My riding class expanded this past summer to include CA and BF. CA is an experienced rider, but has not been riding much over the last year because her horse is recovering from a leg injury. LA offered her a horse to ride during our lessons to keep her skills up. BF is a newbie and has been taking lessons for almost a year now.
Gem was a schnook last night. He is not usually affectionate; he's not fussy on having his face touched unless you are putting on a bridle. However, last night he allowed me to softly rub his face and eyes, hug him and scratch his ears. He sniffed my hair. He touched my butt when I was cleaning his feet. Yep, we were going to have a good ride.
Last night, LA set up two cavalettis and four poles in the middle of the arena. Gem was very interested in them. Ears up. We walked up to them and he checked them out. He sniffed and sniffed. No problemo, he said. Alright!
As I have mentioned, our usual routine is walk, lope, rising trot, jog, with leg yielding exercises thrown in for good measure. And, as usual, when BF takes his turn at whatever he is being asked to do, he does it with ease and finesse. His tall, lanky body seems to float effortlessly with his horse when he lopes. He's balanced. He makes it look easy. He doesn't break a sweat. And, when he completes his turn, we tell him how much we hate him. Last night was no exception. We told BF fairly early in the evening that we hated him.
In general, Gem and I were having a pretty good session. He was responsive to my leg and verbal cues. He was relaxed. His jog was OK although we are still working at slowing it down a tad. On the other side, his rising trot could have been a bit faster and larger. Oh, well. After one false start, he and I loped one full circle, at a consistent pace and I believe my butt was in the saddle for most of it. Yay! I managed to reprise my loping performance a number of times. My goal of going around the arena twice at a lope is in sight!! My classmates were quite impressed.
Now it was time for the cavalettis and poles. We all walked over them a couple of times, to allow the horses to get used to them. CA's horse refused a couple of times but eventually realized that the cavalettis were not going to eat him. The poles were set up beside the cavalettis. The pattern would be trot up and over the cavalettis, turn and trot over the poles. We took our turns and as usual told BF that we hated him.
LA: Let's bump it up a notch. Wolfie, you and Gem pick up a lope and do the pattern.
LA: Well, thanks for thinking about it.
Me: Are you mad???? I am still trying to stay in the saddle under normal circumstances when I lope! You want to throw in jumping???
LA: It's not that high.
Me: I'm not loping over those poles.
Gem and I managed quite nicely at a trot thank you very much while others loped/hopped over the cavalettis and poles. After we trotted over the obstacles, Gem and I loped down to the far end of the arena to join the group. I think I may be getting the hang of this loping thing! Jean did amazingly well on a new horse. They actually did jumps over the cavalettis! OK, the elevation of the cavalettis is probably, what, 6 or 7 inches??? But Jean and her horse jumped them. It was lovely to watch. We told her that we hated her.
LA then added another cavaletti, positioned on the same side as the poles. So, now we had to go over the first two cavalettis, turn, go over the new cavaletti and then the poles. No sweat. Gem and I gracefully trotted over the first cavalettis. However I made my turn very sharp and didn't give him much room to reposition his body before taking on the new cavaletti. We were almost at a standstill and in my effort to keep him moving I pushed a secret button by mistake. With no room to actually take a stride, he went up. Like, straight up. He jumped over the new cavaletti and then continued to trot over the poles. WTH?! He JUMPED! He JUMPED that cavaletti like it was a 2 foot jump instead of 6 inches. And, I stayed in the saddle!!! Everyone was cheering. I am sure the group thought that it was a smile on my face, indicting that the jump was planned. But, in fact, I was checking to see if I had chipped any teeth. As I joined my classmates, CA leaned over to me and said: "Loping, jumping....soon you will be the one we hate!" Wow!!!
The rest of the lesson was a bit of a blur. I have to admit that I was grateful that Gem made the decision to go forward, or up in this case, instead of freaking out or refusing. It reaffirmed my gut feeling that I can trust him. He did what needed to be done to continue moving on, but didn't overdo it.
I had jelly legs when I dismounted. I could already feel the effects of whiplash settling in as I was leaving the stables last night. Getting out of the car when I got home took some effort. Sigh. Today is an Advil day....boy, is it an Advil day.
What was I thinking....?