Today’s escapades were amusing, to say the least. Apollo was full of piss and vinegar, which thankfully did not show up this time until he was tacked up. For the first time since the big blue new privy monster had the audacity to show up at the barn, Apollo let me put his bridle on without event.
It had become a life or death “you are NOT putting THAT THING on ME!!” struggle, highlighted by head thrashing, angry, betrayed eyes, protruding veins in the head, and him taking full advantage of my diminutive height to lift his head and back away.
This led to the instructor showing me the invaluable 3 hand method, during which you somehow acquire a mystical 3rd hand while moving your hands from his nose to the bit near his mouth to the top of his head, all with extreme patience. And today, it all came together without event and he was such a good boy after only a few gentle attempted moves away from the bit. He didn’t even pull the Manipulative Affection Ritual of leaning his head on my shoulder and giving me the doe eyes.
He was an absolute sweetheart while I was having him walk, trot & canter in the round pen before I got on him. Perfectly obedient. I think he was saving it for the ride.
So, I got on with my new Ariat boots, a very welcome gift from Gloria, and my half chaps which also went on without event (the leather had evidently shrunk and the instructor had to use the hoof-pick to yank the zipper closed a couple of times before it finally decided to reform to my leg), and I was ready to go.
Of course, this meant I was ready to SLOWLY ease into my lesson. Hah. We were starting with me doing yoga stretches on Apollo while he was able to stretch and relax his neck. Yes. This went perfectly until Apollo decided it would be fun to get “spooked” by the dogs barking (direct translation: to use it as an excuse) and cantered off while I was still in relaxed yoga mode.
I grabbed the pummel of the saddle, somehow completely forgetting I had reins, and rode through it. Apollo then decided that this would be a GREAT pace for the remainder of the lesson, and we cantered through most of it. Yay. (half sarcastic/half proud)
To my credit, I only screamed a few times, and only when I felt myself propelled a few inches into the air (I did stay on him the entire lesson).
Dude has a HUGE canter. Think war horse crushing the unfortunate foot-soldiers below. It is fitting that horses are sacred to Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. Apollo’s canter definitely embodies all of the ocean’s myriad moods. Cantering to the right is smooth as silk, and he is a gentleman with gentle waves of movement. To the left, quite a different story. Ever choke on seawater? Think of huge, choppy waves which make me tremble like I am facing the Big Kahuna or a tsunami.
He also threw a few leg kicks (which he thinks are bucks, but the instructor laughs and describes as “bunny hops”) into the mix. These just felt oddly jarring. Poor guy was frustrated because he is starting to expect me to be with him in my riding.
Actually a good sign, since he has always been so patient and didn’t expect much. Now, I do realize that this is where I need to step up as a rider, use what I am learning, lean back, keep my heels down, use my outside rein, and bend him. (Curling up in fetal position: bad).
Then we got to half-halting him into the trot instead of going at the canter. I started to get it. Keeping my core and center of balance is key. It was fun, and it pushed me more than when he is complacent. I also need to keep riding instead of stopping whenever I feel off balance.
The few moments here and there of getting it are giving me confidence and keeping me going. Since I am a perfectionist to an absurd degree, when the instructor said I will always get to struggle with balance so I have to ride through it, I finally started to get the point and am trying to make my body follow and not stop and evaluate each time.
Gotta say, riding is THE most demanding physical exercise this bookworm has ever done, and my lower legs are just starting to get the idea that the feeling of “pushing out a baby” and clamping on to Apollo’s belly with full force are going to be a normal state for them. They hate me right now, but tough. The connection Apollo and I have at times while riding and the cute look he has in his eyes while I feed him his supplements of red flaky wheat bran and rice bran (which somehow wind up all over his face) overrule any physical exhaustion or pain.