My second saddleseat lesson at Stepping Stone Farm was on a 5-Gaited Pony. We slow gaited all over town and even maybe did one tiny, half step of rack. Verdict: not going to replace jumping as my drug of choice, but pretty slick all the same.
When I arrived, I found out that Sam from last week had ‘blown a tire’, i.e. lost one of his shoes. How brave was I feeling? If I was up for it, Buster was amenable enough to take me around with a minimum of hysteria and he was due to be traded soon. If I wanted to give it a try, now was the time. Was I up for it? Well, no. Did you read the paean to pigeon-heartedness that I wrote last week? However, pride will come to your aid when bravery fails, so I said, sure fine, why not.
So, what’s it like?
First you walk and trot to get warmed up. We didn’t canter because Buster has a tear-away canter & she didn’t want to freak me out totally. Then, you shake their head to signal the slow-gait and let ‘er rip.
Hands up. Hands wide.
Balance with the rail hand. Strong give and take with the inside hand. More than hunters, less than jumpers.
Squeeze with your inside lower leg.
Sit back. If you start posting, you’ve probably lost it and are trotting.
They can lean on your hands, but don’t pull back on their mouth.
Oh, and relax while you’re doing all of this.
A jump-off goes by so fast that I don’t have time to overthink. Information goes from the eyes directly to the hands/seat/legs. This felt exactly opposite. I had to stay totally focused in the moment to monitor my hands, legs, seat, posture. It felt, in retrospect, like spinning plates. Initially, a hefty twirl to get spinning and then tweaking to keep airborne.
When you get it right, the back comes up about a mile, the horse feels as sturdy as a couch, and yes it really is as smooth as advertised. Of course, as you sit there marveling at your ability to achieve this miracle, you forget one of the parts and the plates all come crashing down.
At one point, I got everything right, and started to get a really happenin’ gait going. Unfortunately, I felt the change in balance and thought he was starting to canter, so I whoaed him. Whereupon, Buster stopped dead, parked out, and turned his head to give me the stink eye that clearly said, ‘Listen, Lady, I’m giving you quality goods here. If you are too dumb to recognize it, I see no reason to continue.’
I did have one close call, but not with a horse. After the lesson, one of the resident Jack Russells dropped a pine cone at my feet. Having been well-trained by my own dogs, I picked it up & heaved it down the aisle and out into the parking lot. Or, that was the intention. Since my arm was beat from all the plate spinning, my aim went high and wide, neatly bisecting the airspace between two people having a conversation to my left. Cool shot had it been intended. As it was, I almost beaned my new instructor with a pine cone. Not the way to win friends and influence people.
What non-standard gaits have you ridden?
Kitten Cat Pic