While I was up in North Bay, I decided to drop in and try a lesson up there, somewhere I hadn't been before. I hadn't ridden since my last lesson at my usual place, as the indoor is still dangerously slippery.
When the instructor arrived, she asked me if I was afraid of big horses. I said, "How big?" "17hh. I ask just because some people find them intimidating. Would you be okay with that?" "Yes, though I have to admit I'm a sucker for the small ones." "There's a small mare you could try too, actually." "Yeah!"
Well, the mare was adorable and very responsive for the most part. She was such a completely different feel from my usual mount that I felt like I was riding a different animal. I bounced around a lot and didn't feel very effective. Not to mention it was freezing cold, so I was a bit stiff, and I hadn't ridden in three and a half weeks.
Despite being "technically a horse" she had a very bouncy pony feel and that short and thick pony neck. I also couldn't get a feel for how much contact to pick up on her. Her mouth was soft so there was no sort of "wall" to hit. It was strange. My hands moved a lot while I rode, as a result, because it felt like I was holding limp noodles. My body's alignment was off. I bounced a lot and I was a bit tippy at the canter.
On at least three occasions she spooked by shying and cantering when some snow fell off the roof. It didn't escalate -- I quickly grabbed and halted her. Each time though, my instructor told me NOT to grab her up like that with the reins, and to just relax and stop her more with my seat. Welllll... instinct is instinct. Maybe with more "practice" at spooking I could pull that off, but it's good to know my reaction time is decent, even if it's not necessarily THE reaction that is ideal? It worked, anyhow. And I kept my seat.
We went on to a tiny bit of jumping -- or I should probably say "jumping" -- at the end. Just hopping back and forth over a tiny crossrail at a trot, although she really just trotted over it most of the times. This was completely fine. There was one awkward one where she picked up a canter about two and a half strides out and pulled her head down on landing, which pulled the reins out of my hands and left my left hand completely empty and the reins dangling, haha. At least I didn't catch her in the mouth?
One thing she had me do differently: instead of getting into two point and staying there for the jumping session, she had me keep my seat into the base of the jump and only fold over it. I actually prefer this method, so that was fine by me. It feels better to me because I feel like I maintain more control, which is one of the reasons I don't like two point much in the first place -- having my butt in the air and not being able to use my seat to influence the horse. So that was a change I was okay with making.
I think maybe next time I'll try the big boy. This mare was cute but felt a bit small in a way that similar-sized horses haven't for me, generally, which is weird but there it is! Hopefully I'm less sloppy next time; the extended periods of time of this winter haven't done me too many favours, so it's hard to say exactly how I would have done while more in practice.