Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our Other New Apprentice

Our Other New Apprentice

Our older niece, Sarah, was able to come out with me for her first “real trail ride.” Originally, she was supposed to ride Mingo, but due to a hoof abscess, she had to ride Ranger. The biggest difference between Mingo and Ranger is Ranger you must post his trot, and with Mingo, it isn’t necessary. I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to teach Sarah to post. I e-mailed her the following instructions to read beforehand:

How to Post

Posting is the most wonderful riding invention since the stirrups. If my memory is correct, it was discovered by the boys who would ride postillion. Back, many, many years ago when there were carriages with four and six horse teams, they would have a boy ride one of the horses as well as a driver driving the team. These horses didn’t do the slow cow horse jog. They did a fast ground-traveling trot. Some anonymous genius discovered that if you rise up and down with the beat of the horse it turned from misery to comfort.

When you ride a horse with a bouncy trot, the bounce is not caused by the step up into the air, but when your horse’s body comes back down. On a speedy or big stepping horse, the body goes down faster than you do and you bounce when you hit the saddle. To make matters worse, the horse’s body goes down on one side first and then the other side. This leaves you flying all over the saddle. Not fun for you or the horse.

Posting is like dancing. In the beginning, your horse leads and you follow. Later, as you get better, you will dance in time with him. When you get really good, you can lead and your horse will follow you!

As you start to trot, your horse will lift you up into the air. You need to time it so you stay up in the air a beat as his body travels down. This way, you miss a bounce. He will come back up to get you. You will follow him back down in perfect timing—so you miss the next bounce, too. Immediately, he will bring you back up and it will start all over again. It is really tough at first—like riding a bike.

Once you learn it, you will never forget it—like riding a bike. You’ll know when you get it right—it will just feel right. Once you know the feeling—just keep trying to find that feeling again. At first, you may only get one or two beats, but before you know it, you will be able to post for miles effortlessly.

With a smooth horse, like Mingo, you don’t need to post at all. You just follow his body with your body as if you were connected with Velcro. It is very hard to learn to post on a horse like him because he doesn’t give you much lift. Once you learn, you will find it possible to post on him or any other horse.

The Ride

Just as we had done with her sister, I taught Sarah to saddle and bridle both horses—then down the trail we went.

We rode down the hill, crossed the river and trotted a short section of trail. I was in the lead, so I couldn’t see what was going on. When Sarah caught up with me, I found out that she had no success with posting. We walked over a rough section of trail that gave her a chance to rest. We tried another short section of trail, and she said she got a few beats.

The next section of trail was longer. Once again, I was in the lead. I didn’t realize that Cruiser got so far ahead of Ranger until I glanced back to see him cantering! Well, Sarah said she was posting until he started to do “something funny.” I knew success was in our reach.

The last section of trail that we planned to trot is a long one, and by the time we got to the end of it, Sarah was happily posting along. We walked back to the beginning of the section and did it again for practice.

I wanted her to do a little bit of cantering to take the mystery out of it. We tried the section a third time. It didn’t work with me following, so I took the lead and cantered—hoping Ranger would follow suit. Then I heard the yell, looked behind and saw Sarah tumbling off the saddle right into a nice, soft area off the trail. Ranger gave a little buck and away she went. At 5’10”, all I saw were arms and legs. She was on her feet in no time, and I told her to grab Ranger. She was unhurt, thankfully. I had her walk Ranger for a few minutes until she relaxed a little. She mounted back up, and we had an uneventful trip back to the barn.

Good news—even though I made her lead Mingo for 20 minutes (always a challenge for the uninitiated) and then clean 12 feet, she still wants to come out and ride again.

No comments: