Even if you’re strictly monogamous when it comes to your horsey interpersonal relationships, sometimes it can behoove your riding to sit on a different horse. Katie Passerotti recounts her recent one-ride stand.From Katie:
I pretty much exclusively only ride my horse. I have very little desire to ride other people’s horses. If I had time and there was a plethora of extra horses at my barn, I might right a second or third one on a given day, but I don’t get to the barn and feel the need to ride any horse but my Bastian-wastian. I’d rather spend the majority of my time working on perfecting our partnership. Sometimes though I am forced into a situation where riding another horse becomes my only option and then I remember why it is important to jump ship sometimes and play catch rider.
My horse pulled a muscle somewhere in his right front leg last week, every so often he pulls the “mysteriously lame” bit leaving me and my Bastian-support team shaking our heads with wonder. I’m talking no heat, no swelling, no cuts or bruising, yet he was VERY lame. So my daily barn-time routine turned into 30 minutes of walking, then cold hosing, poulticing and considering whether it would better to sacrifice a chicken or a goat to the lameness gods so that he would come sound again.
I found myself riding a 15.1 paint mare. Short, stocky and a short, short neck. (The first time I dismounted I totally miscalculated the distance to the ground and hit a lot early than I planned for!) Insanely different from my 16.2 lanky, long necked thoroughbred. But hey, saddle time is saddle time! As I rode, I started to become acutely aware of some bad habits that I had fallen into and in how much Bastian and I do have a partnership because he lets me get away with some sloppy riding. The mare is still green, she’s only been under saddle about a year at best. Where Bastian is a wiggle worm, bouncing off of my leg and seat aids and I struggle to keep him straight, she just leaned into my leg and let me support her. Score one for Bastian. But I figured her out enough to get her off my leg and making her balance on her own more, it took us a few laps and I had several unsuccessful attempts first, but we got it.
Bastian has rhythm and tempo at the trot, I had to work to create that rhythm with Rosie, again something that I would not normally work on, but the situation called for it (and score two for Bastian!). Rosie is lazier than Bastian, which is quite an accomplishment as he is defiantly the Energy Star model Thoroughbred. I had to use A LOT of leg and reinforce several of those leg aids with the whip. Super workout for me and my legs! Bastian is actually not that lazy, he will trot or canter with minimum leg until I give the signal to do otherwise. Rosie needed almost constant go go go go go!
We popped over a few x-rails too, which was really cool because I haven’t jumped a horse other than Bastian since…. well since before I owned him. We had the same issues with leaning on the leg and forwardness to the fences, which are two things I have to work on with Bastian. So although I wasn’t jumping MY horse, I was still working on the same things that I need to work on to improve my riding.
I have to say that my first 5-10 minutes on a new horse make look like a total beginner. I tend to be pretty passive as I figure out their buttons and we’ll do that speedy trot into the canter, but once I get a hang of it, we’re off!
Riding other horses makes you appreciate your horse more. I remember my friend Jess letting me ride her OTTB one day in college. I rode him for about 5 minutes and then stopped by her and said “How do you keep all that together!” He was bursting with energy and he needed very specific directions on where to put said energy, something you couldn’t really tell from watching Jess ride him. I gained a whole new perspective that day. Riding Rosie today made me LOVE my horse’s trot and canter, her’s were comfy, but she hasn’t learned to balance yet and hangs on the bit, it took a lot of work to get her to lighten up. It made me realize how much of a team Bastian and I are, he really makes up for some of my short comings because I can half ask for something and he is smart enough to figure out what it was I wanted and ta-da! He does it. I had to be very clear with Rosie, she doesn’t know me and I don’t know her so our communications weren’t always on the same page. But that showed me where some of my weaknesses were and let me address my lazy habits that I’ve fallen into.
Bastian is back to being sound (still no idea what he did) so he’s back to being my main guy, but I will try and make the effort to take some lessons on horses that aren’t Bastian. It’s good to shake things up a bit and ride something different, it reveals a lot about your riding and will make you a better rider. The more different you can get, the better.
Happy Horse Switching!