Baby steps, baby steps but at least it now feels like progress. Over last weekend I ended up having two lessons and I realised just how much I miss getting to ride more than once a week.
So first up, I was up at what I call an ungodly time on a Saturday, an early morning visit to Appin for my second group lesson with them. I ran late so everyone else was already mounted and walking around the school while I scrabbled to get my hat and look remotely competent as I entered the arena to get on. I had the lovely Derry (it is Derry I checked 🙂 ) again. He was very sweet, looking for a treat before we had even done anything and I have made a mental note to bring him some mints next time.
Again there was a focus on my arms, apparently I get very tense in my forearms, I wasn’t even aware you could tense your forearms, and then simply straighten my arms out losing contact and control. I was asked to keep a check on where my elbows were and with the two large mirrors on either side of the school I made sure to take a quick glance each time I rode past. I am having to think about it still but I would say I was in a better arm position for say 75% of the lesson? I felt much more in control this week, even with the big, fast, active trot that I had I was able to easily circle him past the ride and check him to ensure we didn’t just bound off after the others. My circles were not good initially but that definitely improved over the course of the lesson until at the end point when we were all circling in the middle I could choose my own size of circle without Derry just trying to follow the horse in front. Oh and I’ll just casually say it…I cantered 🙂 I just got the call randomly towards the end of one of the lessons so I just didn’t think about it at all and kicked on. It was a nice transition and the canter felt active but controlled, I got him back to trot easily and I realised I was grinning like a maniac. It felt good!
At the end of the lesson I asked a couple of questions about my position as throughout the lesson I had been using my 3 points to try and improve my position myself. The instructor told me not to worry about it just now, that all she is going to focus on with me is my confidence and just getting me to do a little more each week and then work on my position. At first I was a little disappointed, I thought that maybe my position had improved so that I wasn’t constantly needing corrected but now I have realised that this can only be a good way to do it. I clearly have an okay position else she wouldn’t let me canter but if my nerves come to the front it affects my position so badly there is no point in trying to correct it. I was also told that Derry’s owner is an even more nervous rider than myself and that he is the perfect horse to work through this stuff with, that is really nice to hear and I have to say he is a very cute, huggable horse.
So to Sunday and a return to my regular stables. Due to my lesson on the Saturday I was pretty relaxed before the lesson – I had done some riding and this wasn’t my only chance to ride that weekend so I think I took some of the pressure off. I had the wonderful Td, who greeted me in the usual manner of trying to knock me out. We had a nice warm up session, I was feeling pretty happy. Td was making faces at the other horses as normal and he was weave-y as hell, keeping his attention is always tricky and it was again on Sunday but after a while he accepted the inevitable and was working quite well with me. Again I was going through my “Am I a duck?” check-list and I definitely think it helps, even just by giving me something else to think about. During the warm up trotting he felt much more spritely than I usually have him and I wonder if that was because I am not so worried by a fast trot, I am confident I can slow Td and stop him rushing and I did just that. I was asked to relax my lower leg but not to push my heels down at one point in the trot but still for the life of me I can’t work out what that means – I know I am being daft, apparently I did it but I have no idea how!!
We worked on a leg yielding exercise where we had to come up the 3/4 line, straighten the horse up the leg yield out and straighten up, ride the corner on the outside of a pole our instructor had strategically placed to stop us from cutting the corner. First we did it in walk, which was okay but I had real difficulty straightening him to begin with and then we came in trot which felt much easier and freer on Td. Others in the class were having more frustrations as some of the horses were playing up a bit, I was feeling quite sorry for them all at times and thought that they did really well to stay in control and keep trying.
So when the next exercise was announced – do the same leg yielding in trot but pick up canter behind the pole and canter a 20m circle there wasn’t a rush of people volunteering (totally fair enough and our instructor made sure to say only to try this exercise if you felt that the trotting one went well). That meant I went first, which I think worked out well as I didn’t have time to think and worry. Our leg yielding was good although I over corrected, the upward transition went smoothly, our circle was not a circle shape the first half seemed smooth the second half turned into a diamond and the downward transition oofftt that was horrible – another over correction. But Td was a star 🙂
I was briefly frustrated when another class member said ‘Oh Td is always good’ just because I actually felt I had done a bit of work there too and right now I am all about the ‘yes Td/Derry/Flame/Tx/Anna are good horses but I rode them’ just to remind myself I can ride and that even with a well behaved school horse I still need to be able to ride. I let it go because I doubt that it was meant in any way as a reflection on me and rather it was a comment, she was right Td had been good but it did make me think that we certainly don’t give ourselves credit as riders when something goes right but are happy to beat ourselves up if something isn’t as good as it could have been. Positivity folks, it is the way forward (man am I annoying, apologies).
On another ‘let’s all be happy and confident together’ note the Confident Rider, an Australian based website, is giving out canter tips this week in a wee series of posts. I have found their advice help and would recommend giving them a read.
So onwards and upwards, or more likely in a curve downwards but I genuinely don’t mind. This weekend, same as last weekend reminded me of the most important thing to do with it all…I still love riding horses 🙂