Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pony Club Shame

I'm a master of cleaning out stuff.  Because I have moved every year since I was 16 (no, not military, I just moved out of my parents house and kept moving every year), I have become a pro at traveling light.  I'm not one for holding on to things for sentimentality.  When you're lugging boxes up three flights of stairs every year, you start paring down pretty quickly.  Especially because as the years went on, the help dwindled.  I've now lived in the same place for four years but I still have the itch to move about once a year, so I go through stuff and get rid of things by the bag full.  The one thing I have not been able to part with has been my horse books.  I'm a bit of a collector.  My library ranges from 'True Horsemanship Through Feel' by natural horsemanship trainer Bill Dorrance to "Hunter Seat Equitation" by George Morris.  I have books on riding, books on training, books on dressage, jumping, Western Pleasure and even a Pat Parelli book.

So, while I was looking through my books for the umpteenth time, I came across this gem.  At one point, I had all three books but somewhere along the way I loaned out my C Level book.  So, I have the D level and the B/HA/A level book.  I cracked open the D level book and started reading.  And, oh my, I have a lot to learn if I want to be a D level pony clubber!

I thought it would be fun to check out the tests required to move up the levels in pony club.  I mean, what a great way to make sure I am well rounded in my education (or at least in my english riding education, right?)    So I'm skimming the tests.  To Pass a D-1 test, you must be able to ride at a walk and trot safely in an enclosed arena, without a leadline.  Okay, I've got that covered.  So, I can at least hold my own with the six year old Pony Club kids.

So, moving on to the next level D-2.  Level Requirements are to be able to mount and dismount independently, shorten and lengthen reins at walk and halt, perform balance and suppling exercises....okay, there was one that I'm not sure Tessa would go for.  The old Around the World exercise, where you spin yourself around in the saddle.  I'm not sure my life is worth the risk of being backwards when she changed her mind about things. But mostly I've got that covered.

Then there was the Riding Over Fences portion.  You must be able to ride a simple stadium jumping course of four to five obstacles, not to exceed 18 inches.  Hmmmm.  I better schedule a lesson over some crossrails soon if I want to keep up with D-2 level Pony Clubbers.

And finally, the Riding in the Open section.  Yes, the section that I fail miserably.  You must be able to ride safely in a group at the walk and trot, ride with control, up and down hills, at the walk and trot and jump simple natural obstacles, not to exceed 18 inches.

Now, I get that Pony Club is developing eventers, but even if you took the jumping out of it these are skills I don't have.  My horse has been on one trail ride and it wasn't me riding her.  I've only ever ridden her in the indoor arena.  In circles.  And circles.  And circles.

Well, not anymore.  We often joke about me needing a plan for everything.  And now I've been shamed into action by the fact that at the LOWEST LEVEL of Pony Club, they can go out and ride in the open. Yes, I know, these kids are often on the ancient, bomb proof pony but I'm not so sure I have an excuse anymore.  I was at the Halloween party and if you look at those pictures, it was me and a bunch of kids.  All the other grown ups who dressed up didn't get on and I overheard more than one person saying "My horse would freak out with those decorations.  I'm not going in there."  But I did.  I didn't make excuses.  I just got my shaky legs thrown over my horse and got on and rode.

So yesterday, after our usual circles in the arena, I took my pony outside and led her over to a railroad tie that I used as a mounting block.  Was I scared?  Yup.  But I want to pass my D-2 level Pony Club test and I have to be able to ride outside.  Our barn property is fully fenced, so if I lost control we were still enclosed but with all the distractions of outside, including a very feisty and fresh yearling bucking and galloping while we rode by.  We circled the barn at a walk on a mostly loose rein.  I reminded myself to breathe.  I waved at my astonished trainer, grinning so wide it almost hurt.  I circled the barn again and found a relatively even soft spot and trotted.  It was only five steps, but I can now say that I've walked and trotted outside.  And lived to tell the tale.

And suddenly, a year of lessons and frustrations and second guessing later, I've got it.  This is my horse.  This is my partner.  And together we're gonna go places and do things.  Because we can.  

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