Friday, January 29, 2010

Ups and Downs

We have a new boarder at the stables. He is a 5 year old that stands 17.2hh. Gem is no longer the tallest horse, but I think he's still the biggest. While Dream is very tall, he is slender and actually delicately built compared to Gem's robustness. Dream is 3/4 Thoroughbred and 1/4 Shire. Dream and Gem are both classified black, but Dream is darker with white socks. I think he's darker because he is always under a blanket when he is outside. Dream likes to watch the lessons in the arena...yes, he is so tall that he can look over the wall of his stall into the arena. :-)

Dream's mom is training him in dressage. I had a nice chat with her when they first arrived about the difficulties in finding tack to fit a tall or large horse (she won that contest!). As I was standing next to Dream, I realized just how tall he is. Wow. His mom is about my height (5'7"). How the heck did she get on him?? "Oh, I have a 3-step mounting BLOCK". Really? I had no idea these things existed. The next time I was in the arena, I saw Dream's mounting block. My little 2-step ladder looked very insignificant next to this piece of equipment. :-)

I asked Dream's mom if she ever went out on trail rides. She said that every time she did, she got hurt, so she prefers to ride in enclosed areas. Having fallen off a tall horse myself, I can related. Getting on Gem from the ground was hard enough, so I can't even imagine having to get on Dream from the ground!

I have never been graceful getting on or off a horse (see Mounting and Dismounting). I could measure how bad my mounting and dismounting were by the number of bruises I would have on my arms the day after my lesson. For now I am grateful that I have improved to the point where I don't collapse on Gem's shoulders like I used to do with GM, and that my blue/white stomach and super sports bra are not regularly displayed after I slide down Gem's body when getting off him. I no longer have to worry about tipping over the saddle and doing a head plant on Gem's right side as I kick my left foot out of the stirrup. The days of holding on to the saddle for dear life as my dangling feet look for solid ground when dismounting are no more.

I think that my body is getting used to the motion of mounting and dismounting. My hip joints have opened up to allow for the up and over movement. My teeny tiny core muscles are strengthening. A year ago, I could hardly bend and touch my toes or do any stretches. I now think yoga is in my future! Now my leg clears Gem when I am getting on him. If I have had a hard lesson though and I am tired, I will dust his rump with my right leg during the dismounting process. I have improved quite a bit, but I am looking forward to the day that I can swing myself on or off Gem in one fluid motion, my right leg clearing his body by at least a foot. It will happen!!

The other night, I decided to try out Dream's mounting block. I let Gem look at it and sniff it. For some reason, Gem wasn't fussy on it. Up I stepped. Holy crap. I was actually quite high off the ground; a little scary. But, I could easily step into the stirrup and reach over to the saddle horn. I did not have to haul my bulk up and into the saddle. I just placed myself on Gem's back. So easy. So wonderful.

LA has commented on my improvement getting on and off Gem, which is encouraging. It takes me a sec to get my foot in the stirrup while perched on my ladder, but it's getting easier. As much as the block is super easy and I look so much more dignified getting on Gem when I use it, I think I will continue using my 2-step ladder. I think having to stretch to get my foot in the the stirrup and having to reach and pull myself on to Gem is exercise - every little bit helps, right? Gem's height intimidated me at the beginning, but after 8 months it's beginning to feel more and more natural. Besides, with my track record for falling off during trail rides, I need to continue conditioning my body to bend and stretch so I can reach the stirrups to get back on him from the ground!! :-)

What was I thinking....?


  1. It's wonderful that you are able to get on and off Gem with your two step. I'm sure all that stretching is really limbering you up. I know how Dreams mom feels though, I had a 17'2 warmblood for 15 years and I'm 5'5, so there was no way I was mounting from the ground. I have a 4 step mounting block (which I did a post on)that is my favorite piece of equipment. Even now with Dusty who is 15'1 or 2? I use it and just throw my leg over like a bicycle. Her saddle slips a bit from side to side and I try to not use a stirrup. There's many reasons I prefer a mounting block but the most important one is that it reduces the torque on a horses back. While mounting the saddle doesn't pull their backs and saddles sometimes causing discomfort. Sounds like you're really getting in shape, I'm going to try yoga someday when I get two minutes to myself.

  2. Good afternoon, GHM! Yes, I remember you telling me about your big beautiful boy, Erik. There would be no way I could get on a horse the height of Erik or Dream. My goodness. My body does not bend that way! I did see your post on your mounting block and I can certainly see the benefits of using one. Dream's block is too conveniently located for me not to use it some time down the road. ;-) I have a yoga video and mat somewhere in the house. I will let you know how it goes!!

  3. Great post! I use to be able to get on my little guy from the ground, but after my long lay off from riding I have never been able to do it since. I use a mounting block and I think Boo appreciates it. I would like to get hooked up with a yoga class. Don't think I'd do it on my own, but maybe...

  4. Thanks, wilsonc! One day I am going to post a picture of me swinging my leg over Gem! I am going to try yoga on my own first to see if I can actually do some of the exercises without embarrassing myself. ;-)

  5. I think you're going to find that Yoga helps a good deal - both with core strength and flexibility, and with focus. My best days riding are always after I've done yoga.

    I do use a mounting block when one is available. I knew a horse who's withers were quite sensitive, and his back couldn't handle the torque. They are so stoic... sometimes you can't tell they're hurting...

  6. Hi Breathe - I am looking forward to being flexible! My improvements may be minor, but they are improvements. Mounting blocks and step-ladders are up there with the invention of sliced bread in my opinion. If I could carry a collapsible mounting ladder while out on trail rides, I would! :-)

  7. Wolfie,
    Have you seen these?

    I've seen other contraptions for getting up on those tall boys too. I'll send them if I can find them again.

  8. Wow! Thanks, Breathe. What a great idea. I appreciate you sending on the info!