On the Ground — For Real

So I’d been doing all this stuff — sitting on the edge of my seat on the bus, walking around with my elbows loose yet down, standing with my balance entirely in my pelvis — to help me in the saddle. This is as far as my ‘on the ground’ work has gone.

I’d never lunged — longed? It seems to be one or the other — a horse on a long line before.

And I was a bit grumpy about the notion. I had pitched up for my Monday lesson, and as Maurice [this is correct spelling of his name on the ‘call sheet’, even though the name tag on his stable reads ‘Morris’] hadn’t been ridden for four days, he was deemed too fizzy for me.

I was bummed. I really wanted a nice, good trot on him that morning. Even though I’ve gotten a bit bold, not to say cheeky, at Carrickmines, I haven’t put in the nearly the same amount of time at Festina Lente, and I just went, ‘Yeah, great.’

Well, let me tell you something, it’s hard.

Being up on the back of a horse gives you some feeling of control [although as we all well know…], and some feeling of… power. Standing on the ground, in front of an 18hh animal is something else entirely. An 18hh horse with whom you’re sharing a relatively intimate round pen. There’s me, holding a lunging whip, and a red lead line, and there’s Maurice looking at me like, Oh, really? You think so, do you?

I watched first, and it was amazing. The hot spots were pointed out to me — the area in front of his girth which would stop him dead, the section of his flank at which I was meant to aim my belly button [another belly button thing!], and I watched my instructor get him to walk around in circles at her will.

Then it was my turn.

It was exactly like the first time I ever rode him — he didn’t listen to a thing I said, because I wasn’t ‘speaking’ clearly. He was happy enough to stop and throw a eye over me every time I unwittingly levelled the navel in front of his girth. I swept the whip as well as I could whilst I was clutching the rest of the lunge line in my left hand, and under instruction, slowly began to get the move precise: a kind of dip down with my outside hip as I moved around with my outside leg planted.

It was hard to do correctly. I eventually got it, somewhat, and learned how to get him back out whenever he turned to look at me after yet another botched communication; I even got him to trot. But let me tell you, my lower back was as exercised as if I’d been cantering for a hour, and my legs were like jelly.

So, it was not a wasted hour. In fact, it was as illuminating as any of the breakthroughs I’ve had in the saddle. And it’s something I definitely need to practice, and become competent at, for when — when — I get my own horse.

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