Scotland in October, I asked the experts over at Grumpy Rumblings for some advice on what skills I should concentrate on building in preparation. While I was excited by my progress in June, by the following month my aged body had revealed to me that I needed to do yet more work.

Since the last week in July, I’ve been in physical therapy twice a week to work on my left foot, ankle, and calf, and I’m definitely improved. I’ve noticed such a difference when walking, in fact, that during a follow-up visit I asked the doctor if she thought I could try running again. Her answer was to wait about two weeks before I started again, very slowly.

My left ankle still gets fatigued when I’m posting the trot for more than about five minutes. I’m working on building up my ability to do it for longer, and have the approval of the physical therapist to push it a bit more each time I ride. It’s mostly because of this unaccounted for set back that I haven’t been able to learn to canter yet. My instructors (I’ve been working with two different ones) have wanted to see me balanced and steady in the saddle before having me learn to canter safely.

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve decided to look at other options for improving my riding. I talked with the one instructor about share boarding a horse instead of riding different school horses all the time. (For those who don’t know, share boarding is basically like leasing a horse, or sharing the expenses of keeping a horse with a private owner or the stable.)

My thinking is that if I can learn to ride well — to find my balance and work through my physical challenges — on one horse, that will help me when I’m given the opportunity to ride different horses. Also, if I share board, I can ride at times that are less busy at the stable (such as mornings) and spend my riding time focusing on building my skills instead of dodging other horses. While it’s great to learn to work on a horse around other riders, at times I find it much too demanding to be trying to figure out how to avoid others while I’m trying to work on my own riding. 

The other change I’ve already started as of today is working with just the one trainer. Over the past few months, I’ve worked with five different trainers. Mostly I’ve worked with only two: one during a weekday lesson, and one during a weekend lesson. There have been a few times when one or the other trainer was out and I worked with a substitute, which is why I’ve been with so many. This week I decided that I should stick with just the one trainer for now, and changed my riding schedule to accommodate that decision.

I also got to ride a new horse today, a big gelding named Finn. I think he may just be my share board horse. I’ve ridden several school horses by now, and never sat one as well as I did on Finn today. He’s the largest horse I’ve ridden (a Percheron cross), and is somewhat mouthy (trying to gnaw the stable door, the bit, and nip at my shirt), but I was able to put his bridle on (he was already saddled when I got to the barn), lead him out to the arena, and ready him for riding without any issues. Once mounted, I urged him up to a trot with little effort, caught the correct diagonal quickly, and posted the trot with relative ease. Riding this morning with only one other person in the arena was lovely, too.

I still have some details to work out before I take the leap into share boarding, but I’m so glad to have the option open to me. And I’m really eager to get back on Finn again, too. 🙂