Before I went off to college and started riding ponies, I rode at a intro-type hunter barn. Not super competitive, but a great barn to learn at with a lot of well-trained lesson horses. I’ve been saying for a while that I should go back and visit. Many of my favorites have either retired or passed on by now.
When I found myself with a weekday off work and appointments that did not entirely preclude several more hours of driving, I called and scheduled myself in for a (flat, dressage) lesson. Horses over 15 hands feel big. It’s good for me to challenge myself! Can I actually ride? Are all of my pony-habits going to result in utter disaster?
Bless them, I rode a dressage schoolmaster that I remembered from several years back. Sixteen hand chestnut Thoroughbred gelding. Big! Trained! Tolerant!
I’m short on media, but big on takeaways:
- My ankles still do funny things in tall boots on big horses. Right more than left, if I’m remembering correctly, but it’s been more than a week now and I could have that backwards. I think I’m hyperflexing sideways to cue, there’s just enough space in the boot to let me do that, but it doesn’t actually work. I’m not sure why this isn’t an issue in my usual setup & tennis shoes; I need to experiment with more arena rides in tall boots on Fetti to see if I can narrow down what’s actually happening.
- I felt super, super secure in the dressage saddle. I don’t know why. My position felt very supported. This is not a feeling that I get in my Thorowgood – or, frankly, in the Eurolight.
- Big horses feel really weird after riding a pony. Pony legs move at warp speed, and Fetti’s engaged trot is significantly quicker than a hunter trot. It was difficult to get a good sense for what was ‘fast enough’ and what was ‘too slow’.
- My trot-canter transitions are still atrocious. This is a Fig problem, not a horse problem.
- My canter position was not terrible. It was better in one direction than the other, but it was not terrible in either direction. It was fixable. At a slow hunter canter, with a horse that maintained the canter, I could fix me. It did not feel like a total trainwreck or that I did not know how to ride. This was incredibly reassuring, after months of canter-flailing on and off with Fetti. I haven’t had a good, solid, confidence-boosting canter like this since Suds, and that’s been over a year now.
- I am much more sensitive to one-sided horses than I used to be. It was immediately clear to me that he was weaker in one direction than the other, that he was falling in on the shoulder, not balancing back, etc. Big difference!
If time and finances permit, I’ll probably send myself back there in the fall or winter for another lesson or two when the rain starts again.