I had hoped to have one of my boys already ridden before she arrived, but I got to the barn later than planned and so was just bridling Sydney when she pulled in. Without making any apologies, I asked her to grab a seat on the mounting block while I gave Sydney a quick ride, but I told her to tell me about her horse experience as I rode.
Sydney didn't make it easy to listen as we were contending with the neighbor's motorcycle noise, but focusing on her conversation probably helped reduced some of my anticipatory tension. As I listened, she explained that she took regular riding lessons as a youngster and did own her own horse for a few years during high school, but most of her riding experience seems to have come from participating in her university's equestrian team. She graduated this past May.
She is originally from Louisiana, but went to school in New York. Her equestrian team kept their horses in New Jersey so the team only practiced once a week. She told some interesting stories about how transportation was arranged and how showing on a team without it's own string of horses worked. The horses they schooled on belonged to a public riding stable. After graduation, her boyfriend took a job here in the oil industry, which attracts many people from around the world, which is how a Louisiana girl ended up in California.
From what I gathered, most of her riding experience has been on well schooled, well trained, senior horses. There might have been some younger ponies somewhere along the line, but I think they've been few. Given Sydney's level of tension on Sunday, it didn't seem prudent (legal reasons) to have someone that I've just met hop up on him. So without offering too much of an explanation, although I think she understood why Sydney was getting tucked back in his stall, I dragged out my somewhat more dependable gray pony.
The last time I had a Hungry Rider at the barn, I overwhelmed her with all of my rules before I even knew that she was a "keeper." This time, I skipped all of the grooming and tacking up protocol with the exception of how to deal with Speedy's girthiness, which by the way, has escalated again, but I am dealing with it. That needs to be its own blog post as it is quite frustrating.
She did watch attentively as I tacked up; I would have, too. Before I hop up on a strange horse, which is almost never, I like to observe their ground manners. A well-mannered pony is probably better under saddle than a demon in the cross ties will be.
Speedy has reached the stage where I feel safe letting pretty much anyone with some riding experience hop aboard. He's pretty lazy by nature. If he feels as though you have an ounce of know how, his form of disobedience will be to try to escape work by dragging his toes and stiffening his neck. A Total Beginner might freak him out a little, causing him to try and get TB off his back. I knew that wasn't going to be the case.
Just to be on the safe side, I told my guest that I would hop up first just to demonstrate how to ride through Speedy's warm up cough and stretch thing. It doesn't matter if he's been turned out to gallop or worked on the lunge, as soon as a rider hits his back, he needs to cough a few times, sneeze, snort, and stretch his neck low to the ground.
True to form, as soon as I asked for a trot, Speedy tugged the reins long and proceeded to jog around completely on his forehand as he hacked and snorted and grunted. I have learned not to fight it. I really think it's his way of loosening up his back and clearing his throat. I do ride with a very light seat, almost completely in two-point, as he does this. If he truly wants to stretch his back, I don't want to be in his way.
Hungry Rider was finally able to hop on after I felt that Speedy was not having an off day. And I have to give the girl credit; she does know how to ride. She posted the correct diagonal, took a light contact, and rode very diplomatically. She started out with a lot of walking and was very respectful of my "tips." I didn't nag her, but I suggested she try to get a bit more energy out of him now and then.
When she finally picked up the trot, she stuck to the end of the arena where I was sitting until I told her that she was welcome to use the whole arena to do changes of direction or serpentines. When Speedy started to get behind the vertical, I asked that she add more leg to keep his hind end more engaged. After that, I saw her asking him quite frequently to bring his head back up, which showed that she could feel the difference.
I finally gave her some tips on how to ask him to pick up the canter, which she followed quite well. She rode him very kindly and while he wasn't in a perfect frame, he looked quite happy. Even I struggle with keeping him on the bit; he's quite a stinker!
After putting Speedy away, we spent some time chatting about horses and just getting to know each other. What she's really hoping to do is find a low pressure trainer with whom she might serve as a working student. That of course, is not me, but I hesitated in sending her to anyone I know without first seeing if she actually knew how to ride. We decided that I would introduce her to JL at Monday's lesson.
To be continued ...