But only just. Today was my first riding lesson in probably 15 years (ok, closer to 20). I was a horse crazy little girl (though not as crazy as some) who was always planning on growing up to be a warrior princess veterinarian. So far I’m a mostly pacifist (except in traffic) beekeeping, cycling librarian, but you know, same thing, really. My most recent riding lessons were back in college and prior to that I rode at summer camp for two weeks every summer. It’s not a lot of time in the saddle really. I recently decided to sign up for ADVENTURE and booked a trip to Iceland where I’m going to be riding 4-6 hours a DAY across the country (or around the Golden Circle). That’s not until later this summer, but I figured I should start preparing. I remember those summer camp days when I could barely walk during the first week of riding. My muscles are even older and wimpier now. I probably shouldn’t torture myself with the same kind of rude awakening. So, riding lessons. Really, I’m more interested in riding PRACTICE and riding EXERCISE, but unless you own your own horse and have a place to ride it, you pretty much have to do riding lessons first.
I tried to arrange a riding lesson/day for me and some friends a few years ago – I thought it would be a fun thing to do for my birthday. But the places I called seemed to think that was weird, or never responded to my messages, and I finally gave that up. A friend of mine was boarding her 3 horses locally at the time and when she heard I was interested in riding, she hooked me up. We went out a few times together and she even suggested that I come out and ride on my own, but I wasn’t really comfortable doing that. I need some more supervised practice before I go there. She’s since moved the fleet to Washington state, so I looked into some other options nearby. This time, my research uncovered a place that’s primarily a therapy riding center – they do regular lessons on the side, though, which is a better match for me/what I’m looking for. I’m more apt to think of my riding as therapeutic or exercise than I am as a means to compete. That’s what a lot of stables focus on – showing and competing. I suppose that’s one way to motivate yourself to be a better rider, but I’m more interested in feeling comfortable and confident in the saddle, and more connected with my horse friends.
My first lesson was great! My instructor was a friend of a friend (yay!), and since it was my first time riding with her (and in forever) we took things slowly. I rode Copenhagen, who was a smaller draft horse (still quite round in the girth area, though – we spent a good 10 minutes searching for a girth extender to make the saddle fit him), and who is more accustomed to Western style riding/cues. But we understood one another. We went through some testing – where I’d ask him to do things and he’d see if he could cut corners and what I’d let him get away with (not much). Parts of me seemed to remember how to ride way better than my brain did. It is ridiculous, though, how quickly my leg muscles tired (ok, I did do nice workout with Jackie Warner – on the DVD – before I went for my lesson, so they were tired already). A half hour lesson was perfect. Let’s hope I can build up some stamina! We walked, trotted, and did some figure eights and halts in different directions around the riding ring. There were therapy lessons going on, too, so we were using a smaller riding arena for my lesson. I don’t think it would have been fun to canter in there. Would have been tight. Copenhagen has a weird canter, too, according to my instructor. Next time! There is going to be a next time. I signed up for lessons every other week for the present. And I’ll adjust that if I feel like I need more or decide I can’t afford it. In reading through one of their brochures, I saw that they do allow advanced riders to use the arena unsupervised. Perhaps that is something I can work up to.
I think my body is going to complain a LOT tomorrow. I keep making it do things that it hasn’t done in awhile. I’ve been subjecting it to weight training and lunges and squats and it’s super cranky. And that’s super depressing. I feel old and weak, and these things that were so easy (or at least MUCH easier) for me a few years ago (when I was doing them regularly) are all difficult now. Having the patience to push through the difficulty and trusting that it *will* get better is hard. But the payoff – strong, and ready for adventures – is worth it. (It is, right?)