Sunday, August 12, 2012

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

Abigail Lipow has spent the summer as SFD's working student. In the spirit of all of those annoying 4th grade essays, I asked her to describe her summer in her words. I have been really pleased with her improvements in the saddle, and in reading this, I think she is too.  -- Ange

by Abigail Lipow

Last year, I had no idea what I was going to do with my summer. In fact, summer wasn’t even close to being on my radar, as we Penn Staters had enough to deal with. I had vague thoughts of getting an internship somewhere and having that as my whole summer experience, which would be good work experience for the future and graduate school. Way back during the fall semester, all of my friends were getting confirmation on their study abroad programs, and I was kind of stuck. I had gone abroad and traveled a lot in high school, and studying abroad didn’t really appeal to me then. However, I was especially jealous of my friend who studied in Italy for the entire semester, and then got to stay another month and travel around Europe after her program ended. 

I also knew that I needed help with my riding. I took the place of our first level rider on the Penn State IDA team after she graduated in 2011, and our other first level rider went on a study abroad in Britain. At the time, I had been coming back from taking a two year hiatus from dressage and doing hunters on the IHSA team at school. I was more of a training level rider, and I admit it, if I had stayed in that level I probably could have swept it. I could ride a first level test, but it definitely wasn’t pretty and the girls I was up against were solid first level riders, some of them most likely schooling second. I (or rather, my mother) found that Ange had moved into the old Banbury Cross when I decided I was going to quit hunters (because, really) and go back to my first love, dressage.

I had really only ridden with Ange for about a month during my school breaks and I asked if she maybe had room for another working student for the summer, since my internship prospects were looking sort of grim, even though it was too early to tell at that point. After I took over the presidency of the team in the beginning of the spring semester, we started talking about bringing in a clinician and I immediately thought of Ange, considering that our current coach is more of a cross-country rider herself.

Ange agreed to come up to State College, and the clinic was a hit with the local Pony Club. During my lesson, she said that there was an opening for the summer as her working student, for which I am definitely grateful. Even though we still had a month of school left, including finals (ugh), I wanted to come home and start right away. Plus the weather in State College was kind of icky that month, and I think we all needed a break from the news vans crowding campus.

This summer has been a blast. Where else can you be around horses for hours every day? An internship in the city was certainly not going to give me that, unless you count the carriage horses. The first thing Ange did was strap me into the Unisit, forcing me to sit deep in the saddle and use my seat, which is something the hunter deep inside of me still cringes at. I think after a few rides in that I could feel every individual abdominal muscle, and soon I could sit Clyde’s springy trot, without the Unisit. At the same time, I was learning about how much work it is to care for a barn, painting gates (which look awesome by the way), cleaning stalls, and much more. I even got to visit Hassler Dressage at the beginning of the summer, which I’m still in awe of.

My riding has become a million times better, and not only do my abs not hurt that much anymore after I ride, but the “wow, he did what I asked-oops, I stopped riding” has almost gone away. Sort of. We’re still working on those chicken wings. I have a few more weeks to cram in what I can before school starts at the end of August and set the mental attitude that I can make a difference in whatever horse I’m riding.  As Ange calls it, this is my “crash course”. I can now make round ten and twenty meter circles, and make square corners. Sometimes I can even get Karison to stay round and have some power without getting all scrunched up in the saddle.

The little hunter leg squeezes have mostly gone away, and leg bumps have mostly taken their place. I’ve still got more work to do on leading with my seat, not following, but hey at least I can sit now without posting at all. I’ve learned make circles with my seat and leg, not my hands, while I still need to work on having quieter hands. I also need to remember not to go hunter when I feel uncomfortable. While there’s still quite a bit for me to work on (as we’re all always learning), I feel like I’ve accomplished my riding goal for the summer: be competitive at first level in the fall. So thank you Ange, and everyone else, for giving me an awesome summer. And don’t worry; I’ll be back for some touch ups in the fall.