Monday, April 2, 2012

Look, Ma! No Hands!

We are back to more seasonal weather here. I am grateful that I didn’t packed away all of my snugly riding clothing. :-)   Last Tuesday’s lesson was…just OK. Gem and I were not working together. Granted, my shoulder was really bothering me (yes, I have started physio), which I am sure made my whole body stiff. I did get a really nice, slow jog from Gem. It was a pleasure to be sitting on him. I have to say that it has taken a lot of work but, more often than not, he can jog just like a quarter horse. :-) My loping, on the other hand, was horrible.

When I loped, my arse was way up in the air, my hands flaying around, and with all the flapping they were doing my arms should have had feathers on them to fly me away. I couldn’t seem to help myself. I looked like some crazed person. It couldn’t have been comfortable for Gem. He let his displeasure be known by some head tossing when I asked him to lope.  I couldn’t seem to do what LA wanted me to. It was a tiring.

Towards the end of the session, LA had me dismount and she got on Gem. As she loped him, she exaggerated how I am riding him (apparently I look like a deranged madman) and showed me how to correct it.  I need help and I immediately booked a private lesson with LA for Sunday morning. BTW, Gem looked beautiful as she loped him in a small circle. :-)

At burger and beers after lesson, my nervous classmate asked me what I thought of LA riding Gem.

  Me:  It was great to see him from that perspective.   He looked beautiful.
  NC:  Yes, it's great to see what he's capable of when he's ridden properly. 

WTH? I know that she doesn't mean to be rude, but still.... Anyway, I was able to deflect any comments about Gem being disrespectful because of his head tossing by concentrating the conversation on Jean and her progress with Stu (update coming soon!!).

I was pumped for my lesson on Sunday. My body wasn't tired like it was Tuesday night. We were in the arena. The focus of the lesson was to work on not depending on my reins for balance when I loped. We did our warm up and then we worked on correcting Gem. The concept of this exercise is not unfamiliar to me, but I haven't really put it into practice. I jogged Gem large on a very loose rein. That in itself was a bit weird for me. I didn't realize what a security blanket my reins are!!! When he made a decision to disregard my leg, I had to turn him in the opposite direction and do small circles until I could feel him give and then start on our way again. This was to tell him that he doesn't make the decision on where we are going and if you disregard my message then I will make you work harder.  It was at this point I saw that my nervous classmate was watching my lesson. Boy, I could just hear the conversation afterwards about how many times Gem had to be corrected. Sigh. I quickly gave my head a shake and got back to focusing on the task at hand. Eventually, Gem caught on and we were much better at going large without him disregarding my leg and straying off the path. 

Next up was loping. My loping has always been hit and miss.  I was looking forward to having one-on-one instruction in this area.  Asking Gem was easy and he was on the correct lead each time (yay!).  An issue that I have is that in my effort to "push" Gem on with my butt in the saddle, I start leaning further and further back. To compensate for this imbalance, I pull on the reins to right myself. Pulling on the reins actually pulls my butt out of the saddle and Gem's head back.  See, it's all connected!

LA told me to lope on a very loose rein. I was nervous, thinking that Gem would take off at a gallop. LA reassured me that there was no where for him to go if he did. :-) Off I went.  It wasn't bad. I started to relax.  Gem was steady and I was actually able to do small circles by just opening up the (long) inside rein. Nice. :-)

Then LA informed me that I was going to lope with no hands. Pardon?? She came over and tied my reins in a knot and looped them over the horn of my saddle, with the instructions that I could keep my hands on my thighs as we loped large.

Me:  Have you completely lost your mind?!
LA:  You have been basically riding without your reins all lesson.
Me:  Maybe, but that was mostly at a jog.  Loping is completely different. You can't lope without holding on the the reins.

I glanced over and saw my nervous classmate watching me.

LA:  Stop trying to talk yourself out of it.  Keep your butt in the saddle and lope....

And I did.  I started with my hands on my thighs.  It wasn't bad....my body was actually balanced.....I mean really balanced.  I felt secure in the saddle.  WTH?  Gem was even and steady, his neck relaxing.  We went around the far end of the arena and with LA yelling encouragement, my confidence grew......to the point that I eventually lifted my arms up and straight out from my sides (imagine "I'm King of the World!!).....around the other corner and right passed my nervous classmate.  :-)   

I completed one full circuit of the arena!  I couldn't believe what I had just done.   It was exhilarating.  I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.   I tried it again and managed to do 3/4 of the arena.  I could absolutely feel the difference in how I was sitting in the saddle.  I now know what it feels like to be balanced; something to strive for.

 When I dismounted, I hugged LA and thanked her.  How fortunate am I that I have an instructor that seems to know when to push me?   My nervous classmate was very excited for me, too.  You know what?....maybe my little no-hands display has been as inspiration for her....you never know.  In any case,  I am guessing that the conversation over burgers and beers after tomorrow's lesson will be a little more positive about my skills.  I can hardly wait!  :-)



26 comments:

  1. YIPPIE!! Its tough with no hands but I bet it will help you as much as it helped me! People will always try to bring you down, concentrate on your own progress and look at how far you've come :)

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    1. Thanks! Did you ride without hands as part of your training routine for competitions?

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  2. Oh well done, riding without hands is hard, especially when you have a spectator! I'm really impressed that you gained so much confidence in just one lesson! LA sounds like a wonderful instructor and of course having an awesome horse helps too.

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    1. Crazy, eh?! :-) I think my confidence comes from trusting LA. If I didn't believe that she knew I could do it, I probably wouldn't have attempted it.

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  3. Riding with no hands...woohoo! That proves that you have good balance, imagine doing that when you first started back riding. I've been guilty in the past of relying on my reins and standing in my stirrups which took a while to correct. One of the things that really helped was putting me and my horse on the lunge and practice with no hands. One thing I've never tried but I saw my daughter's instructor make her do it is go over jumps with no hands. Nothing could make me do that.

    I'm glad to hear you did so well when you had an audience. That's hard to get out of your mind but like you say you just refocused on the job at hand and got it done. Good for you. As for letting the trainer ride your horse, I used to do it all the time. My instructor was a better rider than I was(am) and I loved seeing my horse do the best he could and what I could aspire to. Have a great time with your next lesson.

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    1. I am still smiling about my accomplishment!! I actually had LA video me. :-) I have a video of me loping from the past 3 Aprils and I have to say that it is encouraging to see the improvement one year to the next. I like that idea of riding on the lunge. Jumping with no hands???....I can't even imagine!!

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  4. No hands is so good - it really makes sure you sit down and balance. Sounds like a really good outcome - you do have a great instructor!

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    1. I could not believe the difference in the feel! I am really lucky to have found LA, no doubt about it.

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  5. It's very helpful to see your horse ridden by someone else - and there's always someone who can ride our horse better than most of us can.

    Well done on trusting your horse, your trainer and yourself by letting go (of the reins)!

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    1. Thanks! It wasn't the first time that I have seen LA ride Gem. She rode him once a week for me when I was recovering from surgery a while back. I love seeing how he moves and it gives me motivation to be a better rider. He's beautiful. :-)

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  6. Oh, I feel your excitement! What a wonderful accomplishment! Congrats!

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    1. I am still excited! I want to try it again! :-)

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  7. Just AWESOME! I had a lesson today (using my hands). Your Post really encourages me to push myself next week. Good job!!

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    1. Thanks, 50+! That makes me feel good. You can do it!!

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  8. Sounds like a great lesson! You do have a great instructor, and they are hard to come by. I hope your classmates are more encouraging this week, but even if they aren't just remember how proud of yourself you feel!

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    1. I am very proud of myself, Marissa! I had quite a few people tell me I was nuts to attempt riding at my age, but it's stuff like this that makes me feel empowered and strong. :-)

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  9. Nervous rider better be nicer, because if she isn't I'm going to come up to Canada and give her what for. Goodness!

    I agree, it's hard to get that feeling at first of really sitting with the canter/lope, it takes a certain... dare I say "sensual," rocking of the hips but once you get it you'll never lose it. Good work, girl :)

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    1. You crack me up! You don't need to be my "muscle" to come up for a visit! Any time! I LOVE your description of sitting a lope.... I will focus on your description tonight when I attempt my encore!

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  10. Now that's my kind of lesson! What a great ride. I hope you've heard the last from the peanut gallery now. Way to show 'em how it's done.

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    1. Thanks! I am quite pleased with myself. I can guarantee that I will continue hearing from the peanut gallery - it's just in her nature. But, she has never ridden with no hands. ;-)

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  11. Oh wow Wolfie!! I'm so excited for you! I'm sitting here, grinning like an idiot, I can almost picture you & Gem ... Your instructor is brilliant! What a way to discover that you do have fantastic balance, and in front of an audience too :D

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    1. I grin every time I think of it. :-)

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  12. I believe in doing what makes you happy. I ride for the joy of it. I like spending time on little things - even when people consider it implausible that I'll spend weeks or months on one thing. I have given up caring what other people think... :-) In lessons I had to ride with no hands too - and I realize full well what an achievement it is. Well done Wolfie, sounds as if you kicked arse in that lesson. Nothing beats hushing the critics. You go girl.

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    1. In general, I do what makes me happy too when it comes to riding. You know, perhaps having my nervous classmate helped push me a bit....there may have been a little "I'll show her" in my confidence level. :-)

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  13. You go girl! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know that feeling when you really nail something. Then you know all the hard work you have been doing has been moving you forward all the time! I bet Gem was proud of you too! :)

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    1. So nice to hear from you, Nina! Thanks!! :-)

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