Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Moment of Truth

I had my private lesson last Friday.  Even though there was a light rain, we had the lesson outside.  As we walked through the gate leading to the open fields, LA asked me which fields gave me the most anxiety when out for trail rides.  My response was the big open ones - too much space!  "OK, that's where we will have our lesson.", was her response.  Gulp.

To say that my heart wasn't pounding would be lying.  But, LA reassured me that Gem knew what he was doing and that I was going to have to learn how to trust him.  Deep breaths were my friend and I walked and trotted circles around LA, working up from small to quite large.  Her dog was running in and out of the brush and trees, which sometimes took Gem's attention away from me but LA reminded me how to get him to refocus.  I explained to LA that my ultimate goal was to be able to go out on the trails by myself.  It was at that point, while trotting a circle around LA, that Gem tripped over a mound of grass and went down to his knees and dusting the ground with his face.  The reins slid through my fingers, but I didn't loose them completely.  Gem righted himself.  Instead of focusing on the "almost fell" aspect, LA explained I didn't help Gem in any way.  I should have provided some tension on the reins as he started to tumble to help him keep his balance and help right him.  Now I know.


Then that moment came.  The one that these exercises had been leading up to.   I have to say it came sooner than I expected.  LA asked me walk Gem across the field to one of the openings to the old orchard.  Then I was to turn around and half way back I was to trot to LA.  What?!  Holy crap.  But I did it.  Then she asked me to walk to the tree in middle of the field and come back, trotting the last little bit.  And I did.  We ended the lesson there, with me exhilarated. 


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Well, this past weekend marked the conclusion of Stu's 60 days of training.  Saying that Jean was excited is an understatement! 

Stu's Trainer is a petite well-muscled young lady who teaches jumping at LA's facility on occasion, but is also employed at one of the show hunter/jumper barns locally.  She is not shy of tall horses!  :-)  What she wasn't prepared for was Stu's width and eventually it took it's toll on her hips.  She had to take a week off of riding him to rest, which delayed the conclusion of the training. 

The goal of this training was to get Stu comfortable with rider on his back at a walk and trot and start working on canter if things went well.  The Trainer rode him 5 days a week, with the time of day of the session varying.  Sometimes he was ridden in the arena, sometimes outside in the front paddock..  Sometimes the sessions lasted 45 minutes, sometimes only 20 as a reward for good behaviour.  
Jean was invited to see how Stu was progressing after his first 30 days and she invited me to join her.  :-)    I think both Jean and I held our breath as The Trainer swung herself up on him.  He did have a nervous look about him.  There were a couple of other riders in the arena and The Trainer encouraged to them not to be shy and to treat her and Stu as any other rider in the arena.  It was apparent that Stu was not comfortable with the activity but he did his best.  His balance was off.  Learning to walk and trot while having a rider on you is hard!   After she worked with him at a walk, she moved up to a trot.  When she initially asked, he was very skittish.  But when he did get into a rhythm, he looked amazing!  His trot is so beautiful - legs high, back slightly rounded.   The Trainer sure knows how to sit in the saddle.  Stu's jumpiness, even though it's only a step or two, is big.  I don't think her butt left the saddle once.

Considering that a month previous, Jean was eating dirt because he was scared of her sitting on him, Jean was very pumped to see his progress.  The Trainer asked Jean if she could arrange for another experienced rider from the hunter barn to take Stu for a spin to provide her with feedback to determine if there was a particular area that she should focus on.  Jean agreed.  Then, a  couple of weeks ago, Jean called me very upset.  Apparently, The Trainer's friend had been unable to get to LA's place, so she asked a couple of the young ladies at the barn to ride Stu and provide feedback.  Both of these young ladies are in their late teens; one has only been riding a for year but rides almost every day and has become a competent rider, the other has been riding for years and competes in games and jumping.  Jean was devastated that two other barn mates got to ride Stu before her.  In addition, having two barn mates ride your horse opens up the door for negative comments or gossip. :-(  I admit that I was upset for her.  She decided to just let it go. 

The Trainer and Jean met up last weekend.  I happened to be practicing my neck reining (sigh) at the same time The Trainer and Stu were in the arena.  Gem pinned his ears a couple of times at the big brown horse as we jogged by and Stu had a "deer in the headlights" look about him when looking at Gem.  But, after our practice, we stood with The Trainer and Stu and everyone was fine. Even with the improvement in response times to cues, Stu is still skittish when asked for transitions and he is still apprehensive when working around other horses. He does not like to be asked to lope, but when he does lope it's quite graceful.  The Trainer told Jean that it could take some time and a lot of patience for Stu to build his confidence up and loose his skittishness.  Or, there is the possibility that he might not loose it at all and she will have to comes to terms with that.



This past Saturday, after The Trainer completed her last session with him, Jean rode Stu at walk, with The Trainer holding the bridle.  The Trainer went over where Stu's buttons were and the tension on the reins, etc. etc.  It was very exciting.  However, Sunday was the really BIG day for Jean because she was going to be doing it on her own.   She tacked Stu up and led him to the arena.  Jean's colour was high and I could tell that she was nervous but eager to get the adventure started. She lunged him for, what seemed like, forever....delaying the inevitable.  But, the time had come.

To be continued....


10 comments:

  1. I am so jealous about your outdoor lessons! They sound brilliant!!

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    1. Mona - it was awesome....scarey, but awesome! :-)

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Terry! I am getting there! :-)

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  3. I am so happy for you that you had a great lesson!! :)

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    1. Thanks!! I will be having a couple of more "field" lessons over the next few weeks. :-)

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  4. Your lesson sounds very productive. You should really give yourself a pat on the back for doing it even though you were nervous. It's a big step. I have a feeling you'll be riding all over the place by yourself soon. Congratulations on working through your fears.

    Stu seems to be doing well. Jean does sound a little apprehensive right now and that's understandable. He is a very big guy. Even though he's had a lot of training he's still a young horse and you never know how they will react. It's going to take some more time to get him relaxed and used to other horses. Sixty days training is a good start but he's probably going to need more. Maybe she can have the trainer come once a week to help out. I wish them both luck.

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    1. Thanks, GHM! You have been on this ride with Gem from almost the beginning and your words of support mean a lot to me. I agree that 60 days is a good start re Stu and have sort of hinted to Jean that she may want to consider having regular lessons again....we'll see....

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  5. Oh, I did miss reading about you and Gem! Congrats on conquering the big, wide open-it's not easy for me to do much more than walk around in it yet, either:) Go Wolfie and Gem!

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