On Sunday I got the chance to ride out at Seacliff, the new hacking stables I have been out and about at, with my normal riding crew. In the car journey down me and one of the lasses were discussing that our “normal” class probably now needs split. There are a fair few people interested in jumping and becoming more and more confident in their riding whilst then there is me and maybe I guess a couple of others. I don’t really want to learn to jump, or if I do I just want to do some wee cross-country style affairs, and of course at the minute my confidence levels mean that at times I don’t even canter. I would miss the girls so much if our class was split and we did say that we should make sure we ride and hack together still. So it was a bit of a sobering thought turning up at the stables to think I might not ride with these girls that much any more.
They all loved it! After my zooming off antics on Anna last time out I was given Flame, a rather regal looking chestnut pony – he is an oldie but a goodie. Now I think we all know why I didn’t stop Anna during our quick, sneaky canter (clue: I froze like the panicky fool I am) but it was interesting to be told that I probably had my leg on squeezing her as well, I have mentioned before that I have a tendency to forget about my legs – well that’s exactly what I have done here. Lesson learnt 🙂
What was different about this hack to the other ones I have been on with these guys is that we were taken out by the owner. She is lovely and took time to chat to all of us, she taught us while we were hacking which was fun. I mean we have all been corrected when hacking but this felt different. She noticed things about us all and gave us tips to correct them. She also mentioned that we all ride in the same way, that was fascinating to hear someone say and goes to show that perhaps we are more similar than we thought in riding style (a compliment to me but I am pretty sure nobody wants their riding compared to mine 🙂 )
She gave us three things to check when riding, she mentioned that this might be really useful for me to give me an external thing to check when the panic starts.
- Am i riding like a duck? Meaning are my toes pointing outwards? If so my leg is on the horse constantly, I have to rotate my knee inwards and my foot position will change and move my lower leg away from the horse
- Am I riding a horse or a motorbike? Meaning are my thumbs up to the sky (horse) or pointing to each other (motorbike)
- Finally, can I stand up in my stirrups and stay up no problem? If not, I’m not balanced and I should practise this movement to try and regain my balance.
Of course she said there is way more to learning to ride than this but that it is a neat checklist to have when being out and about. At the end of the ride she had us all on a long rein going through a field next to the wee single lane road stood up in our stirrups twisting from side-to-side – apparently that exercise is done a lot with kids learning to ride but I have never been asked to do it. It was cool to see how much my balanced had improved over even that hour hack.
The owner of the stables also noticed immediately that something happened to me on the beach, she said that not only did I tense up but that Flame did too while looking for the scary thing on the beach. She kept telling me to breathe and to release the tension from my body and do you know what as I watched my friends canter about on the beach I started to want to join in. The leader seemed to notice and asked if I wanted to do an assisted canter, I had no idea what she meant so she just made me loosen one rein – which she took hold of – and she asked me to hold onto the neck strap (which she had already told me was jokingly referred to as the ‘oh sh!t strap’) and then we kicked on!! It was great, I was up and out of the saddle, balanced and according to my mates grinning like an idiot. We did it a couple of times and honestly I loved every second.
I don’t know if it was having the girls with me, being on Flame (responsive but relaxed and very sweet), the sunshine or a combination but I had a brilliant time, absolutely brilliant. I feel like I have taken a wee step forward and even if I take a step back this weekend it won’t be far back. I can see progress and it feels amazing!