Reins? Nah I don’t need those

So this was the first week of the 2 lessons a week plan. My plan is to have a private lesson during the week then a group lesson/hack at the weekend, this combined with the dressage league should help me improve my riding skills over the winter so that come spring…. well that’s currently up for debate but I will keep you posted.

On Wednesday throughout my day at work the sky kept darkening with each hour, it was beginning to feel a bit inevitable that I was going to get soaked during this lesson. I made it to the stables slightly late then had to rush to get changed. I had been given Am and she was in a particularly bad mood today taking a couple of chances to swipe at me while I did my stirrups. It is interesting to me that I have improved my handling of Am in recent weeks, it is one of those things that you get nervous when you haven’t dealt with her for a while but most of the time you can catch her before she takes a chunk out of your arm.

My private lessons are always hard work, it is the usual thing that you can’t get away with anything when it is just you. We were focusing on getting the inside bend and working on my body position. This meant lots of circles and getting Am to work from my body to turn not my reins, I was finding this tough – my hips are still very tight – but I began to feel her soften on the inside rein and it felt brilliant. Suddenly her trot felt like she was springing forward and taking me with her rather than me pushing her on. My instructor explained she was starting to work up to meet me instead of me tipping forward to meet her. So after that my instructor decided to do something different to work on my body position and specifically my arm position – she took my reins away. She tied them up on Am’s neck and told me to guide her with my body and relax my arms by my sides, that whole experience was strange as I kept trying to reach for the reins. Next I was trotting, still without reins but holding my arms where I should when carrying the reins, this was a good way to show how my reins really are a back up and the main direction should come from my body.

When I got my reins back for the canter I was told to maintain my frame and not bring my shoulders forward. We did some good canter transitions, I really felt she was listening and the one time she hesitated to strike off I managed to back up the ask quick enough for her to still strike off in the canter. The only difficulty with Am is that she would happily jog around the school the whole day and if you don’t get the canter in the first corner you are best to slow her right down else you find yourself whirling around the school with no canter but an incredibly fast trot. I am still bouncing a bit in the canter when in the school and I was trying to work on that with varying success, I am sure that once my hips have loosened off I should improve with this – well I hope so.

When we finished Am decided she was done and I had to push her on even walking around the school and the yard. Then it was an irritating time while I untacked her and put her rug on, she again swung around to attempt to bite me twice and when I put her out into the field she was so impatient she tried to shake the head collar off. *Sigh* a great horse but she sometimes has a way of showing you that she just wants to be left alone! On the plus side it only started to rain once I was on the bus heading back into the city.

I decided to cycle to the stables on the Saturday morning for an early lesson, I couldn’t do the two hour hack as I had arranged to go to a vintage fair – more on that in a later post. I got there a bit early and was told I had Am today and that, excitingly, they were bringing the new horse Ft into our lesson with one of the instructors on him. He had arrived on the Friday and while a fit horse he hadn’t done much work in a school rather being used for hacking so he was getting taught how to work in the school. We were warned that we had to avoid him as it wasn’t fair for him to have to try and avoid us, we were also going ot have the owner of the stables in the lesson to observe him and we would have to work in file for part of the lesson – which was strange as it has been a while.

I was told to work on the inside bend again with Am but it didn’t really come in this lesson. I tried to keep pushing her on but she seemed laboured, my instructor kept explaining to us that it is not healthy for the horses to plod around the school so while initially it feels difficult pushing them on, it is better for them. Am started moving better for me but I was getting frustrated with some of the other people in my lesson (not very fair but hey), one girl kept forgetting to pass left to left and would cut me off in the middle of my school movements making me have to pull up or try to push Am past her. These things sometimes make me lose the focus I have on what I should be working on and it happened in this lesson, which may be why I didn’t get the inside bend correctly. I guess I might be used to riding with my group which means that I trust them to move out of the way or to miss me but I don’t always trust other riders.

Anyway, we were told to come together for the canter exercises in file with Ft at the front. It was quite sweet as he wasn’t sure he was allowed to canter and had to be asked repeatedly. He was only cantering the long sides of the school rather than the corners and he seemed to have excellent brakes. Unfortunately after watching him being ridden by an experienced rider it was Am and I’s turn, I got the transition well but I was bouncing around a lot and didn’t get the corners well – a bit gutted it would be fair to say. My instructor said it looked like I froze and stopped my arms moving, she suggested trying to relax into it more and perhaps have a more active trot for the next canter.

So after a swift change of rein it was time for another canter. This time I actually nailed it!! I am so super chuffed with this canter – I reckon only fellow horse riders will get this – but when the transition goes beautifully and it feels powerful but controlled, you are right into the corners, you are sitting in the saddle well and the transition back is well planned and come together perfectly. I got a ‘beautiful!’ from my instructor and the spark in Am was brilliant (shame it was the end of the lesson). I was grinning like a cheshire cat for the rest of the lesson and beyond. Am got a nice lavender wash and didn’t try to bite me once, preferring to stare out into the fields from her stable. Indeed she actually gave me a wee nuzzle as I left her.

Unfortunately the stables are closed for a week now, what will I do?? 🙂 But at least I feel like I go on the break on a little bit of a high, next plan of action – learn to drive, that cycle out to the stables is ok just now but I imagine in January I won’t be so keen.


2 thoughts on “Reins? Nah I don’t need those”

  1. Oh wow! I’ve never heard of riding without reins before. I would imagine that afterwards you felt similar to how one does after riding without stirrups for the first time! And well done on the canter.

    1. Thanks, I was on a total high after that canter. Yeah I haven’t ridden without reins before and my instructor was saying Am is one of the few horses who you can happily do that with in the school – maybe it is similar to being on the lunge but I haven’t ever ridden like that either. It was great for getting me to understand about my seat and controlling the direction of Am without the need for reins.

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