“You would like me to do WHAT!” I asked, not sure I heard correctly.
“Stand up in your saddle,” she patiently repeated.
I heard this time and immediately felt cortisol coursing through my body. Is this lady mad?! I’ll fall off the horse! Sure, I am wearing a helmet, but no, not doing this.
“Hold on to the horse’s mane, it will help you stabilize while you push down with your heels in the stirrups” she encouraged.
“The horses MANE!” I repeated, “wont that make him angry?” as I was thinking about someone grabbing onto MY hair holding on for dear life. No way!!
“He wont mind, just stand straight up and once you’ve tried I’ll have you do it while he is walking,” she added, cool as a cucumber.
I couldn’t think straight, my head was spinning and I was starting to regret all the gear and the big idea of wanting to learn how to ride a horse. In the end, my desire not to be defeated won out and I tentatively grabbed a handful of Olaf’s mane and clumsily pushed myself upwards. I was standing! I couldn’t believe it! Standing in the stirrups, just like that. Wow I’m a pro, I thought to myself as I unceremoniously settled back into the saddle.
“Good job,” Laura encouraged, “Now ask Olaf to move forward by pushing your reins forward and moving your hips gently in the saddle. Remember, ask, tell, demand. You should be able to have him respond to the change in your breathing.”
With that, I relaxed in the saddle, gently pushed my hands forward, relieved the pressure on Olaf’s mouth, pushed my hips forward and quietly sighed.
He moved forward with ease and I immediately wanted to jump up and down and declare myself the winner, but I didn’t. Instead, I gave Olaf a congratulatory “Good boy!” as we moved down the track.
Not to be distracted by my subtle, yet effective ask to move forward, Laura reminded me of my next task, “Now that he is moving, stand straight up until you get to “L”.”
This lady is relentless!
I grabbed onto Olaf’s mane pushed my heels down and stood up straight. I could not believe myself, we were doing it, we were riding around the track, Olaf and I. Me standing up!
“Ok, now I want you to squeeze while wrapping your calves around his belly. Zip up your abs. You will feel this in your ankles.” Laura explained.
And she was right. By the fourth try, my ankles were screaming at me “What are you doing to us?” and I wondered if at the end of the lesson when I was asked to dismount, if from my feet to my hips, would my legs be permanently contorted into the shape of two bows pointing away from each other?