The riding lesson was today!!
It was a bit awkward because the instructor didn't know how much I know, I didn't know the horse, and I am unfamiliar with their routine.
Oh, and the damn language:
"Sorry - I should do _what_?" (do a half-circle)
Thank goodness for body language and pointing.
She (Frau Hirsch) didn't know anything about me before the lesson except that "I have ridden before", so she was in an awkward position as well. I told her I expected the language would be more of an issue than the riding. She put me on a mare she called "sehr brav" (very well-behaved), but when I entered the stall to brush her, she stuck her head in the far corner and pinned her ears. Uh... Fine. I brushed her anyway. At hoof-picking time she pinned her ears again and flashed her teeth at me. Look, I'm not afraid of horses at all, but one never knows with an unfamiliar one! Frau Hirsch was standing in the doorway of the stall, scolded the horse and assured me she (Mallory, the horse) was just testing me and wouldn't bite.
Mallory and I had no other issues except that she hugged the rail so closely that I think she was pondering trying to scratch me off. I talked to her mainly in English, and she didn't seem to mind. Luckily much of the horse world is pretty much the same in Germany as in the U.S.. The one main difference is that to get a horse to stop, you don't say anything resembling "whoa", but rather make a noise that sounds like "brrrrrrr" with the German rolled R.
It was just a 30-minute lesson, but still I'm feeling wonky. I'll stick to 30 minutes for a few weeks until I'm in better shape and then I think I can join a group on Friday mornings that rides for an hour - it's several women who start at 9:30, go for coffee afterwards (of course), and are home by noon. Sounds about right for me, except the woman who invited me spoke in such a strong dialect that I could only understand about half of what she said. It didn't sound like Swabian to me.
Thank goodness Frau Hirsch at least tried to speak slowly and clearly. However, at one point she said something about the length of my stirrups, and I stopped and came up to her to say I did think they were a notch too long. She told me the stirrups were fine, and then I understood she had told me to shorten my reins, not my stirrups. Yeah, I better actually study some German horse vocabulary rather than just saying I will.
Since she had no idea about my abilities, I think Frau Hirsch was surprised (relieved?) that I could confidently do everything she asked me to do when I understood what it was she had said. For obvious reasons we stuck to the basics - walk, posting and sitting trot, canter, switching directions (though no flying lead change just yet), circling... None of that was a problem (though perfect stylistic execution of the commands was not, perhaps, achieved), as long as I understood what she had told me to do!
There were several awkward moments for me. For instance, Frau Hirsch told me in the beginning to bring Mallory to the middle and have her face the place where spectators would be - that's their routine for getting started and the horses know the drill to stand quietly while riders mount, dismount, adjust the stirrups and tighten the girth. I went to the middle of the large arena, right under the center chandelier. Apparently she meant, though, just the middle in one direction - meaning I could pick any spot along the long center line. So she had to haul the mounting block quite a bit further than she should have, had I understood more than just the phrase "in der Mitte"!
It really is a strange experience to do something I know well enough how to do, but in a new environment and in a still-foreign language. I guess it's a little like starting a new job. You get a simple instruction to do something you know how to do, but you don't know how this company does things. The first days are always awkward. Add to that a second language, so you're not entirely sure you understood every detail, but you want to make a good impression. Luckily for me, I'm much more comfortable around horses than people (I swear, horses are therapeutic with their mere presence), so the awkwardness is off-set by being able to be around horses.
The world of horses is pretty much the same in Germany as in the U.S.. There is, however, one glaring difference I noticed. There was no paperwork to fill out before I approached the horse where I signed off acknowledging that I know horses can be dangerous and unpredictable, and promising that I will not sue the stable if I get kicked, bitten, stepped on, thrown off, injured in any way, or killed. That notice is on their website, which is good enough for Germans.
Have a good evening. I'm off now to study German horse vocabulary.
|"Weeeeee!!!" (riding in Scotland, 2010)|