Episode #2: Our first lessons, the lunge!
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
We start on the lunge, the idea being that this would be a good way for me to get the feel of a big moving horse like Bob while not having to worry about steering (or him running off!). Bob is a very graceful and very big horse. He’s very long in his body, with a lovely big long neck which makes his head feel like it is miles and miles away. I am used to riding small fat ponies now so this is a significant change! Bob also has a tendency to become ‘over emotional’ about things and when the work gets too hard for him he gets spooky and sometimes just runs away with you. He is also noise sensitive so sudden bangs can increase nervousness, and he believes water sprinklers are a thing of the devil! Considering the barn is next to one of the busiest freeways in the city, with the LAPD mounted police division next door, Downtown LA 3 miles away and many arenas that are in a continual state of being watered there are always a lot of noises and distractions. Therefore Pat and I are working on using positive reinforcement, for Bob to motivate him into working nicely and for me so that I have a plan to work with.
As will be explained in future episodes we are using Positive Reinforcement to build our relationship, starting in the stable, then moving to the lunge, then some liberty lessons and using these lessons when riding also. I mix the riding with groundwork and that means Bob and I are hopefully building a relationship together, I imagine we will go forwards and then take a step back to a previous lesson to ensure that we are reinforcing what we know and understand about each other and also to enable Bob to get a variety of work.
Back to lunging, though I have ridden for many years I managed to miss the foundations of lunge lessons as a child and therefore I was and am keen to work on my position. I have what is described in the US as a ‘chair seat’ ie my lower leg is slightly ahead of the vertical and I tend to sit right in the centre of the saddle rather than with my weight light and slightly forward.
Trainer comment from Patricia Lincourt:
“The ‘chair seat’ is a common problem when learning to ride. From the side view it looks as if the rider is sitting in a chair. The riders thigh bone is forward and the lower leg moves towards or onto the girth. Often riders will also have their torso leaning a bit back behind the vertical as if sitting in a recliner ( extreme visual). Some riders do this on purpose to feel secure or to drive a lazy horse forward with seat urging. If the rider pinches with the knees or lifts the heels the effect is the same. The rider should maintain a middle upright torso with the legs hanging below the hip as if standing on the earth with some bend in the knees most of the time. Being fluid with the extremes of the the riders position from leaning back to closing forward and lightening the seat for jumping in an agile way is the riders goal.”
In addition to the chair scenario I have a very ‘classically trained’ upright (read rigid) shoulder position and my left hand has a tendency to drop towards my thigh. Years and years of riding in this ‘fixed’ position means that my core stability is wanting. I dislocated my right shoulder many years ago and my right arm is slightly longer than my left so I have a weird twist in my body. How do I fix these things? Practice! Patricia has suggested that I spend time when riding moving between positions, so rather than getting greedy with rising/posting trot when it is going well I should move between rising, sitting and two point positions, to ensure that I become far more mobile in my seat overall. I now spend a lot of time moving seats, from a ‘half seat’, to ‘two point’, to rising and then sitting and then back to rising to ensure that I have the ability to easily move between positions. The benefit of being on the lunge is that I am able to think about my position and not worry about the horse. We spent a lot of time also riding with reins in one hand, with reins in the other hand, no reins at all, no stirrups. It was brilliant, and, aside from working on my position overall it also gave me a glimpse into the fact that I could trust Bob enough to take my stirrups away and not freak out about it. There will be a follow up blog on the process of no stirrups in future weeks (I need to get my editing skills better and we're also looking at an online lesson tool that will help Patricia explain things using video so watch this space!)
We didn't get any pictures or videos of the lunge lessons so here is a picture of Bob looking endearing instead!
Now had a couple of lunge lessons on Bob and at the end of the last one we decided to take the safety net away and go freestyle, with some clever Positive Reinforcement methods up my sleeve to help me on the way. More on this in the next blog.
Patricia is available online and on the phone for lessons, if you are interested in this please contact us so that we can set this up for you.