A Trial Ride, and Finding the Feel

We had a fabulous time last night, as Final Call trucked around his first-ever teenager, and I got to give a riding lesson for the first time in years!

We’ve said it here before, and we’ll say it again, there’s nothing like the bond between a kid and her Thoroughbred, and I remembered my first ride on Rillo, OTTB number one, in a western saddle, in a roping arena somewhere in the cattle-soaked swamps of south Florida. My mother watching on the sidelines. “Are you being run away with?”

“Yes.”

“How do you like him?”

“I love him!”

I was also reminded of how much I like teaching… when I don’t have to hustle for students. When I was younger I had a thriving lesson business going in North Florida. I gave it up when I went to Ocala to be a working student and concentrate on my own riding. Later, when I came back to Florida from New York, I started up a small lesson business and got quite a fabulous little following in Brevard County. We even took some ribbons at local dressage shows.

Maybe… just  maybe… I’ll scrounge around and see if anyone wants a riding instructor for a few lessons a week. Just thinking out loud here…

I like this picture, from April. Especially the dune buggy in the background. But what I really like is the clod of dirt from his hind hoof.

Back to Final Call, I was very happy with him. He isn’t used to being ridden at six o’clock in the evening – that’s the dinner hour! And he isn’t used to a crowd of spectators, either. But aside from trying to run over the peanut gallery when his rider got distracted and forgot she had to actually tell him what to do, he was very, very good.

The girl riding him (maybe I should have made it clear that I would have been blogging about this ride!) is clearly an experienced hunter rider and she has an elegant seat which I cannot emulate. Of course, here’s the learning experience – you can’t pose on an OTTB. Or, for that matter, any horse that is anything less than push-button. I haven’t ridden anything push-button since I was twelve. Once you are hooked on the hotbloods, that’s that. They make you ride.

Anyway, he mistook her elegant perch for a devil-may-care, do as you please seat, and took her on a little bit of an extended trot/working canter foray around the paddock. At which point I realized a bit of a lesson was in order and stepped in. I invoked Sally Swift and Centered Riding and jockey logic. I lectured. Final Call snored. Girl was polite and did not complain that I was lecturing. Hey, it’s my teaching style. Then she took him for a bit of a twenty-meter circle, got a quiet working trot, and jumped some fences. Success! (There’s nothing like quick learner to fool a retired instructor into thinking they should teach.)

They’re so sensitive, our Thoroughbreds, and that was driven home to me again last night, watching the difference in the horse after she settled and sat down on her seat bones, and used her body to communicate, rather than just her reins. They feel everything. If anyone has ever ridden in an exercise saddle, you’ll know that you can feel every hoof your horse steps on the ground without even trying. I don’t know how Thoroughbreds adjust to the difference in closeness, between the thin strip of the flat saddle and the padded luxury of our English saddles. But there is no doubt that they do. They feel everything we do, and respond to every move our bodies make. That’s closeness. That’s the seeds of partnership.

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10 Comments

Filed under Dressage, Final Call, Selling Horses

10 responses to “A Trial Ride, and Finding the Feel

  1. This might be why, even though it’s like sitting on a board for me, Lucky prefers the Crosby PDN ‘pancake’ saddle I got off eBay. (My old one was long sold, and I’m ashamed to admit I probably need a bigger seat than 15″ these days.) He did have a moment of OMGWTFBBQ when I put my leg on in that one (“close contact” means “close contact”) but he definitely likes it better than the much cushier (for me!) Steubben AP.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      I used to have an old Hartley close-contact that I picked up at a used-tack store for a hundred bucks. The next thing to bareback. I loved it! The AP that I have now is my old friend of more than ten years …. I got it when I was sixteen. I still fit it… I think… but it wasn’t 15″ either. I think it’s a 16.5 or a 17. It’s definitely less saddle than a Stubben, which is like, “Hello? Is there a horse down there?” Stubbens are the La-Z-Boys of English saddles!

      Although ironically, my old, Swiss Stubben was a “close-contact dressage.” It had none of that German, “You sit here, where I tell you!” styling that is currently en vogue.

      • Yeah, my Steubben is an…elderly…AP, and there is much more under my butt! However, leg position I’m on my own in it, just like the PDN. I am so not a fan of the saddles that basically lock you in, oddly enough unless it’s a dressage saddle. My old trainer loaned us a Kiefer Bayern to ride in on Benny–you could NOT take a bad seat. Nowdays, though, I actually get somewhat weirded out by saddles that lock me down in place. Never mind those that do it LITERALLY–five minutes in an Aussie saddle and I wanted off!

  2. Barb

    Wow- that brought tears to my eyes. That closeness is why we TB women love our guys so much. it’s that direct link connecting our hearts with theirs. Thank you for putting it into words.

  3. My TB Ace used to get very opinionated about my position. I’ve always ridden hotter horses so I’m not much of the so called “poser”, but I do come from a forward seat background and tend to ride that way. For the first few months I was riding Ace, he would come to a dead stop any time I got a bit forward. He totally trained me to open my hip angle and use a more full-seat. It took a lot of work to retrain my body, but if a more upright rider is what Ace wants, that’s what Ace gets!

  4. blob

    Is the teenager a potential new home for Final Call?

  5. Lisa Moore

    What you fail to mention is that you took a very generous block of time out of your day to devote to a young girl with a vision, two tired parents and three restless grandparents. Final Call was great and although I do think the “girl” is a quick learner (I do admit I’m somewhat biased), it is obvious that you are an excellent instructor! Thank you so much for the time you and Final Call spent with us Friday evening!

    • Barb

      Well now, Natalie, That’s a compliment of the highest order, I think!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Lisa, it was, quite literally, my pleasure.

      Sharing horses, and most emphatically sharing Thoroughbreds, gives me joy. Lecturing Young People about horses also gives me joy. A Young Person who listens and nods and acts upon what she is instructed to do – wow! She is a jewel to teach, and she is going places.

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