Friday, January 23, 2009

Where was I? Oh yes, Tuesday night... My BegInterVanced Class!

[Traveling back in time to Tuesday night...]

So after my pretty good lesson with Henry, I brought him back to his stall to untack and prepare for my college lesson, which I thought would be starting in about 15 minutes. As soon as I got back into the main barn aisle, though, one of the boarders told me my students were already there. Whoops! I saw two girls checking out the horses and figured that must be them, and told them I would be ready as soon as I could. I took of Henry's saddle and bridle and put him back in his stall, and then nervously went over to talk to them.

I cracked a few dumb jokes and to my shock, they laughed! Something about how I had always dreamed of a "tall, dark, and handsome horse" but ended up with "short, chunky, and red", which is true but doesn't make me love my horse any less of course! As much as I told myself what my dream horse would look like the three horses I have spent the longest time riding have all been chestnuts with 'tude! Anyway I gave them a quick tour of the barn, and then we waited in the (gloriously warm) tack room for about ten minutes because there were still three more students we were waiting for. We talked about majors, the weather, and riding experience, and when the rest of the group came in we went over barn rules. The three that came in later (they were on time, the first two were early) had all ridden at our barn last semester. One of them has been riding for a while and is working at Training Level. The other two have ONLY ridden for one semester... about ten rides. The first two girls have ridden for a few years (one dressage, one hunters), but not recently so they are a little rusty. Well, okay then.

The three girls who have ridden at our barn last semester all wanted to stick with the same horses that they had been riding. Fair enough! The other two girls got matched up with an old Morgan mare who makes a lot of faces but who is generally a willing ride, and an old cow horse that was the first horse I ever trained :) He's ADORABLE and a total sweetheart, and also a bit of a chunk. Love that horse. The first test I ever rode on him was at a schooling show at our barn. We entered at A, trotted down the center line, halted at X, and... he started SCREAMING for his friends. Poor little guy! He did the test very well, hollering the whole way, and afterwards the judge commented that I had kept my composure much better than he had.

It took a little while to get everyone tacked up, and I was lucky that the three girls had already ridden at this barn since they knew where everything was and could get ready independantly. I did have to help out with bridling for most of them, which is understandable since schoolies have a knack for getting their heads *just* high enough to be impossible to reach. We got everyone on safely and adjusted stirrups, though it seemed like everyone wanted their stirrups a lot shorter than I would have put them... it's been a while since I taught lessons. Once everyone was walking at a good pace and warming up I blabbed on for a while about position, and how I tend to talk a lot, and how I am happy to answer any questions about anything. I asked what each of the girls had been working on when they rode last.

Girl 1 - Rusty Hunter: "Well I was jumping. And working on my position, and trot diagonals"

Girl 2 - Rusty Dressage: "Sitting well at the trot"

Girl 3 - Ten Rides In: "We were doing some cantering"

Girl 4 - Also Ten Rides In: "Well in trot, we would like, not sit and stand but just stand" Umm... 2-point? "Yeah"

Girl 5 - Obviously, Relatively, Advanced: "Connection, and doing Training Level tests"

Oh boy. Two beginners, two intermediate riders, and one (relatively - relative to her co-students) advanced rider. Now I have to walk the line between keeping things interesting for the more experienced riders, keeping things achievable for the less experienced riders, and keeping everything safe for everyone.

Then I asked them what they wanted to get out of this semester, if there was anything they wanted to learn, any specific goals they wanted to accomplish, etc... Blank stares. Oops, forgot this is supposed to be a fun PE credit! I guess I will alo have to walk the line between keeping things laid back and actually teaching important equestrian skills!

I had them work on circles, showing them the size of a 20 and 10 meter circle at the walk. I had them do a 20 meter figure 8 at the walk, emphasizing the lovely round quality that a circle should have. I had them do a serpentine at the walk, again, trying to tell them that they should keep the half circles rounded. We'll be working on that a lot more, looks like. Then we picked up the trot. Or rather, the Obviously Relatively Advanced girl did. She was awesome. Sort of did her thing, steered away from any impending pile-ups, did circles, worked on getting a nice contact with her horse. Ten Rides In 1 and 2 were bouncing around with heels up, hands either in her lap (1) or up in the air by her face (2). Rusty Hunter and Rusty Dressage were trying to keep the old schoolies on the wall and in a trot, and were a little tipped forward, but no major flaws. Sigh...

After a few minutes of posting trot, working on diagonals a lot, I asked them to sit the trot for a few minutes. Ten Rides In 1 seemed very confused... "Don't we always post?" We gave the horses a long rein walk break for a few minutes and then when we shortened them up to get them ready for work again, I tried to re-emphasize the aids. How you should use only as much as was necessary, but enough to get what you asked. I tried to re-emphasize position. How you should keep your shoulders back and down, and push your butt into the saddle (by this point, I was FREEZING, despite my pantyhose + breeches + jeans and my t-shirt + 2 long sleeved thermal shirts + sweatshirt).

We picked up some trot again and I asked them to do some 20 meter circles at the trot, either at A or at C. There were some very near traffic incidents, but everyone survived. Then I asked them to all come down to C and do a FULL 20 meter circle at the trot, keeping them going at a nice pace and working on keeping the circles round. ORA did a beautiful circle. TRI 1 & 2 gave some nice efforts. RH and RD couldn't keep their ponies at the trot the whole way around their first couple of tries, but were determined to get it right, and soon did. Then we all cooled out, which took a lot longer than I thought it would. After 20 minutes of trotting two of the horses were sweaty, the furry beasts! We got everyone put up cool and dry and I thanked the girls, they said see you next week, and I finished putting my tack away.

By this point it was about 8:30, and I was exhausted. I didn't pick Henry's stall - I like to clean it at night when I can to make it easier for the barn crew in the morning, and so that he doesn't lay in as much poop; I did get him some nice warm water and his blanket though. After my first BegInterVanced lesson I think I know what we'll work on next week:
  • position- without this foundation, you can't work on anything else; this is also a safety issue (heels down, eyes up, etc)
  • working on the aids to get prompt transitions and keeping your horse listening
  • keeping tabs on the schoolies' temps - no way do I want to get them sweaty again
  • trot diagonals
  • mmmmaybe some cantering, if they're ready and express interest
I actually couldn't sleep Wednesday night because I was planning out what next Tuesday's lesson would consist of, how crazy is that? I did ride Henry last night but I will post about it later. I warned my students that I talk too much sometimes... guess it applies here too!

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