Friday, August 12, 2011


I have been sore most of the week. My mid-section hurts when I laugh. My thunder thighs are still ache-y. And, strangely, my neck was stiff up until today. I haven't felt like this in a long time. No, I did not fall off. Our lesson this week concentrated on steering at a lope. Sigh.

Two of my classmates were mounted on horses that had careers as competitive reining horses. I am not sure of the background of the third horse, but it’s pretty obvious that he has had lots of training – he’s being used as a lesson horse to pay off some outstanding board bills, I believe. My classmates seemed to breeze through lesson on their trusty steeds, smooth as silk.

While Gem and I make an attractive looking team, our performance sometimes are not always attractive. :-) Lesson this week was one of those examples. The first order of the day was to practice neck reining. LA had us neck rein turning on the haunches. Gem and I have been practicing (with two hands) and we struggled through this portion of the lesson. It wasn't smooth, but I thought that we were finally getting it and working together. He wasn't walking off as much and we actually had a couple of good cross-overs. So, what did my classmates do??? Not only did they neck rein and turn on haunches, they SPUN their horses. Yep, they did spins. Sigh.

To help us learn how to steer at a lope, we were asked to lope a circle using only half of the arena. Within that circle, ovals were made, always going in the same direction - circle, oval, circle, oval, repeat, repeat. The goal for my classmates was to neck rein the changes in pattern, bending the horse’s head in the direction he was to go in, all the while keeping their butts in the saddle and maintaining speed. My classmates did a great job. It was wonderful to watch how fluid their movements were and it showed how far Jean and BF have come with their riding skills. Gem and I are still working on neck reining, so we didn't have to one-hand it. :-)

Here’s basically what my classmates' pattern looked like:

This is what our pattern looked like.


LA: Outside leg! Outside leg!
Gem: (shaking head) WTH are you asking me to do???
Me: I want you to go that way.
Gem: Then get your inside leg out of me!
LA: Lower your hands!
Gem: Stop pulling on me!!
Me: I don't mean to! I am all confused!
LA: Push him on! Don't let him slow down!
Gem: What do you want????
Me: I want you to keep loping.
Gem: Why???
LA: Left! Left! No, the other left!
Gem: Would you just decide what direction you want to go already?!!!
Me: Stop interrupting me! I am trying to concentrate on keeping my heels down, my butt in the saddle, operating the reins and doing the pattern.
Gem: That would be multi-tasking and right now you are doing a lousy job.
Me: You're right.

Gem slowed down to a trot a number of times during our routine and I had to push him back up to a lope. He showed his frustration with me with a lot of head tossing. We were not smooth as silk, we were more like lumpy mashed potatoes.

I was exhausted after our first attempt! My legs were starting to feel like jelly. My gut hurt! As we caught our breath and watched the others have another go at the pattern, I realized I was actually a little embarrassed at how poor my performance was compared to my classmates. They made it look so easy! That nasty little fellow Insecurity tried to whisper something in my ear.... but I shook him off.

LA gave me a little pep talk before we started our second round:

LA: I want you to just do a small circle. No pattern. Outside rein has contact on his neck and I want you to open up your inside rein as you lope to keep his head slightly bent to the inside. Keep him moving. I don't want you to think of anything else.

Off we went. The second round was much better. I didn't think about my heels. I didn't think about keeping my butt in the saddle. I didn't think about making a perfect circle. And, I didn't have to think about what the pattern was. Gem still did some head tossing and he wasn't pleased when I assertively requested that he keep loping. In spite of his resistance, we managed to do a couple of small circles at a lope! And, I stayed in the saddle! :-) I felt much better after the second round; not smooth as silk, but more like whipped potatoes instead of lumpy mashed.

Insecurity tried to join us at Burger and Beers, but I resisted letting him sit with us. :-) I have been left with homework. I am to practice loping small circles and at a walk I am to practice turning using neck reining. Yep.....I'll get right on that....soon....real soon... as soon as I can move without pain.....Now, where's my vodka soda???...

What was I thinking.....?


  1. Love your diagram and Left, the other Left! Very funny. But you can't expect to do what the other riders are doing yet. You've only just begun to neck rein and lope. So that's a lot to throw at you all at once (the patterns). If you do wind up practicing when you feel less sore just start slow with the walk and work up to the trot and then the lope. I'm all for doing what feels comfortable and safe until you feel you're able to add more pieces to the puzzle.

    Funny post you had me smiling.The main thing is to have fun.

  2. I agree with Grey Horse Matters. Slow things down for yourself. It is hard to take lessons when the riders have a wide variety of experience and ability. I enjoy watching a rider more advanced than I am but it can be frustrating to be in the same lesson. I think you are doing great. And I loved your diagram - been there, done that. :-)

  3. Well, I don't know horses -- but I do know insecurity! :-) I suspect you are thinking too much, and need to "feel" it more.


    You are courageous!

  4. I have sympathy leg pains... just reading your 'conversation' with Gem made my body ache! I was clenching muscles as I read!
    I may begin some lessons again soon... I am so out of shape - it will be painful, I'm sure!

  5. I think your pattern is hilarious. We've all done that!

    There will come a time when you'll make it look easy too.

    I still remember a comment my trainer made to me many years ago. I said something wasn't as easy as she made it sound. And she yelled back maybe but it wasn't as hard as I made it look.

    I've come a long way.

  6. : ) You're so inspiring when you say "Insecurity tried to join us", and then you don't let him sit at your table! We ALL have those rides (omg, I swear I never learned left from right when on a horse!), and I love that even if everyone else is making Irish devil signs in the sand, you're working hard at your circle, 'cause you know that Gem and you can get there. Keep up the hard work and self confidence!

  7. Hilarious diagram, I hear ya! Too many things to concentrate on all at once. I'm glad you shut the door on insecurity. If it was easy everybody would be doing it. Good for you for continuing forward.

  8. OMG!!! Never mind the 'interesting' pattern you made, I'm in awe that you did it while loping!! I got all turned round and back to front the one time I attempted figure-8s at a trot *blush*

    You do make me laugh -- love your 'conversation' with Gem! And I shall take a page out of your book on how to deal with Mr.Insecurity.

    But well done you, top marks for perseverance!! You deserve that vodka soda!!! Joy xx

  9. GHM – Once again you provide words of wisdom. I sometimes forget that my classmates are 20+ years younger than I am and a bit more resilient. :-) Thanks for reminding me that it really is about having fun.

    Barbara – Excellent observation. It is frustrating sometimes to have lessons with advanced riders.

    Detroit Dog – Sometimes I don’t feel too courageous!! :-)

    Dreaming – LOL! I keep reminding myself “no pain, no gain”!!

    ltd – I am looking forward to the day I make it look easy!!! Love what your trainer said. :-)

    Sand. – Insecurity tries to be my friend regularly. :-) Thanks for your support.

    Mary – I do feel sometimes that it’s too much stuff to concentrate on!! This old brain doesn’t work that fast!

    Joy – I may have been all over the place but, yes, I was loping!! And, my vodka soda was delish!

  10. Love that comment from Itd - I resemble that remark!

    You'll get it. Stay positive. I think insecurity has a best buddy named ego (who shouldn't be our friend either!) ;)

  11. I love the pattern! Mine would have been like that until Socks got too frustrated and ran off course and around the arena. It doesn't look like it was an easy pattern in the first place.

    For a first time, it really wasn't that bad from the sounds of it. Reining horses do patterns all the time. My BO rides reiners, and they are absolutly amazing and listen to the softest cues. Gem has to work his way up to what they can do.

    We train our guys to neck-rein. My dad takes them in the trees and after a couple hours they can usually neck rein pretty well. I did that with Socks. Some advice: knee pads are your friends. :)

  12. I've had many a pattern that looked just like that! I'm glad you can keep your sense of humor about's a journey!

  13. I'm still laughing about your diagram. Oh, it is SO HARD not to be intimidated and feel "down" when I'm with folks whose horse abilities and knowledge far outweigh my own. One of the goals I have for myself this year is to have a little more self-confidence and pride in what I've learned so far about horses. When you think about it, developing that confidence is just as important as figuring out how to canter or do anything else we do with horses. Our horses want us to be confident.

    One of the best things about working with horses is that it's endlessly challenging (mentally AND physically). You're a quick study, you're having fun, it's good for you, and you have a gorgeous, nice horse that I'm guessing is envied by a lot of people at your barn! You're right, Mister Insecurity has no place at your table.

  14. Lol I love your diagram
    LOL - "left, left, no the other left" I can remember doing that plenty of times :P

  15. Calm – I am a glass half full kind of girl, so I will get over it. :-) I agree; Ego shouldn't be a friend either!

    Cjay – These reining horses are quite amazing and they sure do know patterns! I love your father’s trick about taking the horses into the trees to help with neck reining – thanks for sharing!

    Linda – It really is a journey and I am so happy to be on it!

    Fetlock – "...developing that confidence is just as important as figuring out how to canter...” So true! Thanks for your supportive comments.

    Ruffles – Nice to hear from you. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t even figure out my left from my right!! LOL!

  16. Those drawings made me giggle!!
    I think I read too much into things, but just make sure you're not comparing yourself to your lesson-mates. They are on lesson horses, aka horses that have done this with mixed cues/signals from all sorts of different riders. They don't have to get the cues exactly right because their horses dont need them to.
    In the meantime, dont forget to occastionally compare yourself to those of us who aren't loping yet!! That will give you a little boost!!

  17. Minus Pride - Excellent advice! I know, I know....they are on ex-competition lesson horses, but I do get frustrated that I can't communicate as well as they seem to. :-)

  18. Hilarious...I'm exhausted just least your drawing did stay inside the circle, I would of been way out. Lumpy it.

  19. TCP - Cripes, I was tired! :-) Nice to hear from you.