22.04.2013 - 22.04.2013
Woke up in time for breakfast at 8 am. Many kinds of white bread, fruits, cheese, ham, marmalade, coffee, tea, yoghurt and milk were served. A steady breakfast in other words. At 9 am it was time for our first riding lesson. We gathered in the stable all excited about whom was riding first.
The ring was 15 x 30 meters and was just across the aisle. The white-colored stonewalls and the bright light made the ring looked bigger than it actually was. Along the long side the opened windows let the sunlight in during the afternoons. At one of the short sides was the gallery and on the opposite side were three big mirrors for the riders to look at themselves.
I was one on the first riders for the day. A brown Lusitano gelding named Zip was chosen for me. Zip’s energetic eyes revealed to me he was full of energy. So a little nervous I mounted him and discovered they had bridled him with Pelham bit. When I booked this trip the travel agency stated that all riders would start riding with a regular snaffle bit and later during the week switching to double bridle. So I really had a hard time controlling the double reins in the beginning, working the horse and working my own seat at the same time. And I felt Zip and I didn’t really get along either. Since it was my first real dressage lessons in a while my seat was anything but great. That’s really why I had chosen this trip to learn from Francisco and improve my bad seat. Also I probably was a little tense and Zip picked up on that and got tense as well. Francisco noticed that and asked me to dismount Zip.
He also told me a few home truths to me and maybe I needed that… because a while later I got to try out another horse, Ramalhete a bay Lusitano stallion that by a first look looked a lot more calmer than Zip. And he was! Now I could relax more and focus on me and my seat. Francisco also realized Ramalhete was the horse for me. After trotting for a while, doing schools like shoulder-in, half-pass and leg-yielding I finished by trying out the piaffe and passage. And with a little help from Francisco on the ground I managed to do a great passage. Later when walking Ramalhete I felt how much energy I actually had used.
When we all had ridden our first lesson Francisco mounted a beautiful grey Lusitano stallion and showed us some of his skills. The stallion obeyed his slightest wish and you could barely see Francisco move at all. Collected canter, piaffe and passage… it all looked so easy. Now afterwards I wish I had seen him ride first.
A well-needed lunch was served at 1.30 pm. To me (who don’t like fish) they served fried vegetables and rice with apples and oranges for dessert. I wished they had boiled the rice a little longer since it was too un-boiled for me. After lunch we relaxed by the pool for a while before it was time for the afternoon riding lessons. The sun was shining and the temperature was slightly above +20° Centigrade and not a single cloud in sight. I felt the chilly water temperature in the pool and I only dipped my toes in it… the water was too cold for me. But one of the other riders did take a swim and that was very brave of her! We also took a walk out on the manor. The leafy cork oaks lined the trails and in the bushes you could spot a lizard run off every now and then. With huge respect of snakes we only followed the trail. The trail went by the hen house and the plot of vegetables before we got back to the guesthouse again.
At 4.30 pm we gathered in the stable for the afternoon riding lessons. My Norwegian friend and I were riding together. Francisco asked if we wanted to ride in the ring or out in the paddock. We both agreed that we wanted to be outside. The paddock was just next to the stable and measured the international standard 60 x 20 meters. More space to use and we neither had to watch out for each other all the time. I got Ramalhete again and it felt much better. I could work with my seat in different way now. Francisco asked us to improvise our riding. To ride along a whole side in the paddock doing nothing was something Francisco disliked. Serpentines, leg-yielding, half-pass or shoulder-in on the circle or something just to keep the horses alert, sharp and wanting to move forward on their own. Beside my seat he also commented my hands that I sometimes turn towards the horse’s neck – “turkey neck” as Francisco called it… “No turkey neck!” was a frequent phrase he said to me during the lesson. The afternoon riding went great though. I did improvise (as Francisco’s orders were) and I tried out a lot of fun movements like lateral work across the center line. Ramalhete was so sharp and sensitive for my leg-aids and seat and getting him to flex from left to right was easy. All riders should have the opportunity to once in a life time ride a sensitive and sharp horse like him. And I also finished this lesson with several piaffes and passages. Both my friend and I got praised by Francisco and he wanted us riding together tomorrow as well.
When all riding lessons were done the time was almost 7.30 pm and we all went upstairs and showered before dinner. Dinner was served at 8.30 pm with soup, then French fries and chicken for main course and oven-baked apples for dessert. And none of us had trouble sleeping after all hard work today.