This will not be the end of Q-related wordplay. If that bothers you, I feel like this is not the right blog for you anyway…
It’s been a while since I have written something of substance. Partially due to life and its busyness, but also a lot of my riding with Q lately is about consistency.
For me, I am getting back into the regular riding game. I need to remember all my tips and tricks, not become a useless sack of potatoes if things go wrong, and ride consistently. I am definitely getting it back, but it helps to have good eyes on the ground.
For Q, he needs lot of help tracking left, where he struggles with a weaker hind end and hard drift. Like I said in an earlier post, shoes have helped with some of his most obvious gaps.
Much of my riding has been targeting my and Q’s weaknesses, and that can be repetitive. I am riding him in a way where he is thinking about what I am asking (transitions, changes of directions, shoulder-ins, extensions/collections). I am careful to not to over-ask and to have “light” days that complement our heavier days as he gets back up to speed.
Right now, our goals for him are to be comfortable, even on both sides, and happy to work.
With that in mind, we will not be going to the Olympics next year (shocking, because if there was a pee-wee division, he’d be great for it).
But there is a fair bit of strengthening in our agenda. And he is progressing well, which also tells me it is working, slowly but surely.
I will really look forward to the next couple months when the quality of his gaits become even better. We need more balance, a buff butt, and good feet.
A special someone (whose name might be the oddest in the alphabet) is becoming so enjoyable to hack.
Anytime I sit on a horse, I generally am happy. Certain horses make the happiness easier to achieve.
A lot of this is personal preference. I have the opposite of an electric seat, perhaps we call it a slumber seat. I cause horses to sleep while cantering, a not at all useful skill. What’s even funnier is that I somehow think we are going SO FAST all the time.
Thus, a leg ride has never been my MO, not to say I don’t enjoy it, it’s just not “as” fun. I like spicy, fiery, and barely broke.
When I started riding Q, he did not have shoes and was a bit over being in “school horse mode”. He certainly took advantage of riders who were earlier in their riding careers, never in a dangerous way, just to avoid work.
Thus he was a bit meh off the leg, clunky to bend, and in general duller to aids. I was also unfit even more so than my average state of being, so my riding was about as helpful as listening Google Maps in a foreign language. Communication be muddled.
His physical comfort has increased tremendously since adding shoes, and *surprise, surprise* so has his willingness! It is a remarkable difference, to which I attribute none to my riding, entirely placing this acclaim on good care.
Between myself and the other girl who rides him, we have been so in awe of his short transition. Truly, it’s amazing what a couple of seemingly insignificant changes can make. Hacking him feels less like dragging an angsty teenager from bed and more like working with an over-eager intern.
Horseback riding has offered me continual trickles of heartbreak. The sport of the wealthy teaches you to gather what you have and repeat, This is enough. I have enough. Even if what you have does not include an 8 year old dark bay with grand prix jumper potential or a tack room full of French saddles. Humility and gratitude, forcing me to cherish every moment with these magical animals, contribute to a better mind and spirit.
Thus, when stars align and the universe smiles down, sometimes I think I have to shake myself to wake up from a dream.
It’s happening though, I have a horse to ride in my new city! Better yet, I will not be out of house and home.
Over my 16 years, I have been blessed to ride many types, and can safely sit on most. Not talking Olympic level talent, but I can keep my wit and humor on the spooky and green.
As expected, this guy may be a bit of the latter (not as much of the former).
This is big news for me. I cannot wait to share more details.
Yes, I do expect the Hunter/Jumper gods to rain down with fire and fury (which to be honest, raining fire would probably be a net-neutral). Luckily I have made appropriate sacrifices to them with years of voluntary no-stirrup work.
I am trying out new trainers and this wonderful eventing trainer had me ride in a dressage saddle for my lesson. I expected to feel more… uncomfortable with long stirrups as compared to my jumping height, but truly the way the saddle is built, the longer length feels right. Who knew, the construction of a saddle would affect a rider’s position (d’oh).
While I am still in this “am I or am I not” limbo of barn hunting, I am of the perspective that I will try anything for now.
The deeper, “tucked under” seat is distinctly unnatural to my forward seat sensibilities. But it is always good to be adjustable and learn from other disciplines.
The ability to isolate areas of your body to be adjustable is undeniably a useful skill when riding different horse types. While we all subscribe to an ideal position for our respective disciplines, I doubt any true horseperson would say that only one position is effective for dealing with various scenarios presented when riding horses.
My lifelong struggle has been closing my fingers and this twisted notion of softness through my hands, rather than my elbows. A frustrating habit in H/J world is detrimental in Dressage world, there is no area on the map where open fingers and no contact exists. So this level of scrutiny on my hands will certainly ripple positively into my H/J home base.
While I had lots of corrections, there were true moments of connection and balance. Fleeting, but they were there.
I do deeply enjoy trying new disciplines in the horse community. That’s how my 6 month stint as a reiner occurred, as well as my time trail riding in the Appalachian Mountains.
I do tend to always come back to H/J land though… The dressage saddle is comfy, but there is nothing like sailing over a jump for my heart.
For the life of me, I cannot remember if the phrase goes to knock off dust or rust. Both possibilities are applicable in my scenario, where I had previously not seen a horse in over two months (which similar to dog years, that two months only multiplies in experienced time).
I have finally, finally broken that streak, and it is the most wonderful feeling to get back into doing what I love. All things aside, I rode with a very knowledgeable and friendly trainer today on a beautiful horse. I have to decide if the type of program offered is the right angle to aim my trajectory.
Too high? The money tree runs dry, and I experience greater stress than enjoyment.
Too low? I do not excel nor feel challenged.
It’s challenging being a young-adult, young-professional horseback rider. Finances are constrained currently, but you sort-of think 3 years down the line and where you want to be as a future-rider. I continually remind my far-too-practical self, you are spending money on this because you love to do it, and even after constant drilling I still feel guilty about all the money.
Horses are never a wise financial decision. Take the pill, swallow as many times as necessary.
Down the road, it can be hard to envision how passionately I will feel about being recognized as an exceptional rider / riding impressive horses. I have in my last year reset my expectations on showing. I will likely never attend WEF as an exhibitor, and that’s okay. Joyous memories of me on horseback are entangled with proud showing moments and champion ribbons, but also barn sleepovers, thoughtful clinics, and trail rides.
I do not need the prestige. But I do need the stimulation.
Right now, I look at amateurs that compete regionally and nod slowly… Yes, that I can do.
I hope this program works out, but if not I am willing to wait for the a good fit.
How has the program you are riding in and the trainer you are riding with defined your future horse aspirations?
Polo is one of those sports I had this fleeting familiarity with (mostly from pictures of William and Harry on horseback in the pages of tabloids) but had never fully understood. I knew Ralph Lauren made cute clothes inspired by the sport, and that it obviously is one of few disciplines that has gained a mainstream notoriety.
All in all, I remained moderately ignorant. I knew what the sport involved – mallets, horses, strapping polo players. But I had no idea what all those pieces looked like when stitched together.
That is, until this past weekend. It was a blisteringly sunny weekend, and Sunday was no exception in Pacific Palisades. There, celebrating its 65th season, the Will Rogers Polo field hosts free (with parking) matches between California area polo clubs.
With a 10 am start time, I rolled in comfortably after the start time (1 hour in) to watch. When I pulled up to the checkpoint, I asked the state ranger where the polo field was. He remarked “You know you are late, right?”
Well jeez, yeah I did, but you did not have to mention it.
The whole scene reminded me of a local horse show. I expected there to be fanciful people in dresses, watching polo over champagne in a well-decorated box from a distance. What I instead found was a small group of people – dedicated players, sweat-stained grooms and a handful of spectators who also happened to be interested in catching some free entertainment.
I was thankful for the announcer, who explained the sport throughout the matches. Little did I know, I had strolled up to the consolidation final (the actual final between the 1st and 2nd ranked teams to follow). Each side had 4 players, most of which looked to be men (although I did see some ladies in player-apparel, who I believe played in the championship game later).
The sport is split into chuckers, which seemed to be 10 minutes long. It is very much like horse soccer-croquet, players pass to eachother and advance the ball in hopes of passing the ball through two upright posts (at which point, you score one point). There are goals, assists, etc.
When I originally started watching, one of the players rode noticeably slower. Their horse was different, a stout quarter horse-type that looked thicker against the spritely polo ponies. Man, it’s like he is barely trying, I had thought, watching them slowly canter while the others galloped for the ball. Later I learned that I was watching one of the referees. Duh.
The referees called fouls and penalties, which would then prompt a kind-of “penalty kick” type maneuver or, in some cases, the other team gained possession.
Being so close to the field, you heard the players talking to eachother, and it was a heated game. The players angled their horses aggressively in order to reach the ball.
Not all that surprisingly, I was enraptured with the polo ponies. When I went to check out behind the scenes, I saw 3-4 horses per player. These guys would wait patiently tied to their trailer, and would later be fiery and responsive on the field. While they carried mostly larger men, none of them were over 15 hands, and to my surprise, most were agile and greyhound-like, with delicate frames.
The tack was certainly a step up from your standard D-ring. I did not get a good look at bridle configurations, but I got a sense the ponies are steered with precision through a hand-heavier ride.
The saddles as well were basic, no kneerolls. The players themselves rode with a more western seat, heavier in the pockets, but man, did they have impeccable balance to go after the ball while swinging a mallet off the side of their ponies.
A medic was present. Overall, I was surprised how humble it was for a sport that gets a posh reputation (although, should that be all that surprising, given that the whole sport gets that association?).
It looked really fun. I would try it! And I recommend that others check it out.