Today’s ride completely blurred the lines between torture and training – and it was completely self-inflicted. I was feeling a bit guilty because the past few rides I hadn’t been doing my mandatory (completely imposed by me) five minutes of no stirrups work. Instead I had been having fun hacking in the fields. To get myself back on track, I decided to drop my stirrups for the entire 30-minute ride. Let me tell you, that was a BIG mistake. Sure I was handling the five minutes ok, but 30 minutes just about killed me. And Luc was no help at all.
Sometimes I think he’s a little too smart for his own good, and this ride was one of those times. He knew I had no stirrups. He knew it meant I couldn’t use my leg as effectively. He knew it would be just so easy to take advantage. And he did. The second I got on he reverted back to how he was on day one – pokey and difficult to get going. He made me squeeze with all my might to get him to go forward. Every. Single. Step. If I stopped using my leg, he stopped completely. It didn’t matter if we were walking, trotting or cantering, I would suddenly, and completely abruptly, find myself at a halt. It certainly tested my balance. And my patience. It wasn’t a pleasant experience feeling like I hadn’t made any real progress in the months since I started back riding. Ah horses, so good at keeping you humble.
Needless to say Luc and I worked on a lot of transitions during our ride. After 30 minutes of them we were actually getting pretty good at not falling into the downward transition and moving immediately forward when I asked. The only area I didn’t have much success on was the canter to trot transition. It was choppy and made me feel like I was about to be bounced sky-high any second. We’ll have to work on that one some more when I have my feet in the irons so I can work on my balance and Luc can work on his.
I did bring a go stick with me, and that helped to a degree, but it was still tough going. I can’t remember ever having to work this hard. I’m still limping around like a lame duck days later, and I have an incredibly colourful matching set of bruises on the insides of both my thighs from where the crossed over stirrups were digging in. I had briefly toyed with the idea of taking the stirrups off the saddle completely, but well, was a little too chicken to do that. I wanted to be able to quickly have the option of getting them back if I needed them. Plus, it’s a big pain in the butt to have to put them back on afterwards.
While today’s ride may have come close to killing me, I think the torture was good for me. It kept me humble, inspired me to keep working harder each ride, and gave me another goal to add to my growing list. One day I will be able to ride without stirrups for the entire ride without asking my sister every five minutes if my 30 minutes is up!