I figured it was a good idea to give horseback riding a try before I committed to 14 days in the saddle. I just happen to have a friend in Chiang Mai, Jackie, who rides and she arranged for me to take lessons at the Skill Center Chiang Mai.
Before I rode I watched Jackie ride. Jackie is basically a pro. Her horse is very tall and she made him jump things. When it was my turn to ride I was very relieved to meet Lola. She’s 1/2 Thai pony and 1/2 Arabian and much smaller than Jackie’s horse. (unfortunately her personality is much bigger than Jackie’s horse.) Lukas, the trainer, got Lola ready and says it’s time to go. I notice there is no saddle and I’m a little distressed by this. But because I don’t want to seem like the total noob I am I don’t ask why. I just go along with it. Lola does have a harness with handles. I figure handles are good.
We get out to the riding area (I’ve since learned that it’s called a paddock) and Lukas expertly assists me in getting on the horse. He gives me instruction on how not to look like a rag doll while riding. (I’d only been on 60 seconds and was already showing my lack of skill.) Now that I know to hug with my heels, to leave my knees relaxed, and to not lean forward like I’m on a bicycle I’m ready. We spend the next 15 minutes doing yoga on horseback. Lola trots, I hold up my inside arm. I hold up my outside arm. I don’t think it’s possible, but when I’m told to hold up both arms I do. I twist my body so I can touch her tail with my left hand. Then I do the same with my right hand. Then Lukas asks the impossible. While Lola is trotting he says, “Touch your left hand to your left foot.” I think, I process. I am skeptical, but I try and I get really close. Then it’s time for right hand to right foot. Less thinking and less skepticism and I am almost successful. Then things get ridiculous. Left hand to right foot? I look at my right foot. I look at my left hand. I give it a go. I almost get my hand to my knee. The other side goes just as well. We do a few more circles and then I give Lola a hug and hop down. My legs don’t want to support my weight and they surely don’t want to walk. They were exausted.
1st lesson done. It felt like a success and I was convinced that I could manage hour after hour for 2 weeks.