Thursday, October 20, 2005

One small step - for a horse

Last night I returned to the riding school after a week off (when I did something even riskier and more exciting – but that is a story for another day).  It was nice to be back in the saddle, this time on Sky, who is usually much better behaved than my old mount, Flint.  The lesson began as usual with walking while the other students mounted up, then rising and sitting trots.  Next it was the standing trot, which I found quite awkward – we hadn’t been asked to do that for a while, and I wondered why it was being reintroduced.

On to the cantering, which didn’t go too badly - I felt very comfortable and secure in my seat.  However, although Sky did get up to a good speed, the canter never felt really smooth, and I had to be pretty stern (the crop got plenty of use – even my own leg did not escape unpunished).  When waiting for my turn to canter, I love to watch the two ponies (Pepe and Rambo). One is black and glossy all over, while the other is a very light tan, except for the mane, socks and tail which are all black.  Tiny but perfectly formed, seeing these ponies at a canter always puts me in mind of tales of fantasy and magic: they seem otherworldly, as if they had escaped from some story-book enchanted forest.

With ten minutes remaining,  our instructor did something unexpected: he pulled out a couple of plastic blocks – until now, we had only ever seen these used for mounting – and crossed them with poles (thick, smooth, wooden, painted red and white) to make two low jumps.  The ponies were let out, one at a time, to canter around and try the obstacles.  The rider must lean into the horse’s neck just before the jump is reached – this is partly to keep the rider steady as the horse leaps, and partly to control the timing – contrary to what one might expect, the rider decides when to jump, and not the horse.  At first, the ponies simply took the poles in their stride – but then, something wonderful happened, and all four of Pepe’s hooves left the ground together… the first jump!

The ponies turned in eventually, and you can imagine with what excited anticipation I waited to see if we older (but less experienced) riders would get our chance.  To our surprise, get it we did – we all turned out together, and took the jumps at a trot.  I’m afraid that my technique was not very good, and I could not seem to get the lean right.  Still, I didn’t fall, and we did clear those poles (mostly!).  

I hadn’t really expected to begin jump training so soon – in fact, I hadn’t any intention of learning to jump at all.  Now that we have begun, I’m very excited about it, and looking forward to the next lesson.  The adventure continues…

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