Climbing Into the Saddle

Welcome to my new equestrian blog. I’m a new equestrian, and it’s a new blog, so that applies two ways. Here, I plan to talk about my experiences with riding; this sort of encompasses general fitness (so I can ride better) and weight loss (see previous parens). So, let’s do an introduction, shall we?

My History with Horses

I’ve always loved horses, though I hadn’t had many opportunities to spend time with them. When I was in college, back in 1997, I traded some time mucking out stalls for riding time. On reflection, this was slightly nuts; the horse I rode, Mozart, wasn’t well trained, and I was just riding unsupervised. I rode him, I think, four times before I decided this was a Bad Plan when he took off galloping for a corner and tried to throw me. The barn itself was iffy, as you may have guessed from what I’ve said; the barn owner didn’t have much time for me, and I spent a lot of time trying not to get kicked by a QH stallion whose owner couldn’t keep him under control.

I left there and tried to take lessons at another barn via a college course. I gave up on this pretty quickly, too; it involved an hour and a half drive at 5:30am and an instructor who screamed at me when I couldn’t figure out how to post during the first lesson. At that time in my life, I had very little self-confidence and was dating someone who’d been riding since before he could walk. Between my own frustration, the yelling, and his discouragement, I quit.

Fast forward 12 or 13 years. Late last fall, I started thinking I’d really like to ride — again. I was seriously overweight; I broke my foot and lost my mom in 2007 and inactivity plus a junk food diet meant I’d gained a lot of weight. I didn’t think riding at my size (265lb then) was possible. A friend encouraged me to go ahead and call some barns anyway, and I did. Much to my surprise, one of the very first I called was willing to accommodate me. I scheduled my first lesson and even managed to show up. I also deal with an anxiety disorder, which made it hard for me to face a new situation and a new place… but my obsession with horses was enough to overcome that.

I started riding (again? I’m not sure the previous experiences counted) in late September of 2011. Everyone at the barn made me feel welcome and comfortable. Pushing myself to show up week in and week out, regardless of how anxious I felt, has really boosted my confidence. Riding has changed my life. I’ve lost 25lb since I began, through a combination of the exercise from riding and following Weight Watchers. I’m now inspired to expand my fitness, and am going to an introductory CrossFit lesson on Thursday this week. These are things I don’t think I could have done previously.

I love spending time with the horse I ride; I don’t own a horse, yet, but I ride the same lesson horse each week. I ride English style, and, since I’m such a beginner, don’t really have a discipline yet. I use a dressage saddle and we do work on dressage patterns, but we’ve also worked on trotting over ground poles and small jumps (without really jumping).

I had my first fall a few weeks ago. I was wearing spurs (not sure I should’ve been, but the instructor wanted me to try them) and accidentally gave my horse the cue to canter. He took off and my heels stayed right in his sides; I lost my balance and hit the dirt. Within two minutes I was back on, and within twenty I was cantering again (on purpose). That’s a long way for me to have come.

Where I’m Headed

I’m considering switching barns, because the place where I ride now is really out of the way for me. This is a difficult decision; I’ll certainly miss my current horse and a lot of the people I’ve gotten to know. And I feel bad about doing it. If I do switch, I might see if it’s possible for me to go ride once a month or so at the old barn.

I really want to learn to jump; that’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I need a lot of work on my position and balance. My progress is slow compared to a kid, but when I consider how far I’ve come since September, I feel encouraged to keep pushing myself. I’ll get there eventually.

Dressage is not, on its surface, terribly interesting to me, but I appreciate how it can improve horse/rider communication and plan to continue studying the discipline. I’m not sure that showing at a high level of dressage is going to be one of my goals.

I haven’t showed yet, and I really want to. I don’t even know where to start. I’m hoping my instructor(s) can provide me with some pointers.

I don’t have a lot of interest in Western riding. I’d like to learn eventually, but it’s all English for me for now. I do want to do some trail riding, but I believe it can be done in an English saddle.

I’m saving up and hope to own a horse within the next year or two. I want to figure out my own capabilities and which discipline I want to focus on so I get the right horse. I’m interested in leasing in the meantime. Right now, I ride once a week; I want that to be at least two or three times a week, increasing in the future.

Enough with the Rambling

So that’s where I am and where I want to be, in a nutshell. I’m hoping to post photos and videos here, as well as reflections on my riding time each week. I’ll also be talking about weight loss and CrossFit (I hope), maybe yoga, maybe whatever other fitness activities I decide to pursue. I’ve been coasting along with just riding for months now, and it’s time to branch out. If I can increase my leg and core strength, I’ll be a much better rider.

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2 thoughts on “Climbing Into the Saddle

  1. There’s something so very inspiring about taking concrete steps to embark on a new goal. Good for you! I don’t know a thing about horses but I don’t think I’ll need to in order to follow your journey. šŸ™‚

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