Saturday, 14 May 2011

A bird in the hand ....or a horse in the reins

I took Merlin to the riding school in the glorious sunshine again on Monday - yes I know, Monday was an age ago, we are definitely in blogging arrears this week - and realised that I have enjoyed three sunny Merlin Mondays in a row, my fair weather fortune must surely get rained on soon.

Merlin, wearing his 'cloak of invisibility' -
I have yet to get a good photo of him!
My new instructor for my dates with this big handsome black horse is a lady called Carolyn. She is really good in that strict and slightly scary 'nope that's wrong, go and sit in the naughty corner' way that the best instructors seem to be. Our first encounter was on position, as I knew it would be.

My toes got turned in, my weight got pushed through my heels and off the irons. I collapsed in on my right side - every time same trick - so she had me push more weight into the left foot and lift my rib cage to the right. That nearly worked. Then the real fun began. My elbows which have a mind of their own came forward, so she popped on a plastic contraption which sat across my back and hooked around the elbows. This stopped both my back collapsing and kept my elbows firmly at my side, I could not budge them an inch forward even if I wished to.  I checked out my new posture in the mirror at the end of the school
'Genius, I said, I look proper equestrian with this on'.
We worked in walk and then trot with this on, nervously at first as it felt a little like riding with your hands tied behind your back - then removed it and tried to keep the posture. We trotted in circles in forward seat without reins so we could observe my complete lack of balance. I don't think I have ever learned quite so much in a forty minute period in my life.
Her pearls of riding wisdom are genius, I'll share some with you:
  • I learned to squeeze my horse on 'like I was squeezing juice from an orange'.
  • I learned that when you press your leg on it should be using the inside edge of the shin, not the calf.
  • I learned that putting your leg on in the correct way causes a physiological reaction in the horses gut, which engages his quarters.
  • I learned that in if you use your thighs more it allows your lower leg to be loose and follow the horses movement without losing balance
  • I learned that your inside leg is not the one on the inside of the school, rather the one that the horse bends round the inside of. Meaning perversely that if you had an outside bend then your leg in the inside of the school would be your outside.
  • I learned that to keep your legs long you should ' think of yourself as one of those old fashioned wooden clothes pegs, and make sure you are right on the line'
  •  Finally,  I learned that you should learn to 'hold a horse as if you are holding a bird in your hands, softly enough that you don't kill it, but enough that it knows you have it and it can't fly away'.
Beautiful....I love that last one. I am not sure if Merlin is my 'bird in the hand' or perhaps the gift horse that I should never look in the mouth.

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