Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Beginnings

Hi! I'm Ellie.

Here's a dorky picture of me wearing a helmet:

I'm 25, married, compete in agility and sheepdog trials with my Border Collies, and, after a long hiatus from horses, have decided to start riding again! I normally write about my dogs over at Cedes of Change, but decided to start a new blog to talk about horse stuff. Not sure if I am really lovin' the name of this blog yet. I suspect that it might change as my journey unfolds :P

If you want to learn more about my past history with horses, in great detail and with some fabulous old photos, click here. Some of you might remember me from last fall, when I impulse-bought an auction horse. If you want THAT (tragic) story, click here. But the reader's digest version is this: I started riding when I was five, and rode multiple times a week, pretty much every week, until I was almost nineteen. I started out riding English (dressage and jumping), and that's where my heart is, although I did spend a few years showing on the APHA (paint) circuit. Since selling my last horse (my beloved mare, Flame) in late 2005, I have ridden sporadically. Considering I spent a large chunk of my childhood and teenage years on horseback, it's been a strange transition. One might even say grounding. Pardon the pun.

Over the past few years, I've felt like something was missing in my life. And yes, I've thought about horses a LOT. Just ask my husband. But life has always gotten in the way. Money and timing. You know the drill. Recently, I decided that I wasn't going to let it. I emailed that eventing instructor (let's call her M) again and finally..... the stars aligned and we were able to set up a lesson!

My current plan? Commit to at least six months of lessons, then decide whether continuing in horses is right for me and my family right now...whether it's something I really want to do, or something I THINK I want to do :P. If all goes well, and the prosperity gods align, the plan is to eventually buy a horse of my own again.


Last night, I had my first riding lesson in five (six??) years. Dang, I can't believe it's been that long!

I made sure to get to the barn a bit early so that I had time to figure out where stuff was, which horse I was riding, etc. Ya know, basic "getting to know you" stuff. For my first lesson, I was assigned to "Goldie," an elderly palomino QH who, although mainly a lesson horse now, used to compete in first and second-level dressage. I got her out, gave her a good brushing, tacked her up, and headed to the arena. Luckily, it was a group lesson, so I didn't have to fret about having M staring at me for a whole hour straight. There were two other ladies in my class. One was riding one of the more "advanced" school horses, and the other trailered in with her beautiful painted Saddlebred.

I walked around a bit, getting my bearings and getting a feeling for Goldie. She is a very typical school horse... gentle and sweet, but lazy. She will try and get away with doing as little as possible for as long as possible, but when you make her behave... SURPRISE! She DOES have some skills ;)

After about ten minutes of warmup, I asked Goldie to pick up the trot. She immediately told me that no, no, she just COULDN'T trot without falling on her forehand and sticking her nose in the air. I told her that I very much doubted that, and we tried again. This time, I was more solid with my leg, and we had a decent transition. We did lots and lots of trot work, circles, serpentines, leg yields.... just trying to get both of us loosened up. We did some trot-halt-trot transitions that really helped her to round her back and come onto the bit, and helped me find my balance.

For the most part, I remembered what to do.... but my muscles didn't. My brain was ready and able, but my body wasn't taking care of the mechanics like it used to. I had to work twice as hard to look half as pretty as I did riding in the past. But I'm sure that will get better. Most of the time when M would call out something for me to fix, I already knew what she was going to say. Miles and miles of posting trot (at least that's what it felt like, LOL) chanting a steady mantra of "heels down, eyes up, shoulders back, lower leg back and steady, slooooow your posting, relax your elbows" in my mind. It was wonderful. I'm sure I was grinning like an idiot the whole time, even though I could hardly catch my breath. Riding is hard work!

And then we got to canter. I haven't cantered on a horse in five years. I wasn't even sure if I WANTED to canter, at the beginning of the lesson. And frankly, neither was Goldie. haha!. It took a lot of convincing to get her going, but after a few "moments" ("oh, you don't want me to just fall on my forehand and trot really fast with my nose out? dang!") we finally got it. That little mare actually had a pretty nice canter! We did a few laps, and for a few strides, I felt like we had it. She was soft, round, in front of my leg. Then we turned the corner, I wasn't strong enough with my inside leg.... and she dropped her shoulder and poked her nose out again. Oh well. Baby steps. :P

Overall, I think my first time "back in the saddle" went really well. It was exactly what I wanted it to be.... fun, not stressful, but challenging. I have a lot of work to do on my fitness and flexibility. I've already started making changes, but now I'm even more motivated. Looking forward to next week's lesson!

I gotta say.... I felt a little bit silly riding such a small horse, but I'm sure my legs would have been a lot more sore today on a bigger one. And they are still pretty sore.

But it's a happy kind of sore :)

You know how the saying goes.... "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Last night, I finally made the leap. And you know what? It feels freakin' FANTASTIC.


  1. Love it!! Hope to see you in the saddle soon. :-)

  2. : ) I followed your Penny Lane story, so it's good to see you're back in the saddle! : ) I hope the stars align!

  3. Yay! Congrats on the new blog and getting back into horses!

  4. I also was following your Penny Lane blog - so glad to see you're pursuing riding again!

  5. Awesome!! I'm so happy you're riding again. :)