Stretching Truths

Hiliary came with me on Lesson #20 to take photos.  H is a Physical Therapy Assistant and whenever I complain about being sore after a lesson, she says things like:

“You should work your bi-deltoids and interior flexors more. And if you’re going to ride horses, you need to stretch out your maximal incisors of the upper tarsal. And don’t bounce.”

So before we left the house for Lesson #20, I asked her about stretching again. I wanted to behave responsibly.

Groan. Sigh. Groan again.

Hiliary got to our house a few minutes early and planted herself on the couch in the Semi-Fetal It’s Too Early For Conscious Thought position. I had been scrambling around the house, getting ready for my lesson, having already eaten two breakfasts, posted on the blog and downed four cups of coffee.  I had been up for three hours.

“C’mon H.  C’mon. Just show me a couple of things. Just five minutes…”

Hiliary pushed herself up off the couch and cupped her forehead in her hand.

“Oh… all right… all right.”

She spent the next ten minutes demonstrating basic stretching exercises, reminding me each time not to bounce.

I’m not sure why I bounce when I stretch. I think maybe it’s because it seems unnatural to me to take all the trouble getting into a position and then not do anything. Or maybe it was the four cups of coffee.

When we got to the barn, we resumed stretching. I tried to remember not to bounce and did my best to hold the position for an appropriate amount of time.

Karin saw what we were doing and, as instructors are wont to do, took advantage of the teaching moment.

“Here, use this.” Karin pointed to a mounting block near her barn desk. Then she demonstrated a different sequence of stretching, but no doubt going after those same interior bi-upper flexors Hiliary had been talking about. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Although, it’s never been entirely clear to me why you even need one.

Karin pulled out her balancing board. “Have you been using this?”

“As a matter of fact, I haven’t, Karin.”

“Didn’t you read the book I gave you?”  She was referring to Ride Right with Daniel Stewart.  Apparently balancing board exercises are in this book. How could I explain to her why Bubba to the Rescue took priority over Daniel Stewart?

“Yes, I’ve started it.”

“You’ve read a quarter of a page, probably.”

Actually, that was a little generous. I haven’t gotten past looking at the photos of the people yet. I get a little distracted, wondering who these people are and what’s happened to them since the picture was taken. I hope they’re all okay.

Anyway, we worked on the balance board for a bit. I sort of like it. Karin threw stuff at me while I was on there.

There was nothing systematic about any of this. Nothing like a list of things that I could use as a routine part of my program.  Maybe I’ll get that from Daniel Stewart’s book.

But I tell you what: it was enough. For the first time since I started riding last June, I was not sore after my lesson.  And I wasn’t sore the day after my lesson. Nor the day after the day after.

This stuff really works.

Next time, I’ll tell you about Lesson #20. It was a good one.

Bubba the Educator

I had four horse books lined up to read this winter: Ride Right With Daniel Stewart, Centered Riding by Sally Swift, Horses I’ve Known by Will James and Bubba to the Rescue by Jennifer Walker. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing all winter, but spring is here already and I’ve only got to one of these. And that would be the Bubba book.

As you may have surmised, Bubba to the Rescue is a kid’s book. I’m thinking pre-teen age bracket.  So, I presumed that out of the four books, I would learn the least from this one. However, I did not take into account that when it comes to the art and science of equestrianism, I am actually at a pre pre-teen level. Maybe even a pre-pre pre-teen level.

The main character, Leslie, is a teenaged girl who has horses. For a pre-teen, there is nothing cooler in the universe than a teenager. And for horse crazy girls, there is no cooler teenager than one who has her own horse.

All the stuff you would think belongs in a book for girls in this age group is there: school, boys, boy problems, making up with the boy, a BFF, a fight with the BFF, making up with the BFF, Christmas dance drama, cliques and a mean girl. But the book also deals with heavier adolescent issues such as dealing with a loss of a parent, serious injury to an animal and even touches – ever so lightly – on the subject of abusive boyfriends.

Even with all of that, Bubba to the Rescue is definitely a horse-centered book.  Walker laces the narrative with all kinds of solid equine information and examples of good horsemanship. We learn the proper way to tie up a horse.  Leslie and her friends wear helmets when they ride. They check the girth before mounting.  They allow their horses to cool off after a long, hard ride before putting them in their stalls.  We learn first aid for burns. We learn the signs of colic, why it can be serious and how it’s treated. We learn the difference between riding saddle seat and riding hunt seat.

Anyone can write a book or movie script and throw horses into the milieu as interesting decorations. And the result – much to chagrin of knowledgeable horse people (I hear them complain all of the time about this) – is misleading impressions or downright inaccurate information.  That’s the last thing horses need from us.  Most of the suffering domesticated horses experience under our care is due to just plain ignorance.

Jennifer Walker is obviously a real horseperson.  Her ability to seamlessly weave all this education into an entertaining story is why I’m going to get all the books in this series and save them for the day when my grandchild is ready.

Now let’s see if Daniel Stewart and Sally Swift can teach me something as well.

For more reviews and info on Bubba to the Rescue, check out Jennifer Walker’s Virtual Book Tour.

Jennifer Walker


On Books on Horses

As I was walking Maree around in the ground portion of Lesson #16, Brenda called me to the edge of the arena.

“I have a book to show you, Bob.”

A book? Oh, good. I like those.

I was hoping for something on Frederick the Great or maybe Patton. Instead, Brenda presented a rather thin, but well used book on riding horses. It was Sally Swift’s Centered Riding.

“I just love this book.” Brenda quickly flipped through the pages, pausing at a spot that I assumed wasn’t random.

“I’ve used it for several years. She has a wonderful way using analogy and examples. It’s just a great book.”

Brenda’s enthusiasm was infectious and I wanted to page through the book myself.  I thought perhaps I could gather some tidbit of Sally Swift’s riding wisdom and use it in my lesson. But I was holding on to a horse and it’s difficult to look through a book with one hand. And it didn’t help that Maree was rubbing her nose on the sleeve of my Detroit Lion’s jacket.

Geesh. I wouldn’t do something like that to her.

Brenda was clearly showing me this book as reference for future use.  And I am going to pick up a copy for sure. When someone as experienced as Brenda refers a book like this to me, I listen. I’m sure she’s read lots of them and for some reason this one stands out. I’m going to find out what that reason is.

This brings the books I have to read about horses and riding up to four.  Karin loaned me Ride Right with Daniel Stewart and I really need to get to that soon. For Christmas, Jamie sent me a unique book, Horses I’ve Known, a collector’s item by a gentleman named Will James. And I will soon be exploring the depths of Bubba to the Rescue, a book by Jennifer Walker, a fellow horse book author. I will be doing a thorough review of Jennifer’s book in March. So stay tuned!

I’m looking forward to all this winter reading. I’ve read horse books before, but never while taking lessons. It will be fun to see how the 2-D world of books translates into the 3-D world of riding.

And once I actually know some things, look out baby.  I will become Bob ‘The Insufferable’ Equestrian.