My First (real) Lesson
Diane sent Cam away for riding and driving training (also known as boot camp) at John Bennett Stables after he decided to run me into a tree, buck me off, and bruise my tailbone. When Cam arrived at the Stable in Putnam, CT she inquired about taking some driving lessons with him while he was there. Diane scheduled a lesson and Lauren and I of course went to watch. We arrived in CT on the day of Diane’s lesson where we met Kate Bennett, who would be giving Diane the lessons. All three of us liked her right form the start. She was patient, kind, and had a great ability to explain things so that you would understand. I thought Kate would be a perfect fit for giving me some riding lesson, because aside from Diane and Lauren, I’ve never had any formal training. After Diane’s driving lesson was over, I asked Kate if she would be interested. “Oh absolutely, I would love to.” she agreed, saying it was a great idea. Her enthusiasm reassured me and I scheduled my first lesson.
On the day of my first lesson, I was ridiculously nervous. Don’t ask me why, but I was. I was sick to my stomach, butterflies, mind racing…the whole 9 yards. I couln’t believe I was so nervous because I should have been excited! A real lesson to finally work on all the things that I might be doing wrong? What’s not to be excited about? Like I said….I had no idea why I was so nervous, but I was. Luckily my nerves went away as soon as Lauren and I pulled up to John Bennett Stables. Kate had Campbell on cross ties all ready for me to tack him up. I pulled my saddle, pad, girth, and helmet out of Lauren’s car and marched over to greet Kate “Are you ready my dear?” she asked. “Yes Ma’am” I replied as I threw the saddle pad on Cam’s back. “Lemme see this saddle of yours” Kate said as she watched me haul my Stubben onto Cam next. She looked it over, and said “Well it’s super nice, but it doesn’t really fit your boy perfectly”. My heart DROPPED into my stomach. It doesn’t?! I thought OH MY GOD, am I going to have to go through the great saddle search all over again?!? I looked at Lauren, and well I must have been as white as a ghost because she chimed right in. “It took Lizzy a year and a half to find that saddle, please tell don’t tell us we can’t use it on him?” Kate assessed it further and decided that it was a hair too tight on his shoulders, but not so tight that I couldn’t use it. “Let me ask my saddle fitter if there isn’t anything that can be done to correct the fit” Kate assured me. “If not, we can see about using some type of corrective pad to take a little pressure off of his shoulder area.” I felt awful. Was I hurting Campbell? I didn’t want to use an ill-fitting saddle but at the same time I’m thinking you have GOT to be kidding me. I finally found a saddle to fit my big ass, and now there is an issue with it? This is just my luck. But we would use it for now, talk to the saddle fitter, and go from there. No need for a meltdown…..breathe Liz…….just breathe.
So after the whole saddle fiasco, I tacked Cam up, (who stood like a perfect gentleman I’d like to add. Very atypical of the horse who usually pushes you around like a bulldozer) brought him to the indoor, and mounted. It was time for my assessment. I walked and trotted around the indoor and Kate watched. My major issues? I lean too far forward when I post, my hand position is incorrect, I bear too much weight on the outsides of my feet, I don’t stretch down enough in my heels, I have weak legs and I rely too much on the stirrups. GULP. “We can tape your ankles when you ride to correct your weight bearing, and all the other things are typical of a beginner…DON’T WORRY” said Kate.
After my assessment, we went up to the outdoor ring for the rest of my lesson. Kate would call out instructions “fix your hands. Bend your elbows. Quiet your legs” as I worked my way around the ring ”You’re doing great, Lizzy….keep going just like that” she would yell if i was doing a good job. After an hour of seated trot, posting trot, keeping Cam going in a straight line, and working closely off of Kate’s every word, I was hot, tired, sweaty, and red in the face, but I felt great! Riding with an instructor in a nice frame is ALOT harder than hacking around the back yard….and being a bigger girl makes it that much harder for me. My boobs get in the way of keeping my hands low and close together, and my overall fitness level makes it hard to maintain a quiet leg and stay collected for very long, but in the end I felt really accomplished. We walked back to the barn and un-tacked Cam. “You have a lot of homework” Kate said as I took the saddle off Cam’s back. “I’m giving you some things to do so you can work on your core and leg strength, heel stretching, and balance.” “OK I replied, and I thought, yep I like her. She accepted me the way I am, and would help me become a better riding without any pressure about my weight. It was a relief. I definitely needed more of these lessons…So we scheduled my next one for the following week and Kate sent me on my way.
- 50 daily reps of heel stretching on each foot
- 50 daily reps of thigh squeezes for strengthening
- 50 daily reps of lazy mans squats for core strengthening
- riding, bareback, everyday for balance improvement
What I took away from the experience was this: I’m no better or worse than a typical beginner and my riding will improve over time, but as a big girl I need to work hard to get myself into shape (please note: I said get in shape, not get skinny) so that I can improve. Can I do it? YES I CAN! Will I do it? YES I WILL!
Stay tuned for more lesson updates!