You could smell the hay before you even walked into the stable — quite a nostalgic scent if you’ve ever been riding.
I admired each horse on the way to the paddock, their almond eyes peering down at me from behind the bars.
There must have been 100 horses in there!
I was told they’ve got more horses than usual right now because they just got a shipment of horses to march in this year’s Mardi Gras parades.
Ahhh! I was so jealous.
“Do they have to ‘try out’ for that?” I asked the stable manager.
“Sort of,” he said.
(Next week I’m going to ask him to elaborate.)
The riding lesson was quite awesome, despite not being the relaxing trail ride I had envisioned.
This was not a trail ride. This was a workout.
Within the first two minutes, we were trotting. Leg muscles engaged. And not my quads...the underappreciated muscles on the INSIDE of my knees.
If you’ve never taken horseback riding lessons, the first thing you must master is posting.
It’s where you lift your body up and down in the same rhythm as the horse when trotting so you don’t bang your pelvis on the saddle.
In order to do this, you have to stand up in your stirrups with your legs steady and squeeze your legs as hard as you can for balance.
(Using the reigns to hold on for dear life is fruitless and makes the horse mad...trust me)
It’s not just standing up and down, it’s a rhythmic motion and you rise and fall with the horse’s trot. It can be a beautiful thing, once you find your center of gravity.
(Spoiler alert: I have a very hard time finding my center of gravity. I'm so...unproportioned.)
But I didn't choke. I already knew how to post, thanks to a horseback riding class in college.
Only, Sunday's one-on-one lesson was way more intense than college.
Maybe it’s because in college, they made me ride the pony. That's right. The PONY.
"I don't want to ride the pony!!" I complained.
“But you’re the perfect size for Honey!” the instructor said.
Honey was the only pony in the stable, and the only female.
As such, she was doubly smaller than all the other horses. (It felt just like regular life. UGH.)
Taller than Honey's back. Might as well have been sitting on my twin sister's shoulders.
Since Honey was short, and uh, NOT A REAL HORSE, I didn’t feel as scared about posting or the possibility of falling off during the up and down movements mid-trot.
Also, Honey was super old (“half dead,” the instructor described) and couldn’t trot for long periods of time.
She would also often stop mid-trot in order to bite other hoses’ butts.
To combat this behavior, I was given a whip and told to whip Honey anytime she bit another horse’s butt.
Not wanting to whip her, I just never steered her around other horses. (We hung out by the fence a lot.)
I didn’t learn any other horseback riding skills in that college class thanks to Honey.
That included learning how to properly take off the bridle, saddle and reigns before brushing her and cleaning the dirt out of her hooves. (which must be done EVERY TIME someone rides any horse).
Knowing the correct order to put on and take off the saddle was half of our grade, but I was exempt from taking it off because MIDDLE SCHOOLERS came in for lessons right after our class.
They were also the perfect size for Honey.
One day, to my horror, the instructor actually marched all the middle schoolers over to me and said, “This is Jenny. SHE rides Honey, and she’s in college.” You know, to make them feel better or something.
A fat kid, who was taller than me, pointed and laughed at me like Nelson from The Simpsons. I blinked twice and bit my tongue.
I didn't want to say that he actually didn't seem to be the perfect size for Honey at all. He looked like he'd be more comfortable on a quarter-horse. Or a Clydesdale.
I totally thought about that fat kid Sunday as I signed my life away for the lesson with my mom.
I anxiously walked over to the paddock to see whether or not I was assigned a horse. Or donkey.
I scanned the area for the instructor and saw him leading a fine, tall beast in my direction.
IT WAS A HORSE!!!!
I smiled big.
I'm an adult now!!!
His name was Clipper and he was great. NOT half dead. I was actually scared that I would fall off a few times due to his speed. He's a galloper at heart. I liked that.
My mom and I trotted around in the pen, made our horses go left and right, properly passed other horses and did our best to perfect our posting.
After a half hour, a gallon of sweat and spaghetti noodle legs, we were finally told to dismount.
The instructor told us we did an awesome job (Uh, duh) and we're going back next week!
By then I hope my thighs and knee muscles are fully functioning again.
I don't remember it being this hard on my muscles during my Honey days.
I guess horseback riding is a whole lot easier when you're in middle school.