Along for the ride:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beginning at the beginning

Just because I've been absent from the horse world for large chunks of time doesn't mean that I have forgotten all I once learned.
I recognize that a good stable is not going to take a rider's word for the fact that they have previous experience. They'd be crazy if they did. I didn't even approach that route; I signed myself up to tag along in a pure beginners' class. I need the physical conditioning and can work as hard at the walk as in other paces.
The school horses are quite decent. They work in both English and Western mode; in the indoor arena and on trail rides. I've twice ridden a big flea-bitten grey who has some ability to bend; go on the bit and even lengthen and shorten his walk and trot. As the other "beginners" clump up with one another and cut corners, I use the extra few feet of track to get in some lateral work or I circle away to create a space; dying to serpentine and change direction but complying with the group.
Our instructor is a sweet young thing who seems to have some correct knowledge of riding but gives way too few nuggets of information to her class.
In my past English life our riding instructors rarely stopped talking; critiqueing a position of leg or hand and asking questions to make sure we had learned why we were doing certain things in certain ways. "How do you go about preparing to ride a circle?" "What's a diagonal?" or even "What are the aids to increase or decrease speed?"
I went on to take my British Horse Society Assistant Instructor's Certificate at 17 and well remember learning to teach. We had a lesson plan; we researched it; we had all kinds of explanations and demonstrations to support what we were to impart to our class. Teaching a beginner was like painting on a blank canvas, adding layer upon layer of different colors.
Another frustration is that we are not allowed to groom or saddle our own horses. I understand the theory; This is California, liability insurance is sky high so only trained employees are permitted.
In practice, today, my horse was being readied and the young woman who was to bridle him had a problem. Someone had undone the cheek straps to bit and noseband, as well as the throat-latch. She recognized the head-piece and brow-band that she held in her hand but could obviously not understand why the bit dangled vertically instead of horizontally. I couldn't prevent myself from sorting it out.
The big impact on me was the sure knowledge that these people have never dismantled every buckle when cleaning tack. It was drummed into our heads that it was necessary for both suppleness of leather and a review of wear for safety reasons. So much for liability issues.


  1. Beautiful.

    I love it when you talk dirty.


  2. Well, after you do manage to get your own horse, having someone else groom and tack up will seem a luxury...*G* When I take on the task of riding my three Boys I often wish I had another pair of hands to do that part of the work.

    Good move taking the beginners' class for now. But once you get fit and back into the groove of riding, you need to find a place where you can really get some good lessons. California has a super reputation for horses and competitors, so there should be some really good stables around with lesson programs.

    Any chance of private lessons? That would certainly give you a chance to progress outside of the traffic of a group. Might be a plan for the future. Another idea might be a place that offers a lease or half-lease on a horse.

    Liability laws are a problem everywhere. Here in NJ we do have laws protecting the horse owner and I even have signs posted on my barn. Don't know what California is like in that regard but insurance costs have put a crimp in a lot of riding programs.

  3. I felt a bit whiny after my blog-effort. I did feel happy that I rode at all. I have had a few random private lessons over time. They were better quality. Apparently I am a herd animal. I enjoy the group. Encouraging, progressing together. I felt that the kids today were so ready to learn and not given much to go on. I was sad for them.
    I worked as a competition groom for over 10 years in U,K, Germany and France. I went to Ireland with 16 horses in my care for the German under-21's. The good thing was the quality of the rides. The bad thing was the quality of the rides.
    Whiny and spoiled; that's me!

  4. Just another thought. Since you have your assistant certificate--something not too common in the US--might you be able to work a deal where you could teach a few lessons part time in exchange for some better lessons somewhere?

    Don't know what your time or work schedule is, but it's a thought. Then you could give some of those kids who are getting gypped a good lesson and get something back for yourself in return. Again, I haven't read all your blog entries, so this may not be an option.

  5. Thanks for your input Jean. I know that something will click eventually. I am going to try the head-down, mouth shut approach for a while; not easy for me!

  6. Ha, you should try taking lessons in France, now that is scary.Good on you for sticking with it, even if it's not for the long run.

  7. Hi Trudi,
    We were talking about you at lunch. I told my hubby that I had found horse-women in France.
    Our barn renovation is near Mende, Lozere. for no other reason than he used to go there as a kid. If we ever have time or money to spare we may be neighbors.
    Je parle francais. Parlfreniere/groom was my job description when I worked near Nice. Many moons ago.
    A cheval tous!

  8. P.S. Trudi
    During the 5 years I lived in France I found that people (men) kept bringing up the subject of Joan of Arc because I'm English. As if it were somehow my fault and I should apologize. Do you get much of that?

  9. haha, no I can't say the Joan thing has ever come up. They don't have much idea of what the English are about round here, bit too rural. Women of course, should be making lunch and tending the children in rural Perigord, lol.

    I guess in US terms Lozere would make us neighbours, I guess about 4 hours or more from here...nicer climate, little warmer than here. Actually probably too warm for me but my husband would definitely prefer it.