Equestrian U: Riding for college credit

Breanne Long, a senior at North Caroline State University, is taking riding lessons as a PE elective this semester and has agreed to let HN tag along.

From Breanne:

PE 260: Intermediate Equitation (1 credit hour)

Prerequisite: Beginning Equitation

Course Description: “This course is designed to apply knowledge of the fundamentals of health related fitness toward developing, maintaining, and sustaining active and healthy lifestyle through equestrian sports. Intermediate techniques, theories and performance in equitation including skill at walk, trot, canter over ground poles and small cross bars will be taught. Care of the horse, tack and safety around horses will be assessed. Students will travel off campus once a week. Students must meet the weight restriction of the North American Horseman’s Association. Refer to the online schedule of classes for the current fee. Students must provide their own transportation to the stable, paddock boots, and riding pants.”

Prior to our first lesson, I hadn’t ridden a horse since Memorial Day. Needless to say, I was sore! The next day my calves and inner thighs were so sore that I didn’t sit for more than an hour at a time for fear of being too stiff to bend my legs again! Surprisingly (or not, I suppose, for some people), my core was also really sore. I guess your horse isn’t the only one holding himself in a proper frame and my abs were no longer accustomed to that particular position!

I was still looking forward to our next lesson but stretched more than usual the morning of. This week I was assigned Bob. Bob is a chestnut TB gelding in his mid teens. More importantly, he is big. Not huge, but in the range of the 16hh+ horses that I was used to riding.

We tacked up without incident (I managed to sneak some apple slices in by hiding them in my helmet bag, I think that won some points with Bob) and I even remembered to tuck the saddle pad up into the gullet of the saddle (another farm rule) instead of letting it lie flat on the horses back.

Bob is very good-natured and extremely laid back. So laid back, in fact, that his nose would’ve been scraping the arena dirt if I hadn’t been asking for a forward walk. Anytime I dropped contact, his head went straight down. Apparently this is a school horse thing? (Readers: Is this a school horse thing in general? Or just at Hunting Oaks? It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a school horse elsewhere.) The instructors cautioned us not to let their ears drop below their withers because it meant that horse had checked out and was no longer paying attention. True story, several horses tripped.

After we warmed up one of the instructors called me over to where she was standing in the middle of the arena. She delicately explained that this class wasn’t going to be enough of a challenge for me (not unexpected after seeing the riding level most students were at, but hey, riding is riding and I wasn’t complaining!), and proceeded to tell me they needed to “level the playing field.” I thought, give me a more difficult horse? Split the class into groups of more and less skilled riders? Nope, she took away my stirrups. She didn’t just tell me to drop my stirrups. She took them off the saddle completely.

Warm-up arm circles. I’m in the teal shirt on the second horse from the left. (Note the “head-set”.)

If I thought I was sore after the first lesson, it was nothing compared to how I felt after the second lesson. We did a lot of trotting with double and triple posting to help the students who didn’t know diagonals become more proficient at recognizing when they were on the wrong one. We also practiced a lot of half-seat and two-point. Bob’s trot was very bouncy, which made it easier to post without stirrups, but it made the double sit posting difficult, to say the least.

Right before my stirrups got taken away–I’m on the left.

After our ride we walked around a field to cool the horses out. It was a nice change from the dark (covered) arena. Apparently this class used to include a trail ride, but one year a student somehow managed to break her foot without falling off and they haven’t yet decided whether they should re-instate the trail ride. I hope they decide yes because the farm has almost 300 acres with trails that they use for a farm hunter pace every year–sounds like fun to me!

When I dismounted my legs almost buckled underneath me. I had to hold onto Bob’s neck to get my balance and shake some feeling back into my legs. If this keeps up I’m going to have some very strong legs!

Anyhow, next week there has been talk of cantering, woohoo!

About Breanne: I started riding at age 8, following in my older sisters footsteps. My first horse was a cranky 32-year-old appaloosa and my last horse before college was a bay TB mare. I showed hunters but stopped riding once I started college. Now I’m slowly getting back into the horse world and would love to try eventing in the future.

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