I sometimes dream that I’ve forgotten how to ride.
Instead of dreaming about running away from monsters where you can’t run because your feet are stuck in the mud, I dream that a voice is shouting “trot on, trot on” at me, and I can’t get the horse to trot because I don’t know how.
They’re pretty horrid dreams. Even the horses laugh at me in them. I usually wake up thinking “oh shit, I’ve been found out”. I tend to spend a lot of my time wondering when someone will realise I’m a fraud.
There is a doubting voice that lives permanently in my brain. It’s always been there and I don’t think it will ever go away no matter how hard I push it towards the edge. I think everyone has one, but most people are able to realise that what it says just isn’t true. I struggle with that sometimes. Especially at the moment. Especially when it comes to riding.
The first few times I trotted on a horse (well, the horse trotted, I sat on top of it) I had to have someone run alongside me, just in case. I remember feeling both incredibly embarrassed, and guilty at the thought of someone having to run next to my horse. It was nearly always one of the experienced lot as well, so it must have been less than fun for them.
The other thing I remember about it though is, oddly, how grateful I was that these kids were willing to run along next to a horse in case I couldn’t steer, and not a single one of them laughed at me or said anything unpleasant. In fact, they were lovely and encouraging and helped me feel less awkward about the whole thing. They reminded me that everyone starts somewhere and they’d been beginners once too. I was both impressed and pleased to hear such understanding and mature words from these teenagers. It made things a whole lot easier.
Once I was happily trotting on my own, I had already started having a go at the old rising trot malarkey. I was bouncing around a bit though. I had already learned that:
“Trot is a two beat diagonal gait. The horse will use its legs in pairs which creates a bouncing motion through its back. Rising, or posting, to the trot is a much more comfortable ride as the jolting is much reduced. It also frees up the horses back more, allowing an easier stride for the horse. Sitting trot is also an essential part of riding. It is difficult to learn to sit properly to the trot as it requires a lot of flexibility in the lower back and hips.”
From what I had read and was told by others, you were meant to rise when the inside hind/outside fore legs came forward, and sit when they went back. Well. That’s all very well in theory but at first my brain just closed down and said “Nope, it’s impossible. I’ll never learn that. Forget it now and quit before you make a mess.”
It didn’t take much for the instructors to simplify it for me though…look down at the forelegs while you’re trotting. If you rise when the leg closest to the fence goes forward, then you’re doing it right. Of course, horsey people will know that what I’m talking about is being on the correct diagonal. But at the time, no-one told me that’s what it was called. They just said that’s how to do it right.
I’m one of those people that likes to know why I’m doing something. I find it easier to understand how to do something if I can make sense of it by knowing why. If I’d been told from the off “rising on the correct diagonal means you’re moving in balance with the horse and will free up the inside shoulder for easier movement” my poor old brain would have clicked in and said, oh okay that makes sense let’s do that then. As it was, I didn’t get why it mattered so no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my head around it. It wasn’t until someone explained that I was able to snap into it immediately.
Tell me why, and I’ll do it right!
My brain was racing ahead though, wanting to move on to the next thing and the next thing. I had to temper myself, remind myself that there was no point in trying to do bigger and better things until I had the thing in front of me sorted because without balance, I was just going to make a mess of it.
After a few weeks, I felt my muscles start to do the rising thing automatically, before I had to ask them to. I realised that at long last, I was finally getting the hang of it. I don’t even realise I’m doing it now. It comes so naturally, in fact, that I had to really think back to remember what it was like learning.
Sitting trot is still very much a learning curve. Sometimes I think I’ve got it down. And then the next time I get bounced out so horrifically that I end up with bruises on my bum for days. All I can say is, I’m glad I’m not a man at those moments! Ouch.
It really is a tricky one though. I suppose I struggle a bit due to my back trouble. I find it hard to relax my lower back because it’s always been a bit weak and at risk from muscle pain. It’s definitely getting stronger though, I can feel it. My hips never used to be very flexible either. Well, I can tell you they certainly are now! That’s something I’ve learned through canter work – open your hips and relax the knee. Much comfier. Thought I’d titillate you there with a titbit from another post. You lucky devil.
Of course, there are always more things to learn. Such as keeping one’s toes in. But that’s a thrilling tale for another day!