Sorry for the lack of a post in a while, I was away at Kelburn Garden Party – drinking gin and tonic while watching the sunrise over a tiny music festival with brilliant acts ranging from a mad ska band to a gypsy-folk band to djs with artist drawing as MCs rapped – eclectic and fun. It was back to normality last weekend (well kind of I cycled 90 miles over the two days which isn’t exactly normal for me) so Saturday morning I went to a different stables for my first group lesson there. I went to that stable for a private lesson back in April, and they phoned a couple of weeks ago offering me a space in a group lesson. Saturday was the first chance I had to attend and I thought I would see what it was like, I will still go to my regular stables but thought that a change is sometimes a good thing and I could perhaps alternate each week.
Anyway it was an early start for me on Saturday, I had to get the train to a local station then walk the 1/2 mile to the stables but it was a beautiful sunny morning so I was happy enough. I was still early for the lesson but when I arrived and went into the office I was offered a coffee and told to take a seat to wait. It was quite a nice, relaxed way to start a lesson at a new place. The others started to arrive and then the current lesson started to come to an end and the nerves started eating away at my stomach a little. The doors opened and 5 horses were brought in, one huge dapple grey, a couple of coloured cobs, a beautiful black cob with an amazing mane and a lovely dark brown pony with a white blaze. I was given the dark brown pony who is called Derry (I think, it might be Perry), can you tell my nerves were there as I failed to listen properly. 🙂
It was odd being part of a group which contained none of my normal crew, I missed the fun, daft chat that we have and I was wondering what level these other riders were at – I knew we were all walk/trot/canter but that can vary enormously can’t it? The others smiled at me and once all mounted and we headed off round the school. The school there is indoors and much bigger than the one at my other stables, it was also roasting – I was sweating while we just walked round!
So the lesson, I didn’t canter which I think was okay today as there are a few other things I need to be working on. I wasn’t very successful at pushing Derry on in the walk, in fact it was a bit laboured and not very active at all, I was told to try to keep my arms by my sides more and use my core. There were lots of positive comments said to each of us, little corrections being done and focus seemed to be on us as individuals as well as a group. The instructor asked us to ensure we moved them into the corners and we kept an even contact on the reins, trying to leg yield out more than pull them out with the reins.
We kept as a group to go over some poles in walk to begin with, the poles were set so that we had to curve into them all. The instructor explained she wanted us to use our outside aids to get the nice bend and that moving us away from the wall allowed us to do that. I think I was very much following at this point, not really interacting much with Derry and I allowed him to miss one pole a couple of times. We also did the poles in trot as a group as well which was interesting as I am used to feeling a bit out of control when doing pole work as a group, this felt more in control but again I think with hindsight I was concentrating so hard on me that I wasn’t giving any signals anymore.
Anyway next up we had individual exercises, while the rest of the group continued to move around the school we each went off, did a 20m circle in trot then came over the poles then the others struck off into canter and did a couple of exercises in canter before coming back to the end of the ride. Now Derry’s trot had already been a revelation to me, we motored around in trot but it didn’t feel mad-cap-out-of-control and then as I watched the others canter I thought ‘wow, that’s fast, I can’t do that’. In fact the instructor had already seemed to have decided to play it by ear with me so off I went in trot. Well immediately Derry sped up, we did our circle (a bit haphazardly) and then over the poles then…well I panicked. Derry had sped up again and I was sure we were going to strike off into an out of control canter. So I voiced my concerns ‘Er I’m nervous here, I’m out of control’. The instructor shouted back, ‘well slow him’, ‘make him walk’ – I managed to make him walk but clung on so tightly that he started jogging again immediately to get back to the ride. By this point I am so frustrated with myself that I am getting a bit upset. The instructor told me off! She pointed out that Derry had done nothing wrong, that I should pat him and next time I needed to slow him down. She explained that as I had been giving him no direction, he just wanted to head back to the ride, she pointed out that everyone had difficulty ensuring the horses listened and did what we asked rather than try to return to the ride but that I had to give direction to Derry.
I improved on the next exercise. My circle wasn’t brilliant but I kept him going past the ride and checked the speed when I need to. It wasn’t perfect and I still panicked but only briefly this time and I actually did something about it for a change! My lines over the poles were not as good as they should be but hey, there is something else to work on. In true NLP fashion I am naming my three positives from this lesson:
- I took control
- I improved my lines across all the poles
- At no point in that lesson did I consider jumping off
After the lesson while we were dealing with our horses the instructor spoke to each of us in turn, giving positives and things to work on. When she got me she explained that she will push me, I don’t have to canter until I am want to but she expects me to do everything the others do but in trot and she certainly expects me to be in control of my horse. Something that she said stuck with me and that was ‘I’m not going to ride your horse for you.’ – I think recently I have been in danger of trying to get people to do that for me. So after that lesson how did I feel? Really pretty good actually, yes I got told off but because I wasn’t riding at all I think it was justified and it certainly wasn’t mean or nasty nor did anyone else in the class make any comments about it all.
I am keen to see how I get on riding at 3 different places, maybe I am being daft thinking that I can ride each place and it will help me improve but I kind of feel like I have nothing to lose from doing this. I have also been a little worried of late that I have been holding my regular class back as sometimes I can draw focus and that isn’t fair. I did have a private a couple of weeks ago at my regular stables where I did a lot of canter work so I can do this, I just need to keep working at it. There are always positives I can take from each lesson or hack regardless of where I am and as long as each place treats their horses well and cares for them and their riders then I am happy, plus the blue skies this weekend definitely helped – check out my instagram feed for the evidence of the sun, that will teach me for not apply sunscreen properly 🙂