The Chronicles of a New Rider - Parts LV & LVI

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... and Pimpao!
Oct 12, 2000
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Wednesday, 18 April

As I approached the school, I was greeted with the (always) beautiful sight of horses at pasture. Eight of the horses were free in the paddock: Génio, Mefisto, Chèrie, Ice, Lótus, Pipas, Rezinga and the filly Safira. Because, for the time being, no one else is coming at the seven o'clock lesson, I once again delayed my lesson and joined up with the next one. I spent the intervening time watching the horses, trying to identify the friendships, the bullies and the overall relationships. It appeared that Génio and Chèrie like each other, as they were always grazing together, almost flank to flank. When the others moved off they remained alone and later went join them, walking closely side-by-side. For the short time I was watching them it seemed that Ice was the bully and that Pipas had some interest in Safira - frequently hovering around her. I was told that Safira is Pipas' filly but that she was not a kind mother so, out of concern for Safira's well-being, they were soon separated.
I had been watching them for about twenty minutes when Francisco started to prepare things to bring the horses in. I was curious how Francisco, his daughter and a volunteer (yours truly ;) ) would be getting all those horses out of the smallish (but large enough!) paddock. Only two of the horses were haltered and I was anticipating some difficulties if we had to get in there and catch them one by one.
In the end the system used was quite simple! The doors of the boxes were opened and it was made sure that nothing (and no one) was in the way. The gate was opened and the horses called... meanwhile the dogs, knowing the drill, got behind the horses and began harassing them. Not surprisingly they were utterly ignored with hardly a ear flinching. I had to go into the paddock, circle the horses wide and drive them to the gate. Once moving they just trotted by themselves to their own quarters without human intervention. The two stable areas, the paddock and the open arena form a closed space, with just one way out to the parking lot - that was being blocked by Francisco. All the horses know their places and all that it takes then is going around closing doors! Not exactly the most orthodox way of doing things (nor the safest) but certainly the most effective!

With that job done, and with the other students having arrived, we proceeded to begin our lesson. I was to ride Astérix, whom I'm slowly beginning to better understand.
The lesson itself was pretty run-of-the-mill, just two points being worthy of notice. The first concerns corners. Either I was better able to persuade or better yet - influence - Astérix to keep closer to the limits of the arena (we were on the smaller covered one), or else he was simply in the mood to do it! The fact was that he obeyed my aids, taking nothing more than a tiny bit of action on the outside rein and a bit of pressure from the leg to keep us close to the railing at all times.
On the other hand, canter work could have been a whole lot better. The first try was so-so and the others were even worse. We would make the transition as well as the two of us together can manage, but the cantering itself felt like we were each cantering on his own. No connection, no cadence... no nothing. We did it, we passed by the others when we were supposed to (which is no easy task with Mr. "I won't be caught dead in the front of the line!" Astérix), but he felt like he was just trying to get it over with and I just wasn't able to reach to where he was and bring him back with me...

Friday, 20 April

Friday lessons are with the same group from Wednesday's eight o'clock lesson. As it was earlier and the weather had been hanging on, we went to the larger arena. I was ridding Astérix again, the student with whom I had that "incident" with Lord and Astérix was ridding Juby for the first time. She was impressed with the height difference but not in the least daunted. We exchanged the usual jokes about the landscape as seen from up there, and started our work. Soon after we were joined by another student on Lord. This time I made sure he knew about Lord and Astérix's background. Not being aware of how much he knew about the signs of aggression, I tactfully "explained" those to make sure nothing wrong would happen. By the way... it didn't :)!
Shortly after the start of the lesson Francisco started to "pick" on this student's position, who on his hand, was having difficulty correcting it. So Francisco told him to leave the two of us, and do a different workout by himself - mostly walk and trot, with and without stirrups.

The two of us remaining just did the usual work. I was having trouble keeping Astérix moving, even if this was his first session today (or maybe because this was his first session today) he was not in a mood to work. In the end I was the one having a bit of a workout - he wasn't sweating by the end of the lesson... I was! My only respite was when we were a quarter of a lap from the slower moving Lord, and Astérix would start chasing him of is own accord. We always passed Lord wide and fast and there was no incident to report. Juby was just happy playing the train with his muzzle practically resting on Astérix's tail root (who didn't seem to mind this).

The corners were as good as it has become usual with the two of us... in fact they were actually too good! He went were I suggested, and when we started to canter I pointed him to the path we had marked out walking and trotting. The first corner we did he dropped to trot to do it, picking up the canter again after we'd been through. At first I was a little crossed with him dropping off canter without "permission". When he did it again at the next corner I understood that he just couldn't comfortably make such tight turns at that gait. Instead of cutting inside as he had done with me when I first started to ride him, he did the best he could while following my directions. After those first two corners I drove us a little across them for the remaining of the exercise, and Astérix didn't slow down like that again.

Close to the end of the lesson, when we were cooling down at walk, Francisco told me to stop while he corrected a few points on the other rider's position. As it looked like we were going to stay there for a bit I gave Astérix the reins. He lowered his head and started to eat the lush grass from the neighbouring paddock. Expecting him to resist when I again asked him to walk off, I decided to anticipate it, gathered the reins and asked him to raise his head. Surprisingly he obeyed promptly and willingly. Being proved wrong in my estimate, I dropped the reins again and let him eat his fill.
Soon we were dismounting and I got to regret having let him do as he pleased. Because as soon as I dismounted I was faced with a horse slobbering with green foam... keen on rubbing his face on me! I had to crouch down next to his fore leg to take the Gogue out, when I was through fumbling with it, I looked up over my left shoulder to see Astérix's face a couple of inches from my own. He was looking intently at me with what looked like such a sweet expression that I wished I had a camera with me. It was a cute image, and it would have made a great picture!

Tonight getting the horses out of the paddock was even more efficient than the previous Wednesday. This time they remained there until all the rations were distributed, including their own. As soon as they saw the feeding buckets passing by, the herd that normally keeps it self deep into the paddock, moved right to the gate! We got out of the way, the gate was opened carefully and they just raced to their own mangers. It reminded me of the bell at the end of a lesson during my school days :D!

Pedro Fortunato
Lisbon, Portugal


Jul 20, 2000
What fun you have Pedro! And how great to be able to watch the horses grazing in their paddock and seeing how they interact. It is that quiet watching that has always been my favourite past time, so many just seem to want to ride and go and miss all the cues about horse nature!
Do you ever go back and look at your earlier posts, like the one about your first ride on Asterix? It's an education in itself! Vera