What’re those tiny arms for? Playing piano?

Last week, I had the chance to take a “comp day,” which is where they give you a day off for working extra hours instead of paying you overtime. I’m salaried (hallelujah), but I’ve been working overtime – until 10 PM some nights, and when you start at 7:30 AM, that’s no joke – so I was only too happy to take a day off. And because I was already exhausted and overtired, I did the only sensible thing.

I scheduled an extra riding lesson.

My goal is to start taking two lessons a week regularly once we’re done paying for the wedding, because we’re currently setting aside so much for this shindig that after the fact, I’ll be able to spring for an extra lesson every week and we won’t even feel the teeny little dent it will make. I figured that since I had a day off and I’d been particularly stressed out, I’d treat myself to a second ride and see how it felt to ride twice in a week and whether it helped my riding.

The short answer: it felt amazing and it helped a ton.

I have learned a variety of things in the last few weeks. Since we’ve been doing the balance work on the lunge and focusing on getting my legs in the right place, several things have come to light, including a few habits that a.) I didn’t know I had, and/or b.) weren’t there before I broke my elbow. First of all, I have no flexibility in my calves. None. I have to start trying to limber them up throughout the week, because riding with my legs in proper position kills me. Kills. Me. In fact, on Sunday, I dismounted after my ride, like you do – and promptly sat down softly in the arena sand, completely involuntarily. My legs were just like, “Yeah, we still haven’t regained feeling, so we’re just going to go now, bye,” and I just…buckled and sat. My trainer took one look at me and cracked up. I am nothing if not entertaining.

The other thing that’s weird…and I hate to even show you this photo because, first of all, I look physically horrendous. Nothing shows exactly how out of shape you are more than looking at a photo of yourself riding a horse. Secondly, my eq is horrendous – you can totally see the weirdness in my right leg if you look. But the main reason is that I have suddenly, and for no good reason, developed piano hands.

Piano hands

Seriously, my eq is terrible. I look terrible. It’s all going to get better, I hope. Also, Suzie (the mare) is very tolerant of fat-ass beginnerness.

Like, dude, for real. Look at my hand. LOOK AT IT. What is it even doing? What am I even doing? When I first started riding regularly at the end of high school, I rode with a dressage trainer. I learned “thumbs up” before just about anything. I’m going to eventually (I hope, because this photo – and its way-uglier sisters that didn’t even make it to my phone, let alone the blog – would indicate otherwise) show low-level dressage. I used to pride myself on my hands, because they were quite often one of the few things I did well. And now? Effing piano hands.

What the actual. I have no idea where that came from. It’s weird. It’s new since February, because I have pictures from the summer (well before I fell off and broke myself) and my hands are not like that. I can’t even blame it on my elbow, because that hand you can see there is my left one, and I broke my right arm.

The other thing that has been brought painfully to light is not a new issue, but it’s sort of gotten lost amidst working on all my other problems. I cannot nail a diagonal to save my life. I know how to check my diagonals. I know what to look for. But the problem is that between when my brain sees it and when my body does it, there’s a beat, and in that beat, the diagonal changes, which makes me wrong every single time. I can feel my diagonals if I’m given enough lead time – three or four strides, maybe? – but it’s so frustrating that it takes me so long to get them. I can’t tell if this is a mental block or a challenge of being an adult beginning rider or what. If any adult beginner riders passing through care to weigh in, I’d love to hear what you think. Or experienced riders, for that matter. Halp.

I’d be lying if I said some days (most days) I didn’t have a complex about the way I ride. There are girls at the barn who are 12 and 15, and even a talented little 10-year-old, who have way better heels and control and rising trots than I do. But I try to remind myself that they’ve been riding since they were five, and I have a few summers and six months of regular lessons under my belt – plus a three-month involuntary hiatus because of my elbow. And I try to remember that my rising trot might suck, but my sitting trot is effing amazing. And I tell myself that up until about a month ago, I didn’t want to show, and now all of these things – my leg and my heel and whatever else – are much more important than they used to be.

Mostly, though, I try to remember that at least I’m trying, because lots of people don’t try, and if I put the work in, I’m going to get better. I also try to remember that as scary as it is to do something and suck at it, it’s scarier not to do it at all, because this thing that I suck at? I love it a lot.

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