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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Patient Pony

~E.G., This post is for you.

Endurance Granny was asking in her blog tips for posting better. As I whipped out my keyboard to give the standard advice - ride without stirrups and bareback, I must admit a not-so-small feeling of guilt rising up. When was the last time I rode bareback? stirrupless? was my posting all that great? (the answer is no). I stand before you - convicted and guilty as charged.

So last night I whipped out the bareback pad (she has some not-so-nice withers for bareback, but GREAT for keeping the saddle from moving forward!). You know - the bareback pad I've used twice since I bought it three years ago. I stood back and took a look - yellow halter, southwestern print pad, purple tights, bright pink long sleeved shirt. Yep, I don't look like a anomaly in this mostly western and drill team boarding stable AT ALL.

Time to get on. Where did all my courage go? I rode bareback for YEARS. In a a gallop...on the beach. I never had any trouble, although that downward transition from gallop to trot can be kind of rough on a Standardbred. Oh that's right - the LAST time I rode bareback it was on Minx. The Doc's orders were ride at a walk for 10 minutes during the bowed tendon rehab. I figured if I rode without a saddle maybe she would be less crazy. She was extremely fit and hyped up from the limited about of hand walking that was allowed. I remember I was in a plaid skirt and the plan was to swing my leg over and go for an easy 10 minute walk in the arena. I swung my leg over Minx. At 16 hands it was more of a hop and a slide. I was halfway on and she bolted. She went galloping and bucking on the nicest change of diagonal across the ring you could ask for. I lasted until "X" (center point) and made a not-so-controlled dismount with my skirt around my ears, spitting dirt. I swung my leg over Farley and miracles of miracles, she just stood there. It was going to be a good ride.

Farley is normally bored and sloppy in the arena. Diving off the rail and death trots are not uncommon. Last night she lightly JOGGED for 15 minutes, staying on the rail, completely ignoring my bouncing and grunting, stopping when I got to unbalanced, letting me find my balance and pull on her mane, being overall a perfect pony. After 15 minutes of circles, serpentines, and change of directions she came to a gentle stop in the middle of the arena and told me I was done. I have always thought long line lessons would really benefit me. I think Farley was doing her best to give it to me.

So how did it go? The first 5 minutes were spent hanging on her mane, forcing myself to lean back. I found out that by lifting my knees slightly, first one side, then the other in rhythm to her trotting, that I could sit the trot. I found out that by rolling my thighs forward and back I could post bareback. An Arab trot is LOT different (more bouncy) than an Standardbred trot (rough and bone jarrring, but more forward and back motion than up and down). The last 10 minutes I experimented with moving different parts of my body while trotting - leaning back, twisting my body to one side and the other, reaching to the side with my arms, lifting my legs off her sides. I spent less time hanging on to her mane.

By the end of the session I wasn't competent, but I wasn't falling off either. The death grip on the mane was lessened and I was able to steer with quiet hands. I was still bouncing though! It was disheartening to look at my shadow and realize that Farley still wasn't TROTTING, just doing a nice little jog. No where near where I need to be! I think 15 minutes a week bareback and 10 minutes of stirrupless saddle time on every arena ride is what I need.

On a different subject...
I sent pictures to the saddle fitter of Farley's back and current saddle. Even though I'm not having saddle fit issues, her back is changing and I think the fit of the saddle has changed slightly. I'll probably need to adjust it, or switch saddles sometime in the future. It will be interesting to see what she reccomends and what she thinks of the current fit.
The braided hair thing hanging off the saddle in this picture is the "tail" from Hairloom Treasures, where I got my bracelet. I keep in clipped to the D-ring on my saddle. It's very nice to have it there.


  1. Must have been on the same wavelength...last two arena rides I've done have been for the same prupose! One was bareback, the other was saddled, but sans stirrups. I come out of a show background, so am well=associated with the evils of stirrupless trotting. After about ten minutes of it, I had to wonder what happened to all of my former showring schooling. Have I really gotten that sloppy? Yes. :) So, like you, a nice combination of bareback riding and stirrupless posting trots are in order.

  2. So I wasn't that sore last night after getting off, but I definately feeling it this afternoon! Mostly in the spot where the buttock and hamstring join, and at the outer hamstring. I was NOT hanging on to the horse with my calves (in fact, my build + horse build = my lower leg doesn't contact the horse at all). So I guess it's a good this right? I'm using my upper leg?

  3. wow.. nothing like the "oh my god strap" :) I ride bareback occasionally my qhorse... but havent quite the courage yet with gazi (arabian) LOL tho i do ride stirrupless every now and again

    good on ya.. courage.. you rock


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