Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lessons Learned from the Inevitable

Or, "The Deranged Monkey Strikes Back".

Gratuitous cute Cuna photo spam
Today was a jumping lesson in preparation to go cross country schooling this weekend. I was excited at first, then a little worried. I'm doing so much better as far as confidence under saddle, but we hadn't had a lesson in a while and I felt a mite twitchy. I didn't make excuses for myself and showed up in the arena on time with my new lesson buddy and her sensible mare.

We started out trotting a complex pattern over ground poles. There was a one stride, an angled three stride line immediately after, and a three stride bending line. It doesn't sound all that difficult until you factor in that we had to do the whole thing with one hand on our heads. Yes, that means the other hand was on the reins and all directional impulses came from our legs. Nothing like a freaking tough exercise to make you realize that you suck at life.

Anyways. We were going on our merry way and Steph set everything up to crossrails. She apparently thought I wasn't being challenged enough--she has complained before that I do absolutely nothing with my hands. Thus, I got to cross my irons and do the exercise with one hand. Awesome. We made it through, albeit with a couple of strategically placed circles to regain some semblance of speed control. As we came over the last tiny X, something happened.

Picture this monkey, only with a crazed look on his face, riding a horse
Either Cuna took off or I inadvertently hooked him with my spurs. Either way, we made a circuit of the small, oddly shaped jump arena at a mad TB gallop. I took my reins in both hands, but there was no recovering my stirrups. I brought him down to a 20 m circle at a mad gallop. The turn was so tight that I felt myself sliding off the side. I grabbed mane, breastcollar, and anything I could get my hands on and managed to get back in the middle, but at this point, full on "Deranged Monkey Cling" had set in.

I could hear Steph yelling direction, but the primal instincts I was operating on didn't even attempt to follow them. I tried to wrap my leg around his barrel and was rewarded with a mighty buck (yes at a gallop) as Cuna reminded me that I still had spurs on. Damn.

As we rocketed around the circle again, I noticed that our lesson buddy was standing quietly, spectating, DIRECTLY IN MY PATH!!!! I didn't dare pull left--I knew the change in direction would fling me into the fence. I didn't dare go further right because at the rate of speed we had attained, I thought there was a good chance Cuna wouldn't be able to stay on his feet. I was absolutely certain that Cuna would see the other horse and be like "Hi buddy" and stop.

Perish the thought! We charged directly at the other horse. At the last moment, the mare was like, "Hey mom, don't think he sees us!" and took off as well. I slid off the side and watched hooves flash over my head as I landed in the sand next to the mare's rider. Cuna and the mare booked it for the barn with Steph and the mare's rider in hot pursuit.

As I knelt in the arena, catching my breath, I realized a few things.

1) I may not have completely conquered the "deranged monkey cling", but by golly I've improved it. This marks the first time in years that I have fallen off and landed on something other than my head. Remember? This fall and that fall. Yep. Landed squarely on my left hip, which means I have been working hard enough at redistributing weight into my feet (aka two point challenge FTW!!!) that falling is no longer akin to a missile launch.

2) It really wasn't that bad. I can fall and not get seriously hurt. If you've ever had a riding wreck, you know exactly what I mean--the idea of falling is terrifying because of the misery it ends in. Just popping off and hopping back on is not big deal. I probably (unfortunately) need to fall a few more times to really get that through my head.

3) Dammit, I love this horse. After his mad gallop through the barn, he was captured by the BO, led back to the arena by Steph, and then greeted me like nothing ever happened. I got back on and did some leg yielding and halting practice to get my legs working and my mind functional, and then he carried on just as quiet as could be.

4) Despite his many perfections, Cuna is a horse. I still have to ride. We got some new jumps yesterday, one of which is a nice little gate. Steph added it in to our pattern. I just assumed Cuna would jump it and didn't give him the best ride. He slammed on the brakes right in front of it. Whoops. We backed up a few steps and jumped it from there, and he was lovely.

5) Have I mentioned that I love Mr. Cuna? I am a person that just prefers a forward horse, which he is. It was so refreshing to get back on him and have him take me to the fences like he always does. None of this "being brave for both of us" thing anymore. He takes care of him and I have to figure out me.

Feeling the pony lovin' 
We finished up the lesson when I was able to canter the whole course without grabbing his face and making him add in lots of extra strides. Amazingly, he goes SO MUCH BETTER when I sit up and ride and ignore that monkey cling.


  1. Its moments like those you wish someone was filming so you could watch it over and over again with friends while having a few drinks and laughing your ass off. Hope your schooling goes well!!

  2. If Cuna has a monkey on his back, you should call for an intervention (har har har!).

    I'm glad you are okay! And you confidence wasn't shaken. :)

  3. ^ what she said!

    Glad you are ok! :)

  4. Ditto the previous comments. Glad it ended alright. I also perform the monkey cling from time to time...

  5. Glad you're in better shape post-fall than the last two times! Gotta practice the flying dismount at trot and canter once or twice each lesson for a month, then you'll get that monkey cling gone. Can't wait for the schooling =]

  6. Glad you didn't get hurt. Good luck for the cross country.

  7. Phew! Sounds like an exciting ride... challenging enough?!? Ha!

  8. Glad you're ok! That sounds scary and so out of the ordinary for big Cuna man! But, you're right, we cant get too comfortable...however I'm happy to hear how well you both recovered and got on with things after the fall :)

  9. Yikes!!! I'm glad you're okay and that you got back on! Way to go girl.


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