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May 7, 2014: Horse Sense: Moving Forward, Finally

Last night, Raudi and I had our first riding lesson in many years. My friend Vicki Talbot assisted me in opening what for some time had been a tightly closed door, by suggesting that we work with her instructor. Beth Libbey.

This past winter I went a few times to watch Vicki and Hunar during their lessons. I was really impressed. It was evident to me that Beth is a very gifted instructor. Under her guidance (as well as other instructors) Vicki and Hunar have done amazingly well. The pair make arena work – dressage and show jumping – look effortless. But, of course it is not.

I put off doing lessons on Raudi because she’s always been less than enthusiastic about this sort of thing. So instead, her training has been on trail. I have worked with her over the years on many things, including turning on the forehand and haunches, backing, side-passing, and going down hills slowly. I have also worked on me, putting my knowledge of Centered- and Connected- Riding to work, in an attempt to develop a good seat and a steady hand. I have also desensitized Raudi by exposing her to many things along the way – so now she’s attentive but not reactive when under saddle.

I have tended when around instructors and friends to assume what they assume, which is that I don’t know much about horse training or arena riding. Nor have I in any way indicated what I have suspected for some time, which is that trail riding and arena work have intrinsic connections. By last night, at the lesson’s end, I drew upon my unforeseen knowledge about this connection – had I not done this, the lesson would not have gone poorly. Raudi, plain and simple, is a very willful individual and so getting her to do what I want in a setting she does not want to be in, can be difficult.

I had this feeling Raudi would do well because lately she’s been doing better under saddle. Her trot has again become more sustained, and overall, she just seems like a much happier horse under saddle. But, I told myself, if she was an idiot that we’d focus exclusively on trail riding.

Raudi did not disappoint, and in fact she was actually fairly willing. I say fairly willing because she gave 85%. This was way better than previously, when she gave 35%. 85%. Huh. It was enough to convince me that we’ll continue (cash permitting) with Beth’s twice-weekly lessons.

Raudi, from the offset, liked having the other horses there. And she liked it that there were obstacles in the arena. And she liked it that Lifre was also in the lesson. And she liked Beth, who said many good things about her. (You cannot tell me that horses don’t care about such things. Well, some horses don’t care. But Raudi cares a great deal.)

We six who were in the beginner lesson, lined up by the arena fence and practiced doing turns on the forehand. Beth wisely offered a rationalization for this, telling us all that this would strengthen our horses’ hindquarters and later get the horses in position for cantering. We next did quite a bit of trotting. Raudi stopped a few times, but overall she maintained her gait. There was no stopping to pee or poop.

We next trotted over cavalettis – posting. The feeling is (when the horse lifts its legs) like being on a trampoline. Raudi really enjoyed this. I could in fact feel her surge when we approached the poles. In fact, she sometimes got a bit too close to Lifre, and then slowed down and lost her momentum.

We then did some jumping, a small jump, but nevertheless, a jump. I was told to look up, and hang onto Raudi’s mane. As Beth said “God gave us manes so that we could ride horses!” I was also told not to tell her over – to which I said to Beth that this is what I do with Ryder in agility. The jump was then raised a bit. Raudi, losing confidence, twice refused. I took her back, and the next time around I squeezed my legs. Two more times, we went sailing over it.

Pete and Lifre both did well – it seems to me that Lifre does not know where his legs are. I have some ideas about this; for example, I might do some body work on him before the next lesson.

What I know will complement what Beth knows. I can do this – I’m just slow at figuring things out.

For the longest time, years in fact, I’ve been bemoaning the fact that Raudi and I have been stuck, stuck, stuck. But we are now on our way. I am for sure, one happy horse camper. I only use exclamation marks on rare occasions. But !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next: 127. 5/8/14: Spring Visitors