Apologies for the time spent away from the blog a combination of my work going slightly hectic when I came back from holiday and a horrible head cold-y virus that wiped the floor with the Inelegant Horse Rider household. So here is three weekends of riding fun condensed into one post, because that’s the kind of excitement that happens here 🙂 Enjoy!
“Don’t worry, trust me – Sam is lovely. We put beginners on him”. This was a week past Saturday. Another week, another new horse – this is all good for me but I find it hard to believe I can ride any horse a stables assign me at the moment. Plus Sam was a giant. He is very tall, I think his shoulders were level with my head and I’m not short.
Even though my nerves were rising I decided to snap myself out of this daft spiral (helped by the Riding Confidence documents I have been using).and just smiled at the leader saying “Okay but I remain nervous”. Once mounted (using the highest step on the biggest mounting block) I asked for the oxygen tank – apologies that’s a terrible joke- but I did feel very high up although oddly secure. I thought that I didn’t really care for tall horses (except the heavy horses of course) but being up there reminded me of one of my first favourite horses, Diablo.
It was another lovely mixed ability ride with some kids on tiny ponies joining us. I felt as though Sam and I could have walked over the top of them without even touching them!
We set off to meander down to the beach using the reverse route to get there. Due to the wet weather recently the fields aren’t particularly fun for the horses so we have been tending to avoid them. We bumped into a group of surfers getting ready to go to the beach, the wind was whipping up the water into nice foamy waves so I’m sure they had a blast. The horses had a good stare at the surf boards lying in the grass but I was more concerned with remembering to flatten myself onto Sam’s neck whenever we hit trees – did I mention he was tall?
Once on the beach the ponies and kids headed off with their leaders for some trots and my friend and the other lass headed off for a canter out and back with myself and the leader planning to go after them. A small side rant here but just after we came onto the beach a family with a couple of dogs came on, I believe both dogs were off the lead but as my friend and the other lass started canter one of the dogs started running towards them barking madly. Now these horses are mainly fine with dogs but that isn’t the point, the owners didn’t call it back, then it didn’t listen when they finally tried calling it back and it was sheer luck that the girls steered their horses well away from it. Please if you don’t know how your dog will react to horses keep it on the lead when they are around – one of first falls, many years back was caused in part by someone allowing their dogs to jump at the horse’s legs. Most people are lovely though and maybe I shouldn’t even mention these incidents but I genuinely believe that it is simply that owners sometimes don’t realise the problems it could cause – they know their dog won’t bite the horse but that’s not the main issue here.
Sorry side rant over, and on the plus side the dog seemed to be having a whale of a time and hared off in a different direction after a minute or so. That meant when myself and the leader headed off we were on clear sand. I wasn’t 100% confident that I would canter but Sam’s lovely trot and the fact he felt fab in my hands meant I just asked Olivia if we could canter. A huge smile spread across her face and we kicked on. It was a gorgeous, long canter Sam was steady with huge, big strides. I felt able to adjust my position during the canter which shows just how relaxed I was!
On the way back to the stables we had a active trot around the edges of one of the fields, Sam merrily splashing through the puddles and making faces at Ned if he came too close. Although Sam seemed to think anywhere near him was too close so I did tell him off a couple of times. At one point I had to flatten myself onto his back again as we approached some trees and as I leant forward Sam took it as a signal to canter off with me. Well, I am being a little dramatic there, he bounced forward into canter and cantered for a couple of strides before I wised up and realised what was happen. I reminded him, err Sam I didn’t ask for that and yes I am still here so let’s just trot. However as I did all of this I did laugh and although we pulled back to walk I actually didn’t have my usual upset, scared or anything else feelings. As we waited for the ponies I reflected that this was progress, I didn’t let that one moment become my focus – Sam didn’t do anything wrong there really, he just wanted and canter and listen immediately when I asked him to slow. So how did I go from the frustration of my last ride to riding a giant and not falling to pieces? Well it helps that Seacliff have worked me out and pair me well with their horses but my mate and Quasar definitely helped too.
I had arranged to go to ride Quasar the week after my frustrating lesson which, with hindsight, was a really good decision. It was fun and relaxed, just what I needed after putting myself through stress and pressure at the regular stables. I worked with Quasar for around twenty minutes or so in the indoor school, working on trying to feel my position on him and my balance. Then my mate suggested a wee hack out with her walking alongside, It was a crisp, bright winter’s day and the stables were busy with people looking after their horses and doing horse-y chores. Everyone was friendly but busy. The golf course was busy too and I did worry (obviously that is key to being a good horse rider worrying over things that haven’t happened yet 😉 ) I might get a spook or two but while Q stayed alert he was as good as gold. We ended up in the practice field and I rounded off my time with Q doing a couple of short canters(!!). The first one I wasn’t really expecting, I was trying to ‘get a good trot’ like I would in the riding school forgetting I was riding a privately owned horse so Q simply responded with canter – bless him. It took me a little by surprise but I got him back into trot. My friend encouraged me to try a longer canter to the gate and phew! That horse is much faster in canter than anything I have ridden in a while, and it was brilliant! And the fact that he responded to my trot aid was lovely, I felt pretty comfortable. Then it was back to the stables where I tried to wipe the cheesy grin off my face but was unsuccessful.
So to today’s lesson. I think that having two fun experiences where the emphasis was just on being out and about on horse back rather than trying to achieve a particular thing put me in a better frame of mind to tackle a lesson again rather than if I had tried to go straight to another lesson after last time. I will come out with it and say it – I am really starting to enjoy hacking again. I also read an interesting we article that my old instructor shared called 5 Things Confident Riders Do, you can read it here if you are interested http://www.horsecollaborative.com/5-things-confident-riders-do/
The lesson today was fun, but probably as I went in with a good attitude which has been lacking in me that last few times I have been here. I had Tx and we had a beautiful right rein canter from him where I felt that I was sitting in down in the saddle and actually being taken forward with him. Of course that was when the instructor was working with another class member so you just have to take my word for it! The activity levels weren’t brilliant from Tx, my fault obviously but I forgive that pony most things 🙂 He also nearly fell asleep in his stable before we started which I think means having any activity was quite a feat. All in all I have been having fun lately with my riding and frankly I think that is pretty good progress. Oh and I recent saw a quote about being an optimist which I have read before but it jumped out from the page of the Flow magazine at me. I like it!
“Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha – Robert Brault”