A Roping We Will Go…

Yup. I’m going to expose myself to even more embarrassment and ridicule: I’m going to watch roping practice, on Hudson, tomorrow.

I didn’t tell you about starting riding Melody again, the incredible seasoned hunter? Yeah. Well.  I don’t want to give up catch riding entirely, because the benefits are huge.  It’s easier to get on the same horse every day, find out how you sync up, plug-in, and go. You can learn to ride one horse really, really well.  Then you get on another horse, and it all goes to hell in a hand basket.

Switching out different horses and riding styles makes me focus (look ridiculous), stay alert to the basics (look ridiculous), and stay physically sharp (feel ridiculous).  I asked Molly if I could pick up Melody again, and she said yes!

I rode him every other day last week, as well as riding Hudson.

Eye-opening.  (I am ridiculous).

While roughly the same size (Mel is a little bigger) they are completely different rides and personalities.  Not to mention I managed to stuff myself into a hunt seat saddle, albeit an incredibly comfortable one.

First day back with Mel:

Jane walks out to paddock:  Mel!  Hi! Jane gives Mel a big smothering hug while True tries to wedge himself between them like a puppy.  True is 17.2: a very big puppy.  Mel seems to recognize Jane.  Cool!

Daisy has haltered our now baby-bumped Barbie, I halter Mel, and we trek back to the barn.  (Great paddocks at this barn,  HUGE.)  Barbie is going to get exercise in the round pen, while Jane spends 45 minutes trying to remember the location of Mel’s tack. Molly and trainer have True in the arena already (how did they DO that?), and he’s being worked under saddle and over a jump.

I realize I’m having severe HAD (Hunter Anxiety Disorder) but put my feelings on the back burner. I firmly believe we can’t hide how we ride.  I plan to warm up outside the arena, but the trainer invites me in, very gracious.

My first ride back on Mel goes something like this:

Mel: Hey.  Nice to see you.  Have a good summer?

Plod plod plod plod plod plod plod.

Jane: No, it kinda sucked, so I appreciate you letting me ride.  Um, Mel, we’re looking a leetle bit like a giant turtle, could we pick up the walk and move out a smidge?

Mel: Nope.  What great weather we’re having, huh?

Plod plod plod plod plod plod hesitate plod plod plod plod plod

Jane: Uh.  I hate to start out like this, but I’m going to have to insist.  We’re going so slow we’re getting in the way?

Mel:  Sure.  Go ahead and try.  Be my guest.

Plod plod plod heistate plod plod plod wander out through a shoulder plod plod plod

The power steering sticks at the plod.  Get him in a rolling canter and you can move him off your leg, and not have him wander out through his neck, shoulder or ribcage. At the moment, I feel like I’m driving my old 1940’s pick up, the one with no power steering, brakes that don’t ease into anything, and a gas pedal that’s dicey.

I have a feeling he’s making fun of me.

Mel:  Me?  But I like you.

Jane:  Yeah, but why would that stop you?

Mel: HAHAHAHAHAHA you figured it out!

It takes everything I have not to flap the reins on his neck, make choo choo noises and bounce up and down to get him going.  I behave.  I dismount.  We plod plod plod plod plod back to the barn, where I put on my Prince of Wales, long-shanked, rounded, fat ended spurs.  It’s pretty much like strapping on pencil erasers, but I haven’t needed anything more provocative in my riding life.

Mel is amused.  (Oooooo…are you jabbing me?  I can’t feel it!  Try again! This is so fun.)

But he cuts me some slack.  After his initial amusement, he decides to give me a real walk.  I cue him to trot.  Nada.

Expert rider on gigantor horse is riding circles around us, literally, while Jane tries to get Mel to Plod On.

Jane:  Please Mel?  Pretty please?  Do you have any idea how ridiculous I look to these people?  C’mon, your MOM is watching.

Mel:  Lalalalalalalalalala

Jane: gritting her teeth, and applying gradual spur pressure. A quick jab-spike would guarantee Jane ending up in the dirt.  You don’t manhandle Mel.  He’d unload me faster than a green 3-year old attacked by hornets.  You have to convince him to work with you. Since he has a sense of humor, he likes to string me along, pretending not to understand, until he decides it would be fun to do something else.  He and Daisy have history.  He would never do this to her.  Which is why I look like a moron who has never been on a horse in her life.

Daisy gets on, it’s 90% business right off the bat.  I get on, it’s 90%  “oh goody!” right off the bat.

I angle the pencil erasers between his ribs and apply pressure.

Mel: Why didn’t you say so?

Trot trot trot trot plod plod

Mel: What?  You want me to trot,  you have to leave the spurs ON.  Don’t do any of the on and off crap.  Can’t stand it.

Jane:  Okay.  Trot, please. {press and hold}

Mel has apparently had enough Jane-torturing, and he hits a bold trot stride that is heaven to post. I am thrilled to find out two-point is easy when your stirrups are next to your butt.  I’m also happy to find out, like my big ancient truck, I have better steering with the increase in speed.

Sadly, Molly and True have left the arena, so no one gets to see I can do more than plod and adjust for walking out through his body parts.

Trainer is now back in the arena with next student and green horse.  I can tell by the tight vacant smiles on the owner, and the owner’s mother’s faces, that they would like me to die a quick death just outside the arena gate, if I wouldn’t mind.  Jane is not a Real Rider. A Real Rider comes dressed to ride her horse that she isn’t good enough to ride yet, will not get on, and takes video of the trainer riding.

Okay.  Maybe I did get a little snippy there in my head.

Despite that Mel is a hunter, not a jumper, he does not, for anyone, put his head down and round until he is good and ready.  With Daisy or Molly, that’s about 15 minutes in. With me, that’s right before I decide to get off.   His head is way up in the air.  I feel a little unbalanced, and put it down to nerves and intimidation.  Next time, I’ll check my stirrup lengths, and lengthen the right one down the 5 holes it needs to match the left. People do clean their tack.  Surprise!

I told you I looked ridiculous.  Now do you believe me?

The I Hate You Please Die Soon people leave.  We have the arena to ourselves.  I cue to canter, thinking it will stretch and relax him.

Mel: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Get a load of THIS trot…if you can stay on.  Let me check my calendar: nope.  Cantering not penciled in.

I am so done.  He’s actually rather tired now, with all that big trotting.  But we all know I can’t leave a cue he knows go un-answered.  I dismount.  Go back to the barn to rummage through Molly’s trunk for a bat.  Please Die Girl has her horse in the cross ties.  “I’m not moving”, she says.  I stare at her.  “Hi”, I say, “Nice to meet you.”  And go back to hunting for the bat.  Aha!

I pick up the bat, we plod back toward the arena, this time Mel puts on his pitiful, but-I-tried-so-hard face.  The trainer, who has been so gracious, says “you’re going back in again?!”  I’m assuming she’s worried I’m going to ride Molly’s horse into the ground.  I explain about the canter, tell her all he has to do is pick it up on cue and we’re done.

Mel hangs his head dejectedly,  loosens his lower lip.  Looks at her with big horsey eyes.

Remember the part where I look ridiculous?

Right.

We go back into arena, he sees the bat, and we float into an insanely fabulous trot followed by an immediate huge rolling canter depart.  I look around, hoping someone witnessed the adequate riding.

Not a soul in sight.  Trainer is gone.  Molly and Daisy left awhile back, it’s just me and Please Die girl, who presumably is still in the barn.

So tomorrow I’m going to join the roping girls.  On Hudson.  With cows in the arena, in western tack.  It’s going to be his first exposure to his sport now that he’s retired.  I expect he’s going to be somewhat volatile.

What’s to lose?  I’ll report back.  And try to stay on.

I figure I’ll have severe SAD (Steer Anxiety Disorder), but will  live through it.

Right?  I can’t really die of embarrassment can I?

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7 thoughts on “A Roping We Will Go…

  1. AareneX

    See, whatcha might wanna do before facing cattle is to “warm up.”

    Lemme translate from endurance-rider speak: “warm up” = “ride an easy 20 miles of hills and creek crossings.” I find that a 1-2 hour warm up makes all the difference in my arena work….

    (um, wish I could say that I’m kidding, but um, not)

    Reply
  2. Marissa

    Having almost crashed my dear sweet horse through a few jumps due to serious pilot error, forcing him to climb/swim to the other side unscathed and lope around the corner rolling his eyes at me, in front of large crowds of people, I can safely say that you can’t actually die from embarrassment. If you could, I would have done so already, several times over.

    I’m also familiar with the hunter “plod,” it’s one of Tucker’s favorite gaits. At least next time you’ll know that you need to be armed and ready before you get on Mel. I bet you don’t look nearly as ridiculous as you think. And btw, Please Die Girl knows exactly how ridiculous she is for not being able to get on her horse, despite being dressed to do so. Which explains her Please Die Face.

    Can’t wait to hear about roping!

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      I’m not used to a seriously competitive barn atmosphere. Not the “let’s all root for each other” competitive atmosphere, but the “I will SO take you OUT” attitude. Competition is fine, and this barn has very little negative energy, I just happened to run into it all at once. 😉

      I’m taking my camera to the roping practice. But. Uh. I’m having a serious attack of nerves.

      Bella just texted me: “Um. You might want to turn out Hudson to get his jollies out before we go…”

      Oh. I was planning on riding him into the ground first. Ahhhhhhhhh. (kidding on riding him into the ground, but wish I wasn’t)

      Reply
  3. Winter

    LOL! It’s always like that! Smokey does perfect stops when no one is looking. But let one pair of eyes swivel our way and it all shreds.

    Sigh.

    In my experience one can only be maimed by embarrassment. It can also cause a limp and a few rashes.

    All of which are cured by a couple mojitos. Just letting you know.

    Cows make me nervous. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    Reply
    1. theliteraryhorse Post author

      LOL to “Maimed by embarrassment”. That sounds right. Good cure too.
      My second Mel ride went much better. Likely because I entered the arena with full armament. He’s a sweetie, despite his wicked sense of humor.

      I’m not too worried about the steers. I more worried the girls will expect I can do something about the steers besides yell “shoo”! Hopefully Hudson has an autopilot button to move a steer out of the arena. If not, I’ll be waving a tree branch on foot…yelling “shoo”.

      Lord. The quest for becoming a better rider is fraught with embarrassment potential.

      Reply
      1. Annette

        Just a warning – if you point him toward a cow, make sure you’re hanging on tight FIRST.

        I had a 16 hand palomino ex-halter horse someone decided should be sent to a cutting trainer. So one day I was helping ropers get cattle in the chute after they missed them (because they mostly missed), never thought that my western pleasure show horse might remember the “chase it down” teachings, and about slid back off his butt when he did exactly what I told him to do, with an enthusiasm I didn’t realize he possessed.

        Reply
        1. theliteraryhorse Post author

          Boy I wish I’d received this comment before I left! 😉
          You’ll be hearing about it in my next post. Thank goodness these guys didn’t miss. Occasionally the remote for the electronic chute release got pushed accidentally, letting a steer walk out, blinking, wondering why it was alone in a big arena.
          THAT’S where I got into a bit of trouble.

          Reply

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