In spite of the crappiness I have been experiencing lately, I have been on a couple good of trail rides over the last couple of weekends and my last two lessons have been pretty good. Both lessons were outside in the front paddock. The weather was perfect on both occasions. The barrels were set up because a number of people have been practicing for an upcoming Games competition. Barrels are great at testing your balance and turning technique. My lesson Tuesday before last had only myself and nervous classmate in attendance. Gem actually loves doing barrels and for a big guy, his turns are pretty close. LA explained what the pattern was and Gem and I did it at a trot the first few times, working up to loping home. After Gem got used to the pattern, LA encouraged us to do it at a lope. And, we did! It was great.
As you know, Gem doesn't like loping small circles. Head tossing is his usual way of showing me his displeasure with small circles. This time I tried a different approach. Instead of opening up the inside rein to bend Gem's nose around the barrel, I used a slight indirect rein as suggested by Glenshee. Using this technique helped maintain my balance and helped Gem retain his. And, no head tossing! I believe that his resistance to doing small circles was because he was falling to the inside and loosing his balance. Thank you Glenshee and thank you Grey Horse Matters for pointing me in the right direction!
Gem likes to go really, really fast going home when we do barrels. Both LA and nervous classmate commented on how I am not bothered by speed. Oh sure, I am brave when it's in a controlled environment. ;-) At the end of this lesson, LA said that I was "courageous". Courageous? Really? LA explained that I wasn't afraid of much (obviously she has forgotten how she had to walk me around on Gem when I first got him because I was freaked out about his height!) and although I have resisted on occasion, I still gave whatever she asked me a try. She was impressed with our performance and it left me with a smile on my face.
This week's lesson was pretty much a repeat of last week's. Gem really tried and I smiled a lot. I was with my other classmate this time, the one that everyone hates (in a good way!) because he is a natural. This classmate was riding with a sore back and was still fantastic. When he rides, his upper body doesn't move. His balance is perfect. He was loping around those barrels like nobody's business. It was beautiful to watch. Even LA said she hates him! :-) When he rides, he reminds me of Viggo (be still my heart) in Hidalgo. Yes, he's that good.
Jump to 3:15 if you want to see what I mean....... (spoiler alert for those that have not seen the movie!!!) Lead changes after going around the barrels was on the agenda for this lesson. Other than correcting my lead, I have little experience in this area. Yikes! Gem and I struggled with this. Of course, my classmate did a couple of flying lead changes that were effortless. Amazing.
A parent of one of the young ladies, was watching this week's lesson. He is a very experienced rider and has gone on many family cattle drives out west. As Gem and I got more into the routine and he saw how hard we tried and how fast Gem and I loped coming home, he commented that perhaps I was on my way to becoming a real cowgirl. Giddy up! :-)
Gem replenishes me every time I see him. Yes, he can sometimes be a pain in the arse, and yes, he can sometimes be a challenge. But he's always good for my soul. He makes me "courageous". He has helped clear my head. I am a bit of a control freak and I admit that it is hard for me to let go. However, I have made some decisions over the last couple of weeks and have had the courage and strength to say "no" and to push back. The twinge of guilt I initially felt has dissipated and is slowly being replaced with relief. My well is starting to fill up again. :-) Thank you, Gem!! xoxo