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Part I
Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:43
66.201.17.55 (XFF: 172.20.213.131)

Tsuga listened patiently as her students introduced themselves. She recognized most of them, either from other lessons they’d had together or from actually meeting them. She almost cringed to see Nyda in attendance, however – she knew that the Aiel tended to have problems with horses. But, nonetheless, it was a beginner’s lesson – what better place to start? When the last person in the little group finished their introductions, Tsuga allowed a few beats of silence to elapse before she spoke.

“All right then. I put in a request to the stables, so although these horses have been fed, their stalls have not been mucked and they need to be groomed. I will assign each of you a horse, and then you will proceed to learn how to properly care for them.”

She paused to let the groans and gasps of dismay quiet down before she continued. “Nyda, you will be working with this mare.” She gestured to a flea-bitten gray horse immediately on her left. “She’s very gentle, and the biggest problem you’re going to have with her is getting her to wake up long enough to get her moving.”

When the Aiel woman had moved to meet her horse, Tsuga moved on down the line. “Kamion, since you seem to be full of energy today, you’re going to be riding this little guy.” The Sei’Tar pointed to a chestnut gelding a little further down the line. “He may be small, but he’s a bundle of energy. I think the two of you will have fun.” She smiled to herself as the Novice moved off to stand in front of her assigned mount. She’d ridden the smaller horse many times before, and he was quite a joy to ride. He didn’t like to be held in check, but if his rider asserted their authority from the bat, he was pretty smooth riding.

“Alright, Zahava.” Tsuga had heard about this one – a nose for trouble and a tendency to test her boundaries. She looked like she’d had a hard night, but Tsuga wasn’t about to go easy on her. “You look like you’re used to thinking outside the box. You’re going to need that for this one.” Tsuga turned and rubbed the blaze down the nose of a rather stunning-looking paint mare. When she turned back to face the Novice, the mare tried to take a piece out of her shoulder. Tsuga laughed and gave her a light punch on the nose. The horse snorted and watched her warily. “She likes to test people, but if you treat her right, you won’t find a better horse.”

The Novice didn’t look too excited about this prospect, but Tsuga didn’t pay her much mind. She’d get over it, or she’d wuss out. It just depended on what kind of person she was. Finally, she turned her attention to the last person in line – and the only boy. It was a small class, but perhaps that was for the best – it would allow her to focus more on what each person needed to keep from getting themselves killed. “Alright, Tristen. You look like you can handle a challenge, so I’m going to let you ride the Beast.” She grinned at his expression and shook her head. “Don’t worry, he’s pretty sweet. But he is a stallion, and he likes to take control when you’re not paying attention. So don’t let your guard down.”

With everyone assigned a horse, Tsuga picked one for herself – this one was a sleek gelding, tall and powerful, and one of her favorites to ride. He had been rather . . . exciting the first several times she’d ridden him, but now they’d gotten more familiar with each other and had settled into a working relationship. “Alright, everyone, you need to clean the stalls first, so come here and watch what you’re supposed to do.” When the group had gathered around her, Tsuga reached up and took town the halter and lead rope from the hook by the stall and let herself inside, careful to close the door behind her. She’d made the mistake of leaving it open before, and the chase afterwards had not been pleasant. “The key to putting a halter or bridle on a horse is calm but efficient movement. Don’t jerk or make any big movements, because that will spook the horse and get you into a lot of trouble. But at the same time, if you’re too timid, the horse won’t respect you and certainly won’t do what you want it to. Because not all horses are docile enough to let you just put the halter on them, I always start by slipping the lead around their neck so that they know they’re caught. It may not seem to make much of a difference in a stall, but if you have to go out in a pasture and catch your horse, you’ll be chasing them for hours if you try to just put the halter on them.”

She demonstrated the proper way to fasten a halter, and then reached into her pocket and gave the horse a small treat. “I like to reward the horse after I get the halter on, because it makes it easier to catch them in the pasture situation if they expect a treat.” She let herself out of the stall and led the horse behind her, cautioning the students to step aside. “You lead a horse on your right side. Always hold the rope firmly a few inches under the horse’s chin with your right hand, and loop the slack in your left to keep it out of your way.” She opened her left hand to show them how to keep from losing a finger of the horse decided to bolt, and then proceeded to clip the gelding into the ties in the aisle.

“Once you have the horse clipped properly in the aisle, you can remove the lead rope to keep it out of your way. Now, you should never trust a horse not to kick you, so don’t walk behind them. I’ve had the calmest horses in the world that hadn’t kicked in their life land one on my and break ribs before, so it never hurts to be cautious. Now, everyone get your horses out. Treats are in that bag.” She pointed, and then watched as, one at a time to avoid possible collisions, the horses were lead out and positioned along the aisle. “Good. When you’re handling a horse, don’t put them too close together. We don’t need them kicking or biting each other – you need to remember that whether you’re on the ground or on their backs. It’s not a good feeling to be the one to have caused a horse to get hurt. Now then, I’m assuming you all know how to shovel, so I’m hoping that mucking stalls will be self-explanatory. You scoop up the poop and put it in the wheelbarrow using this.” She held up the manure rake. “When you’re done, you take the wheelbarrow and dump the manure on the pile out back. Don’t worry about not being able to find it – just follow your nose.”

When they had all finished that, Tsuga proceeded to show them the proper procedure for grooming and taking a horse, taking her time and walking around to check the progress of each person. After a while and several near-ordeals, they were ready to move on. “Alright, before we head outside and start learning some ground work, everyone take one of these and buckle them on like a sword.” She held out a bundle of sticks that were about the right length to be thought of as a sword and watched as they were fastened on. “You may feel silly now, but this will make a lot of things about learning to ride easier.”

Once everyone had fastened on their sticks properly, Tsuga showed them how to unclip their horses and lead them outside to the fenced-in dirt arena, where they circled up and she resumed the lecturing. “Alright, before we get on, we’re going to do just a little bit of groundwork to get you familiar with your horses. This will help you learn how to handle them, and how to make them go and stop when you’re on them. Now then, we’re going to start off with a walk. This is going to be like a game of follow-the-leader, so just do as I do and keep some space between your horse and the one in front of you so no one gets kicked or bitten. Now, we’re starting with a walk, which you more-or-less know how to do already. But, just to be sure, you apply gentle pressure to the reins, pulling the horse forward, and cluck with your tongue, telling them to walk. When you’re riding them, you would apply the pressure with your legs in the form of a gentle squeeze and give the same vocal commands. Alright, everyone, follow me.”

They continued around the arena several times at a walk, and then they sped up to a trot. Finally, Tsuga commanded them to come to a stop and turned to face them, a grin on her face. “Very good, everyone. Since it’s nearly impossible to run as fast as a horse when it’s cantering, we’re going to mount up now. But first, double-check all of the straps on your saddle. A lot of horses tend to hold their breath and puff up when you tighten the saddle, so that the straps won’t be tight. After a little work, you can usually take the girth up another notch or two. When you’re sure the saddle is secure, this is how you mount.” She worked as she talked, and upon the last she demonstrated how to pull the reins over the horse’s head and hold them at the base of the neck as she gripped the front and back of the saddle seat, placed her left foot in the stirrup, and swung up effortlessly.

“Always mount your horse from the left, because if those sticks were real swords and you climbed up on the other side, you’d be likely to lose a leg.” She saw a few of the students make a face at that, but she swung down off of her horse, pulled the reins back down in a position to lead her horse, and made the rounds, helping each student as needed. Once they were all on, she pulled herself back onto her horse and turned to face them.

“We’re going to start again with a walk. We’re just going in circles now, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. To steer, you lean the reins against the horse’s neck, like this.” She demonstrated, shifting the reins to the right and applying light pressure. The horse shifted to the right. She did the same to the left, and then spoke again. “If your horse is going too fast, you pull lightly backwards on the reins and tell it ‘whoa.’ Now, if you are already at a stop and you do this, your horse will start to walk backwards. There are times when you need to do this, but be sure to tell your horse ‘back.’ If you don’t want to go backwards anymore, release the pressure on the reins to simply stop. To go from walking backwards to walking forwards, release the pressure on the reins and squeeze with your legs, telling them to walk. Now then, just try to relax – the more tense you are, the harder time you’re going to have with this. Let’s start with a walk.”




OOC: Sorry it's so long. Basically, clean the stall, groom and saddle the horse, lead it in circles, then get on and ride it in circles. ^_^ Should be about another week before Part II is up. At this point, people can still join. Have fun!

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    • Part I — Tsuga Sei'Tar, Fri Jan 26 12:43
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