Apologies for the lack of a post in the last couple of weeks, somehow time has run away with me. Well this is going to be a full-on horse-y post. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a break through for me so there will be a couple of posts on this aspect. Firstly, I thought that I should provide evidence that the nerves regarding outdoor canters are receding – here are a few pictures of Ellie and I at Cumbrian Heavy Horses charging up the field! I had such a great time there in August. I chose a fell ride with Leanne who I had met while riding with CHH in June, due to my vertigo we had chosen a low fell ride to see how we got on with an idea to maybe doing a full on over the top of the hills ride sometime soon. As usual when I arrived the staff were lovely and the other riders were great fun, chatty and friendly. Toby took us out on this ride and he was helpful and did push me to try things that I would have (and did back in June) shy away from. This time I took the bull by the horns and in the individual exercises I didn’t wait to go last but instead asked to go second so that I didn’t build things up in my head. The first time riding away from the group my nerves rose and I kept feeling Ellie trying to turn and head back, I felt myself tense up and we had an appalling walk away and an okay trot back with me feeling unbalanced and frustrated. Toby pointed out to me that the moment Ellie tried to turn I seemed to shrink, that my shoulders rounded forward and I lost all my position – I also did use the whip at all to re-inforce my aids. With these comments in my ears on the next go I felt myself begin to curl up when Ellie tried to turn, by noticing it I was able to check it and then ask her to move on more firmly. I got a much nicer line, a beautiful turn and halt then a fast but not rushed canter back – much better. After a second practice canter for us all we headed into the next field for a group trot and then another optional canter.
The way CHH run it is that they often halt the horses then get people to head off in one direction then canter back. In this particular field we had the option of doing the whole on one side of the field either by ourselves or together. A bit worried about Ellie racing I decided to go alone and only canter back on half the field, then Leanne asked if I would go with her and Jake (who was forward going) and do you know what, I said yes. Because actually I have raced these horses before and that was fun! Off we went and pretty much did the whole field, my nerves were raised before we turned but the moment I was able to easily halt Ellie I realised she was happily listening so decided to push her. It was great fun! You can unfortunately clearly see that Leanne and Jake re soundly beat us BUT this was a big step for me so I am pretty happy.
After that we wound our way up to the view point with lots of chatting and me giggling at Ellie – honestly she put her head down to drink at the stream so quickly I lost half my reins (she has double reins), the embarrassment especially as I had already dropped my whip earlier on the ride. Nobody wants to have get off and on again with a Clydesdale!
We had some lovely pictures around halfway up the fell and all marvelled as our leader Toby pointed out the small trails criss-crossing Black Combe which they use when the horses go over the fells properly (for another day I believe). On the way back down there was an opportunity for another canter but I declined, while I do regret it I had had such brilliant fun that I was worried I would ruin it all by being daft. The others all had a go, individually or in pairs and it was a real treat to watch these horses come flying up the hill towards me. It definitely won’t be a year until my next visit. It took a special horse to get me smiling in canter again and Ellie is definitely that!
The last couple of weeks riding up here has been interesting, one lesson that has resulted in me knowing what I definitely don’t want but more riding that has reminded me why I do this.