In January of 2015, I was offered a working student position Laura Hermanson, a professional dressage rider who specializes in riding and training mules. She is the first person to ever ride a mule in the US Dressage Finals, which she did in 2014. Before riding with her, I didn't know much about mules at all.
|Myself and one of Laura's mules, Moxie.|
I also didn't know much about riding and training. At the beginning of last year, I was still very much a beginner. I was still piecing together the most basic elements of riding, and my riding and handling style were uncoordinated. I'm still not completely fluid in my aids, but training with Laura has opened a completely new dimension to riding: communication and training. With her, I learned how to better communicate and build a relationship with a horse, and how to better understand the nuances of a horse's behavior. I learned that horses are aware of the subtle, almost imperceptible changes in our bodies and energy, and was taught how to channel that energy and how to move my body in ways that influence the horses. Furthermore, I learned how to teach and train a horse. Before this year, I was a rider who would simply hop on and go. This year, I learned how to work with a horse on the ground to teach them and to set them up for success under saddle. By lungeing a horse before riding, one can watch how the horse moves and ask them to become round. Then, when I finally mounted, the horse would already be warmed up and would have already stretched and become round.
|May 2015–I'll get another to compare later on!|
In addition to learning so much, I have also experienced many new things. In March, I rode a donkey named Buddy, which was an interesting experience. Donkeys are kind, gentle creatures, but they also do not like to work harder than necessary, so many do not go faster than a jog.
In April, I rode a mule in a western trail clinic(part 2). Before then, I had only ridden western a handful of times, and riding a mule was a completely new experience. I learned so much in that clinic. I continued riding western over the summer.
Finally, in October I rode a mule named Ruby in western pleasure and trail at my first show. By then, my aids were a bit more refined, and I had learned to move a horse more with my legs and less with my hands. The show was an extraordinary experience.
This year, I hope to continue refining and honing my skills. In the spring, I want to ride in a few hunter classes at another mule show, so I'll be working on no-stirrup work to gain a more solid position. I hope this new year brings many more experiences and successes for myself and all my readers!